Reviews

The Ones We Burn, by Rebecca Mix

crierswars's review

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1.0

no ❤️

leciurro's review

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The book just isn't that exciting, and the pacing of it is weird. The relationships between characters and their own self-growth feel unnatural, and that things just happen because they need to for the plot.

tinybluepixel's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

0.5

Hoooh boy. Okay. Rebecca Mix can be happy that I read some truly abysmal books this year, because otherwise this would be my worst book of 2022. 

Let's start off with the proverbial elephant in the room: Yes, the racism is there. Yes, the antisemitism is there. No, I don't think it was intentional. Is it disappointing? Is it infuriating? Is this book deserving of the "hate" it gets? Yes, yes, and yes. (Side note: Calling something out for racism and antisemitism is not, and will never be, "hate" or "cancel culture"). I am not the right person to talk about this. I am a white atheist. My sexuality doesn't matter, it doesn't change the fact that I am not the right person to talk about racism as it pertains to this particular book. There are other people who have done so, far better than I ever could, and I have read their reviews on this book before I ever considered picking it up. I read their reviews during my reading, and I read their reviews after I finished reading, always comparing. If you are interested in reading this book, please read these reviews. They are there. I will link some below, too. 

The Ones We Burn (TOWB) is a book that gives off the message that it was a book written to have a book written. A book for a movie deal. A book that serves the sole purpose of the author having a book out. It has about as much soul as the Divergent Trilogy. The plot is reminiscent of the fanfiction I wrote when I was twelve. The characters are cardboard cutouts walking around a world that is comparable only to Disneyland: Pretty on the outside, but there's nothing behind. No substance. No importance. 

Where's the passion? Where's the story this tells? Where's the necessity, the moral of the story? This book is a collection of tropes and hashtags that Mix taped together with ducttape to make pretty Tiktok videos. Oh, your book is 1. sapphic, 2. enemies to lovers, 3. knife to throat (but make it sapphic)? Okay, what else? Nothing? I figured. (I didn't make that up. I took that directly from the author's twitter page). 
An example: Our main character is a witch. The witches are being oppressed and persecuted by the humans. Yet for some reason it is custom that each ruler marries a witch, and has done so for generations. Why? Oh, just because! There's no reason given. If the humans hate the witches so much, why are they fine with their ruler marrying one? Why do they demand it? Why is it necessary? So the author can get the plot point of the witch being engaged to the prince, that's why. So there's a "reason" for the main character to go to the capital and live in the palace, no matter how flimsy that reason may be. And the entire book is like that. (And the land the witches live in is called ... Witchik. I am losing my mind.)

TOWB is a collection of empty little rabbit holes, conncected together by the hollowest of plotlines. And nothing even comes of these plotlines! This book has an astounding number of chapters; eighty, to be exact. 80. Eight-zero. At exactly 460 pages, that's an average of 5.75 pages per chapter. Personally, I don't understand short chapters at all, but it seems to be a trend on booktok, so I guess the short chapters were another checkmark off the list of things to throw together to make the perfect marketable book. The actions of these characters barely get any depth, because the chapter is over after three pages and the plotline is abandoned. Nothing gets the attention it deserves, because every time we get smoewhere, there's a cut - and the next chapter begins. It's ridiculous. 

Normally, in a book like this, the characters are its saving grace, but they aren't. The only ones that are worth to even pay attention to are Galen and Percy, and even they fall flat. Ranka, our main heroine, is probably meant to be some kind of anti-hero, but she isn't. She's just ... empty. Lifeless. Her supposed "blood magic" feels useless. She is constantly hyped up to be some kind of super-killer, when in reality she's just pathetic. She is defined by the people around her, the people who imbue her with the barest hint of personality until the chapter ends and she's alone again. A vessel for the reader, meant to be relatable because she's oppressed. Her two personality traits are 1. being oppressed and poor, and 2. being a "ruthless killer". 

Where's the worldbuilding? Oh, the (white) witches are oppressed and persecuted. People want them dead for being witches. Okay? What's the background? What's the history? "Oh, it was always like that. They just always hated each other."
I don't understand it. Is this meant to be a metaphor to real life, or is it just a plotline from other fantasy books borrowed to make this book seem more "gritty" and "relevant"? There's entire countries we don't know the relations of. Why? What's the base, the groundwork, the infrastructure of the worldbuilding? Once again, it comes back to TOWB reading like a book written for the sake of having written a book. 

Furthermore, how can any author living in the USA of twenty-fucking-twenty-two look at a story they are writing and conciously make these choices? I went on twitter to see if Mix had posted something about it, and she did, denying that racism and antisemitism are present in the text, and that their one black sensitivity reader would've caught it. 
Excuse me? One singular black sensitivity reader? On a book with two black main characters, with this kind of plotline, in this political climate, in the year of our lord 2022? I don't understand very well how publishing works. But if this is how it is ... Man. Don't really have the words. Guess I expected more. Guess I shouldn't have. 
And even though the main character eventually changes her mind, the things remain. The words are still on the page. The insults are there, black-on-white. In general, I think I understand what Mix wanted to do here: To have a character that is proven wrong, and ends up changing her mind once she receives more information. However, I am of the opinion that this backfired, and it backfired spectacularly, especially when it comes to the heavy promotion this book receives.

