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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Religious ideologies clash in Victoria Strauss' fantasy The Burning Land, a profoundly moving and timely novel that examines issues of faith, prejudice, and the senseless violence associated with fanatical religious and political leaders. After nearly 80 years of atheistic control, the kingdom of Arsace has been reclaimed by its rightful rulers. The Âratists, followers of the predominant religion of the continent of Galea, have begun rebuilding their cities and restoring their temples. But the reconstruction process is taking more time -- and more money -- than the king ever expected. To make matters worse, Dreamers (Âratist seers) have had visions of renegade Shapers (sorcerers that can transform inanimate matter) far across the Burning Land, a vast desert sacred to Âratists, who believe that Ârata lies sleeping there. Shaping is a pillar of Âratist belief and is considered a gift of the god. But to shape without the appropriate ritual -- which includes the use of manita, a drug that tethers shaping ability -- is considered heresy.
Gyalo, a dedicated Shaper, is chosen to lead an expedition across the desert to find the exiles and return them safely to Arsace. But after a mysterious desert storm kills most of the group, Gyalo and a few others are left with little water and no food. Without any manita and fated to die if he doesn't use his now-untethered shaping abilities to create sustenance, Gyalo is faced with a life-altering decision: break his vows to his god or let himself and other innocents die of starvation.
In this riveting tale filled with magic, intrigue, and treachery, Strauss has succeeded in writing a powerful fantasy novel that is both entertaining and thought provoking. Literary manna. Paul Goat Allen