- Age Range: 12 - 18 years
- Grade Level: 7 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (June 11, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374388296
- ISBN-13: 978-0374388294
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,695,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mortal Fire Hardcover – June 11, 2013
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–A complex, riveting novel set in 1959 on an island republic in the South Pacific, “in a world very like our own–but not completely.” Canny, 16, is a mathematician who can see “Extra”–like bits of an unknown language floating in letters in the air. Her brilliance earns her accolades as she competes as a member of the math team. School has ended for the year, and Canny is being forced to accompany her stepbrother, Sholto, and his girlfriend on a camping trip to the Peninsula. Canny's stepfather, who is a history professor, is researching a mining disaster that took place there 30 years before, and Sholto will be interviewing people in the area. Canny doesn't want to go along for lots of reasons, but mainly because she doesn't want to be away from her best friend, Marli, who is a polio victim and is kept in an iron lung. Canny's strong-willed mother insists, and the girl is forced to comply. While on the trip, the young people enter a valley that changes Canny's life forever. The air is rife with Extra, she recognizes that magic is being used by the people there, and she also discovers that she is able to perform it herself. She finds a way to the hidden house at the top of the hill, where Ghislain, an attractive 17-year-old, is trapped by a spell put in place decades earlier. Canny decides to try to steal some of the magic to heal Marli. Torn between her attraction for Ghislain and her loyalty to her friend, she is faced with almost overwhelming realizations as her true parentage is revealed. An absorbing, but challenging read.–Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NCα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie has always been different: too cold, too brown, and too strange. She can see something extra—unreality along the edges of things—so she knows immediately that the Zarene Valley is not what it appears to be. A strangely familiar magic has permeated everything, and as Canny is drawn to Ghislain, a handsome 17-year-old boy, she discovers a secret that has defined the Zarenes and the valley for years may be tied to her own murky family history. Knox takes readers on a journey to a world just slightly askew from our own. Intricately plotted, highly literate prose, along with alternating points of view, illuminates the fantastical heart of the story. This is a superficially straightforward tale of girl meets boy (and falls in love and loses him and then fights to save him) made complex through magic and dreams and their repercussions on reality. This is one of those books that, when finished, prompts the reader to go back and reread it in hopes of catching all the clues along the way. Grades 7-11. --Charli Osborne
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The point is: these are hoary, old themes. Lesser writers 're-hash this material in predictable, though sometimes entertaining ways. But one is definitely not surprised, and one doesn't have to think much between title page and 'finis'
Knox, however, takes that theme and makes one see it in a wholly new way. "Mortal Fire" May be a YA novel, but it approaches young love, the problem of being "different", and the popular theme (in the realm of fantasy fiction) of a young mage discovering and learning to use her/his powers in a fresh and subtle manner. As with her other works, Knox makes one think about far bigger themes than the obvious ones, which are merely the bare bones of the story. For instance, Mortal Fire is also about discovering and coming to terms with one's own identity and history. It is about love, forgiveness, and letting go. It is about what many serious pieces of literature address: that "being human" thing!
I think this comes down to the fact that Knox can really Write-capital W! Her protagonists are believable, three dimensional characters. They find themselves in unusual--but believable situations because Knox develops her personae enough so that what they do really reflects the character as the reader knows him or her.
Mortal Fire is a story which takes place in the same universe as Dreamhunter and Dreamquake. If you enjoyed that strange yet somehow familiar setting, you will also love this novel.
Now for the stuff I liked. The characters are complex, and non-comedic and highly dysfunctional relationships abound. Canny Mochrie (her real first name is Agnes) is pretty cold for most of the story (you find out there is a good reason for that, if you stick it out), maybe more than a tad odd (or at least has terrible communication skills), and she is also excessively smart. The depiction of magic is intriguing, because rather being blatant spells left, right, and center, it takes a while for a reader (and the characters) to figure out that the magic is a thing. Unlike a lot of YA fantasy novels that I have read, the characters are made to dwell on things that characters in other books would gloss over. Also, there is mystery, which is solved through sheer persistence rather than classic Nancy-Drew-ing. Set in an alternate world in 1959, the recent history of that particular portion (apparently it is supposed to be like New Zealand) is woven into the story. Mortal Fire is very different from a majority of YA fiction.
What is the language she sees but no one else can?
What does it all mean?
While on a trip with her step-brother Canny uncovers a mystery that may help answer these questions.
Part magic, part mystery and part love story Mortal Fire is an enchanting story. As a disclaimer I should say I am a Elizabeth Knox fan and love her stories.
This is a lighter story than the recently published Wake and has a whimsical charm. This is written in the same world as Dreamhunter but some years later. I can't help but describe it as charming! Worth reading.