Once again, this proves that just because I want a book to be good (especially a wlw book) it won't necessarily be. And just because the author is part of the lgbt community doesn't mean that their books won't be 

So ... yeah. I have many more thoughts. I have no more words to express these thoughts. Maybe I'll add on to this once my brain has cooled down a bit. But for now, I am just extremely disappointed and ... pretty angry, actually. In conclusion: No one should support a racist book, but even disregarding the racism (which one should never do) this book is really, really bad.

Please refer to these reviews for more thoughts that are not mine:
- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4812626829?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1
- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4814072828?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4810285214
- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4760062162?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

Here's the author's explanation on twitter: 
- https://twitter.com/mixbecca/status/1546496302430683137?cxt=HHwWgoCwjbCMofYqAAAA

jennieartemis's review

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adventurous dark tense medium-paced

3.0

TL;DR: What should have been a powerful tale of trauma has been massively derailed by a poor attempt to integrate ideas of racial discrimination with unpleasant repercussions
(eARC provided by Netgalley)

Had things been a bit different, I would doubtless be calling the Ones We Burn a straightforward, promising YA fantasy, but unfortunately it has fallen into a classic trap and paid the consequences. Using fantasy to explore discrimination is a common thing, and obviously admirable, but it needs to be set up and framed very carefully or it just backfires, as has happened here (prompting very warranted criticism and upset from readers). When people say this is a "reverse racism" book, it doesn't mean it literally is about non-white people oppressing white people (that's not how the world in the book is set up): it's a little more complicated and layered than that, but still absolutely valid as a complaint. What we have is a completely fictional racial dynamic (humans oppressing witches), in which our representative victim is white, and our representative oppressors are a pair of Black royal siblings. The fact that other characters are of various races sort of doesn't matter, because the book foregrounds this dynamic, and so I'm not surprised readers feel this is an excuse (intentional or not) to reverse real-world power dynamics. But there is another layer which adds on to this: we actually are supposed to side with the Black characters, but they are coded as monarchs in a very white Western Europe way - many of the enemies actually end up being marginalised figures. So on this other layer, we are actually being positioned into supporting an inherently white imperial structure through the fact that we are expected to be progressive and support characters we recognise as marginalised in the real world. Complicated, and quite possibly unintentional, but this is exactly what needs to be caught in publishing. And I think it trickles out to affect the rest of the book to be honest: treating the human-witch split as a racial/cultural thing rather than as something akin to queerness or disability (which feels a more natural fit) creates a world that I can't quite understand - it leaves me with more questions about how this world even functions on these lines. That's a real shame, because there is a genuinely powerful story about trauma and gaslighting in here (and a sweet enough romance), that really should have been the focus. Trying to also tackle racial dynamics, even in a fantastical version, has sadly brought down a book that otherwise had a lot of potential.

4/10 in personal rating system

heythereluca's review

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I was so excited for this book. I've been following its release since before it had a release date and a cover reveal. I subscribed to Mix's newsletter ages ago to find out more information on this book and have participated in every arc giveaway. I love a good sapphic enemies-to-lovers and books exploring trauma and redemption. This seemed right up my alley. But I cancelled my preorder after a week of silence over the reverse racism controversy and the immediate response of limited comments. I want to believe that this book isn't racist, but the lack of responsibility and response on Mix's part, in addition to the reviews already left from members of the Black community, I seriously doubt it at this point. 

Until changes are made, or more information comes out, this book is being removed from my tbr.

mythos05's review

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1.0

1/5 stars

I was first introduced to this book by a booktuber who I had followed for some time. I was intrigued by the way the book was described. I simply added it to my TBR list without bothering to check much information about the book. I was disappointed to find out that certain details were omitted while recommending this book. This book is an example of reverse racism. Having two black siblings in power is fine, but not when you are characterizing them in a way that harms them. Not only is this problematic by itself, but the book is also antisemitic. The main character being a blood witch is another horrible stereotype used against the Jewish community. The author refuses to respond and has chosen to censor their comments. Due to this, I personally will not be wasting my time by reading this book.

Reference: https://twitter.com/AshiaMonet/status/1541085622559035392
P.S. There is more than one review referencing these problems, but I can't link them all.

skylarbluestein's review

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adventurous emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

prettymessreading's review

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1.0

This book is the epitome of "white fear" - that Black ppl will come along and do what white ppl have done to BIPOC communities. Let me be the first to say that in all my years, I've never been apart of or heard a conversation where Black ppl want to become oppressors. We just want to live our best lives like everyone else. This author has lost her mind.

estroniaid's review

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  • Plot- or character-driven? N/A
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

0.5

Through a random act of luck, I won't be reading this.
A friend showed me a post discussing this racist book by this racist author.
How it is filled with black and brown characters, in power, who oppress the poor white characters/protagonist? My jaw is on the floor.
I'm sure other reviews, of the over a hundred one (1) stars, there is a better written and more concrete understanding of what happens in this festering pit, read through those if you need 'evidence'.
Don't give this author money, if you must hate-read it, 🏴‍☠️ it.
This is 'save the pearls' level of bullshit (google it).
But of course, where are my manners, this kind of media wouldn't be possible without the white queer readers ignoring (or supporting) this in favour of their sweet gay babies, bravo .

morethanmylupus's review

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challenging dark slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

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