Take Me To Church – a review of That Burning Summer by Lydia Syson

You could probably tell that my two favourite genres of fiction are fantasy and World War II. I’m pretty sure I haven’t reviewed anything else on this blog. Today we’re looking at a World War II novel.

One that was a bit of a let down in all honesty.

In That Burning Summer, we’re taken to a small English town where Peggy and her brother Ernest live. When a Polish R.A.F. pilot crashes into the nearby marsh, Peggy decides to secretly take care of him. As she learns more of his story and his trauma that stops him from ever flying again… Oh no, he’s hot! Meanwhile, her skeptic brother Ernest begins to notice her behaviour and becomes conflicted by all the wartime rules she is breaking to keep her pilot alive.

So let’s start off with the good.

The romance between Peggy and Henryk was developed really well, albeit a slow burn. But a slow burn felt very natural for what was going on. Seeing the two relax around each other was great. It was very sweet to even see the protective nature returned from Henryk to Peggy in some circumstances. The kiss scene was beautifully written, too.

On the other side of the story we have Ernest, excellently written internal conflict. Right from the start this character was compelling. Young and fearful of danger striking, Ernest would memorise the rules he had to comply to to a niche. Almost to the point where people don’t take him seriously. And as he spots his sister breaking those rules, I loved seeing the conflict rise in him.

Now we move onto the bad. These things may seem minor, but ultimately it made the story drag on.

First, the book was riddled with passive voice. As I have lately been fixing that issue in my own works, at moments it stood out like a sore thumb. I notice people tend to use a passive voice to sound more professional, but they’re just extending a strict point when they do that. The story slowed down for me there.

Aside from the romance to bloom between Peggy and Henryk, the story never had any clear direction. Yes, a good story is unpredictable, but it typically has a direction. It wasn’t until the last part of seven parts that I knew that this was how the story was about to go down. Particularly with Ernest’s interactions, there wasn’t a clear goal that it was going towards. It didn’t help that the ending was literally an explanation of what happened in the six year timeskip that would have been far more engaging to read about. Even that didn’t felt paid off because it was done poorly. It was a very iffy conclusion to a slow story. It generally made the story feel very hollow and half-hearted.

That Burning Summer gets a score of 2/5. I knew the romance was coming, but nothing else came with it except a skeptical brother.

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