So Let Them Burn
That is what the little banner says across my copy of So Let Them Burn on my kindle.
Such a tiny word for what I have just been through.
Yeah, I read it, and yes, without a single doubt, even though I finished it on February 1st, it was my top read for January 2024.
5 stars, no question, no hesitation.
This book was a lot, so this review might be a bit scattered, but if nothing else, please understand that this is an amazing story, one you should read.
Okay, that said, let me now try to tell you how amazing it was with no spoilers.
San Irie is the Jamaican inspired island at the center of this story. We meet the characters living there approximately 5 years after a war that almost destroyed all of the island and its people. Colonists were doing what they do and wanted to own the island and decided to take it by force until they were stopped.
The main characters of the book are the heroes, heroes who once had a clear objective, and a clear enemy. Post war, though, things become blurry and decisions need to be made that are unpopular and that cause many people pain. The sucky part of being in charge.
But, as with all juicy stories, things do not turn out how our heroes assumed they would. Lies are being told, truths are being withheld, and life as they know it will be turned upside down within just a couple of chapters. Thus, hooking you into a tale about friendship, sisterhood, and responsibility with a mention of island things like ackee and saltfish, using the good plates for company, and neighbours who decide you belong to them, to make you smile lil bit! 😉
Kamilah Cole constructed a world with all the home-grown ideals and morals that are drilled into Caribbean-ites from birth. She then smoothly threaded in fantastical elements of gods and dragons, which all built the story into an all-consuming fantasy you cannot put down until you know exactly what happens next.
The book is told from two points of view, Faron and her sister Elara. They are the main protagonists. The story unfolds as, for the first time ever, they are separated. Something neither expects and besides that, they are both handed impossible tasks to solve without their usual support system, each other. Elara has to go into the Langley empire, yes, the same colonists who tried to take over her island. While Faron has to stay in San Irie and figure out how to solve things without simply using the power of the gods in her to force her way through to victory. That is how she helped win the war, so this other path is driving her crazy. Horrible for her, but great reading for us!
Fresh paths, as per usual, means new possible allies and maybe more.
What I loved about the way the author handled this was that she did not give us anything instantly. The sisters did not immediately assume people would be in their corner, which was to their benefit and also detriment. Again bad for them but more great reading for us.
The ladies felt real. With every turn of a page, you felt them doing their best, making errors, making friends, and making life-changing decisions. They were easy to connect to, something I appreciated. The sisters were trying to figure out their own identities and their place in the world within environments alien to them. They were coming of age but yet they had been through so much. Everything they believed to have sorted in their minds and hearts went into a tailspin. Such great reading!
Also fun were the dragons and the gods themselves. All of whom had distinct personalities and their own agenda adding to the adventurous chaos. The secrets they held along with this unique mythology drove me crazy. Piece by piece it was teased out, drawing you closer to the actual truth inch by inch.
If you like the going away to school trope, found friends, and serious enemies to lovers, just go buy the book and start reading. Please note though, there are strong sapphic elements in the book, so if that irks you just brace and keep reading, it IS STILL worth reading and quite enjoyable.
The writing itself is fun to read, inter-spaced with humor and sharp bits of reality that teach even as they hurt. Kamilah Cole took her time to build this world and the people you will soon come to love in it. On her social media So Let Them Burn is stated as being part 1 of a duology and let me tell you right now, as you finish it, you WILL be craving book 2 and like me stalking the hell out of the author on bookstagram.
Adventure, fantasy, a Jamaican-based world, and relationships that give you the feels. The best combination ever!
I really want to message the author and tell her I think I owe her money for this one. Truly I loved it, and it is my only 5 star read of January 2024.
Go find it, read it, and discover this amazing book for yourself.