I’m afraid I’m not going to be very succinct here. My love for the Fever series has been documented in Cannonballs past, as well as my skepticism about the direction taken of the last book. I’m not going to spoil Burned in this review, but I’ll be talking about trends and events throughout the previous books so consider yourself warned on that score.
Here’s one thing right off the bat I feel like I should mention: sometimes that even in 4- or 5- star reviews (so, books I liked a lot) I’ll discuss its perceived flaws more than positives. This is just because as a reviewer, I tend to over-intellectualize the criticism I have, whereas talking about what I liked might as well be “SQUEE!” for several paragraphs. In this particular case, I had some issues, but I also made the mistake of reading other fan reviews when I finished and they gave me too much to think about. I mention all this because that’s what I’m basically going to do here: talk about some of these problems, with the acknowledgement that at the end of the day, this series has some magnetic appeal for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book (and think it adequately addressed a lot of problems I had with Iced.)
A bit of background: the first five books in the series had as their protagonist MacKayla Lane (Mac.) They focused on her education in the world of the Fae, her self-discovery as quite a kickass protector of humanity against said Fae, and her relationship with Jericho Barrons. The series is, generally, very sexually charged. We were also introduced to Dani, a young teen who became a younger sister figure to Mac. In Iced, the sixth book, Dani becomes the protagonist. Nothing overtly squicky happened, but against the backdrop of the rest of the series — which, again, overtly sexual — it seemed a bit “off” to focus on this young teen and, seemingly, the three different older men who were “interested” in her. Cue: tons of fan backlash.
Onto Burned. I’ll give Karen Marie Moning credit. When she saw that the overwhelming response from her fans was not great, she changed tack and re-tooled Burned to address some of the criticism and try to give her fans what they wanted: Dani is matured by several years during the book. Now, of course in a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” many tsk-ing fan reviews are declaring that Burned is obviously not the book that KMM wanted to write, and that if she just hadn’t capitulated to those other fans, maybe we would have gotten the much better book that she intended. I fundamentally disagree with this: first, I’m not presumptuous enough to believe that I know any author’s intentions without her explicitly stating them. Secondly, the book tonally fits in with the rest of the series, and nothing about the progression of the plot suggests desperation or coercion to me. However, there were a few moments that bothered me, mostly early on, because I feel Moming went a bit overboard in justifying the different men’s earlier interest in Dani (i.e. it wasn’t sexual! I swear!) and it came off as a bit petulant. I totally understand that it’s gotta suck to have suddenly a ton of your loyal readers seriously questioning your choices, but unfortunately, if that many people read and interpreted your work a certain way, then something failed in the communication and that’s on you as a writer. Winking at the criticism once or even twice would have been fine, but there are entire paragraphs justifying and borderline retconning much of the supposed meaning of the more questionable interludes in Iced.
Personally, I didn’t have a problem with KMM’s solution for aging Dani. Some did. I understand there were complaints that it’s essentially a magic wand fix, and that’s possibly true, but it didn’t bother me. The method and lore was well established in earlier books, so it didn’t strike me as a silver bullet fix. Moving on.
Other reviewers mentioned how Mac regressed in this book. On this point, I agree. For most of Burned, Mac is saddled with a ton of issues that come as a surprise after where we previously left her. She’s been rendered mostly impotent, which is frustrating after spending five books that vastly improved her character and transformed her, literally, from Mac 1.0 to Mac 5.0 in intelligence, skill, and savvy. In this book, she’s operating back at around 3.0 level, and the other characters (including Barrons, who is supposed to be on her team) undermine her and make comments demeaning her value. Again, it kind of comes out of nowhere, as Mac has proven her worth before on multiple levels, and it’s kind of a slap in the face to a fan favorite character to have her treated so harshly.
But what I said at the beginning of this review was that overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I stand by that. It took a little time to really hit its momentum, but I became completely engrossed. Overall, this world she built has such appeal for me. I find the lore and her creative choices to be totally fascinating (even if the cliffhangers are irritating as all hell.) This series won’t be for everyone, but for me, it’s catnip, and Burned was a return to form. Even with Mac declawed, I feel like the story is, on the whole, back on track, and I’m more excited than ever to see where it goes.