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  • A thought-provoking and perhaps prescient read.

    4.5★s Notes From The Burning Age is the eighth novel by best-selling, award-winning British author, Claire North. Thirty-one-year-old Ven Marzouki, sometimes Kadri Tarrad, freely admits he is a traitor. He trained to be a priest for the Temple, translating documents in archaic languages salvaged from the Burning Age to be assessed for heresy but, unappreciated for his hard work and expertise, he begins illegally selling classified information. This might be true… By the time Brotherhood operative, Georg Mestri finds him, he’s working in a cellar bar. Vien’s Justice and Equality Brotherhood is opposed to the Council, believing that humanity can best be served by reviving the fuels, the resources, the industry of the Burning Age. Temple, on the other hand, recommends giving thanks for the land, the sea, the sky, espouses being in harmony with the earth, doing nothing to rouse the kakuy, whose wrath spares none. When Ven is recruited, the Brotherhood is gaining ground in the Assembly. Translating forbidden texts for Georg, Ven realises he must have a spy in the Council supplying these, and it begins to look like war between the provinces is inevitable. North sets her tale in a futuristic dystopia, a vaguely-recognisable Europe where the predicted environmental destruction is in full swing. The politics is initially a little convoluted, but patience is rewarded with some rather good action once the groundwork is laid. The pronouns used for those of undefined gender do, at times, cause a little confusion. Ven is, eventually. a likeable protagonist whom North subjects to all manner of challenges: he is beaten, tortured mentally and physically, spends quite a bit of time captive or on the run, almost drowns yet recovers to return to his mission. At one stage, one of his mentors comments that he will present a danger to anyone who gives him shelter. North explores many topical sociological themes in the dialogue that Ven shares with Georg and others, none of which moderates Georg’s fervour to win. She does give Ven wise words, for example: “Your mistake is imagining that in understanding the size and majesty of creation, the wonder of this world and the richness within it, you become small. A tiny, scuttling thing without centre, without identity and form. You fail to see how, in grasping your small place within this life, you become part of something that is so much bigger than you could ever be when you were being a hero alone.” A thought-provoking and perhaps prescient read.

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