Set in an X-Men like universe, T.J. Klune’s world in Burn, the first book in the Elementally Evolved series, is populated by both normal humans and Elementals. These are people who can control earth, air, fire, and water. A normal Elemental can only control one of the four elements. The main character, Felix Paracel, who is also an Elemental, is unique in that he is able to control two elements, fire and wind. He does not know this makes him a target for evil. His life consists of late nights at the bar and selling insurance during the day. His life changes when he meets Seven, a man who rescued him years ago from a fire that killed Felix’s mother. Felix learns that he is the Findo Unum, the Split one, and he is part of a prophecy that will change the world. Fans of X-Men and Avatar: the Last Airbender will enjoy this book.
Characters can make or break a novel. Felix is a very average character. He isn’t an action hero. He is a young man in his twenties just wanting to live a normal life. He cares about his best friend and tries to be a good son. The events that occur in the novel are set up to nurture excellent character growth. He grows into his role as the savior of elementals. Seven, his protector, is a character that is sometimes hard to like. He was trained since birth to be the Findo Unum’s protector. He is can be very inflexible and dominating. However, his relationship with Felix helps him to be more human. If you are disturbed by male romance, then this may not be the read for you. The romance does take a backseat to the bigger issues in the book. It’s not a sappy love story. The minor characters in the novel are also well developed. They all have distinct roles and personalities. They are not confined to the background of the story and forgotten. They are actively involved in the many plots twists that fill up the book.
Klune does a good job of keeping the United States setting realistic while maintaining elements of fantasy. Elementals are feared by the human populace and try to keep their identities a secret. The government passes a law which would require all Elementals to register their identities, similar to a sex offenders registry. This is a subterfuge allowing the government to essentially “bag and tag” elementals. This sets the tense atmosphere in the novel and provides added fuel for conflict. The Elementals live in fear and are in need of hope. Enter Felix, somewhat selfish at the beginning of the book, who becomes a hero who wants to protect them all.
The book also deals with the issue of good versus evil. Not only is the battle between the government and the Scarred King, but it also takes place within Felix himself. Felix has a dark half, represented by black oil. This dark oil is constantly trying to manipulate his feelings and thoughts. It wants Felix to become evil and destroy the world. This struggle is the heart of the novel. You honestly don’t know if Felix really will do the right thing. He isn’t perfectly good. Klune makes sure you don’t know which path Felix will take. Will he save the world or purge it with fire? This is one the best parts of the novel. The reader wants to know what Felix will do.
Many readers appreciate a good underdog story. They want a hero they can root for. With Felix’s story, you get just that. The novel is not lighthearted. There may not be a happy ending. The book doesn’t have a conclusion. Burn is book one in the Elementally Evolved series. Klune has announced a hiatus from writing. So fans of the book must wait until he returns to see what happens to Felix and Seven. You can also catch a glimpse of Seven and Felix in his novel Into this River I Drown, published in March of this year.