REVIEW: Tonight, I Burn by Katharine J. Adams

Last Updated on February 16, 2024

Katharine J Adams’ debut novel Tonight, I Burn has much to recommend it to a grimdark audience. You would think burning at the stake is horrible enough that no one wants to repeat the experience. The coven at the centre of Tonight, I Burn, however, burn on a daily rota. Set in a slightly dystopian community in a world quite unlike ours, this is their way of life, their way of ensuring their safety. Every night, a witch burns, allowing them to walk the lands of death, to reinforce the coven’s protection.

Tonight, I BurnThey always come back within the allotted time. But when Penny’s sister doesn’t, she refuses to accept that she’s lost. Making her own way into the lands of death, she soon meets a mysterious man. He offers her a deal: her sister’s return to the land of the living if Penny returns every night for a month and spies for him. If she doesn’t fulfil her part of the bargain, Penny will be forced to stay in the domain of the dead. So, she does. She is very quickly drawn into political machinations full of betrayal and abuse of power. And ultimately, it comes down to Penny to decide what she’s willing to do and risk to make sure she has a future.

Rebellion, resistance, sacrifice, and of course, death are central to Tonight, I Burn. But they don’t make up the whole story. I especially liked the library at the centre of this novel, a looming, partially forbidden, presence throughout. The worldbuilding generally was interesting – on the physical front, it was quite sparse, relying on the reader’s mind to flesh it out. In terms of magic, it is far more defined. There are two actions at the centre of this: burning and gilding. As mentioned earlier, burning allows the witches to access the land of death and be resurrected on their return. Gilding is even more invasive, if that is possible. It is a procedure that fixes a gold mask to the victim’s face, through which they lose all free will and sense of self. This is used as a way of controlling the coven as well as convenient punishment. It looks at what makes someone human, and when people stop being considered as such. At the same time, works as a crucial element of worldbuilding. Having this sort of punishment as part of the community tells the reader much about what kind of society they are dealing with and the dynamics between those in power and those who are not.

While romance is certainly part of this story, the relationships at the centre of Tonight, I Burn are sisterhood and friendship. The changing and strengthening of the bond between Penny and her sisters Ella and Mila is what I enjoyed most reading this. I also appreciated how friendship is the stronger power than romantic love in this novel. I might even say that the romance was one of the weaker elements of Tonight, I Burn. It felt like an inclusion due to current market trends rather than an organic blossoming of love.

As a whole, Tonight, I Burn was a fun adventure with plenty of darkness to enjoy. I look forward to seeing what else Adams comes up with – I’m certainly curious to read more of her writing.

Read Tonight, I Burn by Katharine J. Adams

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.