My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon
When a gang of men tries to take advantage of young Alen, he kills one of them in self-defense. The penalty for murder is death, but the local priest is willing to waive the sentence if Alen will submit to his desires. Alen wants neither outcome, for he already has his heart set on a being he has seen in the flames of his hearth, the only one who has been there for him besides his mother. When the sentence is carried out, the being of fire Firnal takes form and Alen discovers his friend in the flames was more than a trick of his imagination after all.
Burnt Offerings was very hard for me to get into at first. The writing style is thick, littered with superfluous adjectives that did little to move the story along and made the book hard to follow. The beginning is packed full of unnecessary description of what is basically a standard fantasy-esque village. Once I got past this, I found I liked the story quite a bit. Alen is a tragic figure and the villagers bully him for having spurned their affections. I’m not sure I bought that they all seemed to find him irresistibly attractive, since attraction is such a subjective thing, but I could definitely empathize with Alen’s pain at the unwanted attention he seemed to draw and his desire to get away from it.
The priest was a shallow villain who was after Alen only for his body, but Alen’s mother brought a lot of emotion to the story, fearing for her son the way any mother would and trying to protect him from a cruel world. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her as she begged for Alen’s life.
I found the ending surprising given the sales pitch, but I wasn’t complaining. To see Alen find happiness was fulfilling and satisfying, which begs the question: why is this part of Dreamspinner Press’s Bittersweet Dreams line? Alen is happier at the end of the book than he is at the beginning. His love for Firnal endures and survives. I can’t say that this book ends with anything less than a HEA in my opinion.
If you can deal with overly formal speech and a verbose writing style in order to get to a good story, you may like this. I certainly found it full of surprises. If you were expecting a tragedy, though, you may be left scratching your head after reading Burnt Offerings.