Like a fine cheese, Sidney Grimsley
Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox was probably one of the most interesting and unique books I have ever read, and that’s saying something. I have read quite a bit of fantasy, and love when fantasy books take place in our world. It makes me feel like my life can be just as fantastic as the characters who wander into a completely different world. This book follows a teenager named Canny, who goes on a camping trip with her brother to research a mine disaster in the mountains. While there, she discovers an interesting family that lives in the valley that seems to be keeping secrets from her. When she discovers that she can do her own magic, things get interesting, especially when she meets a mysterious boy who seems to be imprisoned in the valley.
Despite the interesting plot and diverse characters, the plot wasn’t exactly fast-paced. It was a book that I can only compare to a fine cheese. You don’t devour it quickly, you savour the flavours. If you are looking for a quick read to gobble up in one sitting, I would not recommend Mortal Fire, but if you want a delicacy of a story, look no further.
First of all, I need to discuss the cover. I know this has nothing to do with this book review, but the cover is too stunning to ignore. It is probably one of the most beautiful covers in the YA genre. I absolutely love how it captured Canny perfectly, and integrated the bees (which are crucial to the storyline, readers will realise). More often than not, the picture of the character will look nothing like the character’s description.
I had mixed feelings about the characters in this book. Let’s start with Canny. One of the things I loved about Canny was how diverse she was. There needs to be more characters like Canny in YA. I absolutely loved her passion for math. Although I cannot relate, it is something that is not often seen. Canny is definitely an inspiring character when it comes to this, from being the only girl on her math team, to constantly surprising people with her quick wit. I also loved how she represented the Pacific Islander community. I am from Hawaii, and many of my friends talk about how they never see Polynesian representation in the media. When Knox weaves in Siema’s storyline, and brings up her voyage on an outrigger, I squealed in joy. Although I loved this aspect, I feel as if Canny was kind of bland sometimes. Knox tried to make her a fiery character, but I didn’t feel it completely. I loved Sholto and Susan’s relationship with Canny. I did not trust Susan at first, but she soon she became a motherly/sisterly figure to Canny. The Zarene family was extremely interesting. I did enjoy how they were such complex characters, as they were not quite villains, but not exactly heroes either. At first, I really liked Ghislain, but he really creeped me out after his story was revealed. His relationship with Canny started off interesting, but really was too quick for me. I tend to prefer relationships that develop over a long time, and Canny and Ghislain literally fell in love within a couple days. I got strong Romeo and Juliet vibes, and we all know how that worked out. The only thing I liked about their relationship was the comparisons to Marli.
The magic system in the Zarene valley was completely original and unlike anything I have ever read before. This is what separated this novel from the rest of the fantasy YA books out there.
It was so vivid when described and interestingly woven into the story. I don’t want to spoil it, and it’s one of the pieces of the novel that you must experience to understand it. Overall, this was a really good read. Because it was on the slower scale, I would not recommend it to everyone, but people who are sick of the consistent YA plot lines and tropes will love this diverse and whimsical story.
Sidney Grimsley is 15 years old, from Kailua, Hawaii, USA.