Friday, 25 April 2014

Review: Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen

Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen
Format: eBook
Published by Etopia Press on 7th December 2012
Pages: 300
Genre: YA, Sci-fi
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The world's going to end in fire… and it's all Kyle's fault.

Kyle Wolfe's world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle's two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle's friends aren't all that dead anymore.

Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it's Shira who's alive... and now they're friends with benefits. Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he's not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He's pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents' marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world...
Ah, this book had so much promise...

The Kindle sample had me hooked from the beginning! The premise is just horrifically fascinating. Kyle, our protagonist, can remember very little about the night of the fire-- the fire that killed his best friends Danny and Shira. Ever since that night, he has been living out his days alternating between a reality where Danny is dead and Shira alive, and one where Shira is dead and Danny alive. And Kyle is struggling to figure out whether the fire was his fault or not, while at the same time trying to make sense of what is happening to him.

Desperately wanting to find out the answers, I bought the book. And you would think that with a premise like that, you'd be in for a hell of an emotional ride. But unfortunately, the book lacked emotional depth. Kyle seemed so blank the entire time. There was little sense of the history of his friendships with Danny and Shira. I didn't know why he was in love with Danny. I didn't know why he cared about Shira either. The author told us of so much complication, layers of entangled feelings in the relationships of these characters but failed to show any of it.

(Also, just to clarify for other people who might be on the hunt for bisexual characters like me: Kyle isn't bisexual. I bought this book thinking he might be, since he's in love with Danny and is sleeping with Shira, but he actually identifies as gay.)

I was also mostly unimpressed by the treatment of female characters in this book, the way they were shamed for their sexualities, labelled sluts or bitches in a way that went unexamined by the narrative.

The plot was definitely interesting, but even though it kept me from giving up on the book, it wasn't particularly gripping and it all seemed to be building up to something with much more oomph than what actually happened in the end. The ending is ambiguous and, in my opinion, unsatisfying. The book is constantly going on about how Kyle might have to save the world, but the book simply doesn't deliver on that front. What goes on is much more personal, and very dark-- in fact the reveal at the end is pretty sinister and awful, and I felt it wasn't given enough attention. It was rushed and everything was left unresolved. I mean, the whole book is fairly dark, what with all the death, the obsession with fire, themes of rape, domestic abuse, violence, and so on, but the ending took it to a whole new level, and it just made me very uncomfortable that it was dealt with so quickly and then the book was over.

Ultimately this novel was forgettable, which is disappointing given how compelling the beginning was. The characters failed to leave an impression on me, for all that the book tries to make the end reveal as shocking as possible. I was left feeling cold.


  1. Oh, I'm really sorry to hear this turned out to be unsatisfying (since it was me who rec'd it, sorta...). I haven't read Obscura Burning (it just seemed too dark for me), but I have read the The Other Me and I really liked the characters there....

  2. It's okay! I was really pulled in by the beginning of this book and had such high hopes for it too! It has pretty good reviews on Goodreads as well. I think it just didn't click with me, unfortunately. The darkness wasn't a problem for me at all, but the book didn't work for me in other ways.

    The Other Me sounds interesting. There are so many other books I'd like to read though, I don't know if I'm going to give this author another go-- I think maybe her writing's just not for me.


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