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The Burning Land [Hardcover]

Victoria Strauss
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 8 2004

From acclaimed author Victoria Strauss comes a sweeping new tale of magic, oppression, danger, love, temptation, and revelation....

After long years of oppression, the rightful rulers of Arsace have finally reclaimed the holy city of Baushpar and the First Temple of the God. At last, the desecrated temples can be rebuilt and the people's suffering redressed. But tensions between the secular and sacred worlds abound, and rumors arise of renegade Shapers -- powerful mages who hold no allegiance to either the King or the Brethren, and whose magic knows no restraint.

Unbeknownst to the elders of her people, the gifted Axane has dared to dream, to see the outside world beyond the hidden enclave of Refuge -- a world the people of Refuge no longer believe exists -- that has no tolerance for change and will soon break down the walls of their secret sanctuary. But Axane's dreaming is forbidden, and to warn Refuge is to doom herself.

Chosen to lead an expedition to reclaim the renegade mages, Gyalo, a young Shaper, must journey across the mystic Burning Land in a deadly adventure of danger and temptation, a journey that will force him to face his innermost demons and possibilities both sacred and profane. For Refuge hides a shocking truth about the very nature of the world itself -- a secret that will start a war without end.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Two theocratic societies clash in this solid if predictable fantasy from Strauss (The Arm of the Stone). Overthrown decades ago by an egalitarian revolution that quickly evolved into a totalitarian state, the Brethren of the Way of Arata have regained power in the largest of the seven nations of Galea. The Brethren, incarnate Sons and Daughters of the First Messenger who revealed the Way of Arata 12 centuries earlier, are aided by those gifted with the powers of Dreaming (astral projection) and of Shaping (the ability to transform inanimate material). Vowed Aratist and Shaper Gyalo travels south to investigate a rumored community of "lost" Aratists existing in the harsh and holy Burning Land. If Gyalo survives his perilous journey, he will discover an enclave called Refuge. The people of Refuge, guided by the revelations of their first leader, believe they are the last remnants of humanity. Gyalo's mere existence either challenges their faith or fulfills it. Axane, a daughter of Refuge's elected leader who has hidden her ability to Dream, dreams of Gyalo and his expedition. She recognizes her world is not as she has been taught. With both sides believing the other is blasphemous and heretical, disaster looms. The novel's interesting exploration of a messiah-like character's struggle with his faith outweighs the more melodramatic role of Axane, who's a standard fantasy heroine, strong yet vulnerable, obedient yet rebellious. In the end the author lays a firm foundation for an eventual sequel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Recently liberated Arsace has reclaimed its capitol and its principal temple. During the preceding period of oppression, however, the usual suspects were at work, creating tension between secular and sacred estates. And, so rumor runs, an elite caste of sorcerers, the Shapers, developed some ethically questionable practices. In secluded Refuge, young sorceress Axane has dreams that disclose a host of dangers to Refuge's static society. Meanwhile, a male Shaper, Gyalo, has to lead an expedition to Refuge, perforce crossing the Burning Lands in the process and later discovering truths about Refuge unknown to its inhabitants. Inevitably, Gyalo at first looks like the deadly menace of Axane's dreams, but much magical learning and common sense and a certain amount of chemistry dispel that delusion, leading to not only love but also the basis for making common cause against evil. Marion Zimmer Bradley's strong influence enhances appeal for newcomers to Strauss, and readers of The Garden of the Stone (1998) and The Arm of the Stone (1999) will be impressed, but not surprised. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars Best fantasy I've read in a very long time Feb. 7 2004
Gyalo Amdo Samchen, along with a pair of dreamers and a group of soldiers is sent into the burning land to rescue refugees sent into the desert by the now-deposed and atheistic Caryaxists. The burning land is more than a desert, though. It is the place where the god Arata laid down after his great battle against evil--the place where the prophet received his prophecy. Gyalo's mission seems to be a straighforward rescue, but as he travels, he begins to learn of high-level political ploys. Although the Caryaxists were overthrown, all is not well in the world and, increasingly, Gyalo finds himself at the center of a storm.
To his shock, there is a large group of refugees living in an oasis in the burning land--including dreamer Axane. Some of them believe that he may be the next messenger (prophet) sent to lead them out to the promised land, but others fear he is a demon sent to destroy them. What he finds shakes his faith and forces him to confront his destiny. Because everything he has ever believed is suddenly turned on its head.
Author Victoria Strauss delivers a stunningly powerful fantasy. THE BURNING LAND combines fascinating world-building with epic yet fully nuanced characters, and an exciting plot line. Gyalo's travels through the burning land are mirrored in the growth of his powers and insights, and the increase in his own doubts. Axane has always been a doubter, but her faith in humanity shows a hopeful path for the future--if anyone will dare take it. The somewhat ambiguous ending left me anxious for more--for a resolution to the question of what happened to Arata, and what happened to the new messenger.
THE BURNING LAND is the best fantasy I've read in a long time. I highly recommend this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars phenomenal fantasy Jan. 31 2004
When the heretics threw out the rightful King and his followers and dismantled the religious worship of Alta, the government in exile fought to reclaim what was theirs. State and church working together defeated the heretics and the worship of Alta became mandated. Shapers (sorcerers) take vows of celibacy and use a drug that weakens their powers.
The Dreamers of Arsace, those people who can visit other places in their dreams, sense a disturbance in the Burning Lands. The church believes apostate shapers are using unfettered magic and mount an expedition to find out who is causing the disturbances. Gyalo, a very religious shaper, leads the expedition. After much hardship the troupe crosses the desert to find the cave city of Refuge, a place where Arsacian exiles fled persecution. Here Gyalo's adventures begin as he questions his beliefs and believes that the god Alta has awakened from his slumber to usher in a new age. Back home he would be declared heretic.
There are so few fantasies that convincingly seem like they are on real earth, but world builder phenomenal Victoria Strauss does it so effortlessly, fans will think that Arsace is a magical France after the revolution failed. Gyalo is the key character, who firmly believed in magical tethering until Refuge makes him challenge all he once believed. Knowing he will be condemned and in love with the daughter of the ruler of Refuge , he still tries to do what is right as a new age dawns. Fans of Sterling Lanier will enjoy trekking with Gyalo as he journeys the fantastic realm of THE BURNING LAND.
Harriet Klausner
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Hero's Journey, Indeed. March 24 2004
Victoria Strauss draws on her academic expertise, (Comparative Religions) to give us a strange, new world filled with warring theocracies, noble protagonists, politically motivated antagonists, and more subplots than you can stir with a stick.
In it's base form, this is a story of a quest, trials, spiritual growth and redemption. A Hero's Journey, indeed. The characters are carefully crafted and three dimensional, the world, a shadowy replicant of the best, and worst of our own. As an added treat, the mechanics of magic in Victoria's world is fresh and original. This fact alone makes The Burning Land worth the read.

