Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Review: Mortal Fire
by Elizabeth Knox
Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie's parents go away on a vacation, so they send her off on a trip of her own with her step-brother Sholto and his opinionated girlfriend Susan, who are interviewing the survivors of a strange coal mine disaster and researching local folklore in 1959 Southland, New Zealand. Canny is left to herself to wander in a mysterious and enchanting nearby valley, occupied almost entirely by children who all have the last name Zarene and can perform a special type of magic that tells things how to be stronger and better than they already are. With the help of a seventeen-year-old boy who is held hostage in a hidden away house by a spell that is now more powerful than the people who first placed it, Canny figures out why she, too, can use this special magic that only Zarenes should know, and where she really came from.
I read Knox's Dreamhunter duet a few years ago and fell absolutely in love with her worldbuilding and storytelling. Knox once again brilliantly blends historical fiction and magical realism, creating a world where a reader feels they could step right in and feel the magic in the air.
Canny is a fascinating main character surrounded by mysterious secondary characters whose secrets are slowly revealed as Knox layers each person’s story into others to create a complex world. If you also read Knox’s previous novels you'll catch small references to the Hame Dreamhunters, but this book brings readers into a fresh new aspect of that world with its own circuitous storyline.
For readers who like different time periods and cultures, this is a great blend of magical realism. (Realistic fiction with a hint of magic)