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Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 2004
ISBN: 0380978911
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
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Genre:   Fantasy
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Nancy Mehl
Reviewer Notes:  

The Burning Land
By Victoria Strauss

From: The Burning Land

“This is the story of the Messengers--of the beginning of our faith and of its end. It is also our story, the story of the Brethren, whose task it is to guard the Way of Ârata. You know it already, little one, for some of it you have lived, and all of it you have learned before, in other incarnations. But the reborn soul does not know itself at once, and so we tell this tale each time you open your eyes anew upon the world, that you may remember who you are.

“In the time before time, All that Was and All that Was Not came together in union, and a million gods were born. Each god went out to create a world. The god Ârata made our world--Ârata, as tall as the sky, with skin colored like the heart of flame and eyes and hair like new gold. To men and women, whom he made last and loved best, he gave the gift of his own power of creation so we could shape anything we chose. Only the shaping of life did he withhold from us, for if we human creatures could shape life, we would be gods ourselves.”

(The first story told by Brethren foster parents to their spirit-wards)

     The Dreamers of Arsace sense a disturbance within the Burning Land, the place where the god Ârata sleeps. Someone trustworthy must be sent into the forbidden area to see about a rumor of renegade “shapers” who live there, unrestrained by the drug that helps to control their ability to shift inorganic substances to their own desires. Gyalo, a young shaper, is sent by the church of Ârata to bring the lost ones home. He travels with a troop of soldiers, aides, and Dreamers. Their journey is perilous, the country harsh and merciless, but their quest is rewarded when they discover Refuge—a settlement inhabited by a group of people who were once connected to the outside world. However, Gyalo’s world is turned upside down by beliefs that challenge his own. Has he put his trust in lies, or are the people in Refuge deceived? Is Gyalo the savior seen in the dreams of Axane, the daughter of the ruler of Refuge? Or is he a demon sent to destroy them?

      The Burning Land is an epic tale written with depth, beauty, and powerful emotional conflict. The characters are memorable and real because the author has created a world that exists on the wings of our imaginations, deftly placed there through her creativity and talent. Victoria Strauss has crafted a powerful classic that will thoroughly satisfy ANY reader, not just lovers of fantasy and science fiction. The Burning Land rates my very highest recommendation.