A day's end, the inhabitants of Victoria's world must decide if the weary Gyalo is Savior or Destroyer, herald of a triumpant future or harbringer of doom. A story filled with themes that challenge our intellect, imagery that gripes the imagination, told in manner that stirs the soul.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Epic Fantasy! Jan. 25 2004
By A Customer
Victoria Strauss has written a fascinating story about a truly original fantasy world. Her setting is a world that has recovered from one major war, only to face another, even more deadly one. The book takes a riveting look at the effects of relgious fanaticism on ordinary people -- both Believers and Unbelievers. I loved the way her characters struggled with their society, their own magical powers, and with each other. The conflict was suspenseful and dramatic as Gyalo and Axane encountered new threats.
Ms. Strauss's writing, particularly her descriptions of magical struggles and her unique settings, made The Burning Land a real page-turner for me. I recommend this book to any fan of epic fantasy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating philosphical investigation Jan. 25 2004
By Bob
Strauss has a real talent for creating arresting imaginary worlds with fully-realized societal underpinnings: culture, religion, folkways. In Burning Land, one man's orthodoxy is another's blasphemy, and Strauss addresses this in a fresh way that sheds light on an eternal problem. Her prose (especially her talent for visual description) is deep and compelling; it helps the plot draw you into a totally believable fantasy world; and you'll end up caring deeply about the political/religious issues that her characters face with various levels of commitment and expedience. (Not to mention that the plot is meticulously crafted and pretty darn thrilling.)
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