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Slow Burn: The Anchor and Sophia, Book 2

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Slow Burn:  The Anchor and Sophia, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Absorbing second installment ramps up the adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Far-future, post-apocalyptic fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Raises questions instead of providing answers about differences between a strongly religious, faith-based society, a matriarchal society that's strongly attuned to the natural world, and a society that wants to pursue intellectual, scientific, and technological advancement. All three societies have good and bad aspects, and are populated with complicated characters both good and bad. It's the second in a planned trilogy, so the overall messages may evolve with the story. This volume explores differing attitudes about sexual preference; women's roles in society, access to education, and opportunities to pursue fulfillment; and how much evil or harm is acceptable to achieve worthwhile goals and create a better world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The large cast of characters are mostly good role models, or at least understandable, with few really evil villains. But they're also complicated, they make mistakes, and they sometimes get caught up in negative motives like selfishness, jealousy, or revenge. Positive and negative consequences are easy to spot, so readers will see the disasters that follow decisions based on negative traits, and they'll also see the good that follows from positive motives, such as putting others first, bravery, doing something good with your life, etc.

Violence

Killing with knives, swords, arrows, and guns. Blood is mentioned as pouring, gurgling, oozing, etc., and the sound of bones crunching is mentioned. Beatings and torture with brief descriptions of pain. Torture by cutting off a finger is clinically described. Important characters die. Fights with kicking, punching, slapping, being knocked out by hard hits or blunt objects to the head. Gang rape is implied. A massacre of unarmed people by a large machine gun or rapid-fire small cannon mentions bodies, blood, screams, etc.

Sex

Same-sex manual stimulation is vaguely described. A same-sex relationship mentions kissing, taking off clothes, making love, and an afterglow. Pessaries are mentioned but not defined. A few brief opposite-sex kisses or mentions of past kissing. A brief discussion about homosexuality isn't graphic and presents it as something that isn't a concern in itself, but when people have to suppress their feelings and desires there are negative consequences. Having a "stiffy" mentioned.

Language

"F--k," "f--king," "s--t," "damn," "goddamn," "ass," "hell," "bitches," "whores," "horses--t," and "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens in a far-future world with no drinking age occasionally have beer, wine, and "shine" (moonshine). Several scenes take place in taverns. Liqueur is given in taverns to try and get people to talk. Drugged wine mentioned. A hallucinogenic "journey" after drinking "dreamtea" is described along with mind-expanding thoughts about time, the universe, etc. Several minor or background characters mentioned smoking cigarillos, cheroots, and pipes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tommy Wallach's Slow Burn is the second of a planned trilogy that began with Strange Fire. Reading Strange Fire first is strongly recommended; although it's not strictly necessary to understand the plot, it will definitely provide a deeper understanding of the characters' journeys and the themes explored. Women's sexuality and how different societies treat women is explored in more depth, especially through a same-sex relationship with kissing, manual stimulation, and sexual satisfaction described without being explicit. Violence includes fights, killings, and some descriptions of torture with non-graphic descriptions of blood and pain. Teens occasionally drink beer, wine, "shine" (moonshine), and liqueur in a world with no drinking age. A substance called "dreamtea" is used to induce hallucinations that are used to see the future, and one hallucinogenic "trip" is described in detail. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "bitches," and "whore." Minor or background characters are occasionally mentioned smoking. Themes explored include questions about whether or how much harm is OK if it's done to create a better world, how technological advances are used, and women's ability to pursue self-fulfillment in male-dominated societies.

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What's the story?

In SLOW BURN, war is now inevitable between rival cities in this far-future setting. The Anchor is a religious city that fears and forbids technological advancemen. Sophia's a city that values the pursuit of knowledge above all else. Caught in the middle are the Wesah, a matriarchal and nomadic society with plenty of reasons to mistrust both The Anchor and Sophia. Clive, Clover, and Paz are now all pursuing their own agenda, and each will have to decide how far they're willing to go, and what price they'll ask themselves and others to pay to get what they want. Meanwhile, Gemma's been kidnapped by the Wesah, but before long her desire to escape starts being replaced by a glimpse into a way of life more fulfilling and empowering than she ever imagined possible. As the four of them dance around truth and lies, good and evil, past and present, the decisions they make will have ramifications for the future that none can see.

Is it any good?

This absorbing second installment of a trilogy sets aside world building and establishing characters in favor of advancing the four main storylines with plenty of action, adventure, and intrigue. Author Tommy Wallach deftly weaves the lives of Clive, Clover, Paz, and Gemma toward and away from each other at a Slow Burn, but each storyline advances at a good pace with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

Teens who haven't read the first book, Strange Fire, may not know the characters well enough to feel a strong connection to them, but they will relate to the themes of figuring out right from wrong, putting what you want ahead of others, and whether doing something bad is ever justified if it leads to something good. The plot steadily, relentlessly builds tension and dread right up to the cliffhanger ending that will have readers eager to find out what happens next.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the amount of sexy stuff in Slow Burn. How much is too much in books? What about in other media? 

  • What about the violence? Is it necessary for the story? Is seeing it in games, movies, or TV different from reading violent stories? Why, or why not?

  • Doing harm in order to make the world a better place is a prominent theme. Is it ever OK? How can you know for sure? Can you think of any real events from history that back up your take on the question?

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