I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for Young Readers on June 11th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie's vacation takes a turn when she stumbles upon a mysterious and enchanting valley, occupied almost entirely by children who can perform a special type of magic that tells things how to be stronger and better than they already are. As Canny studies the magic more carefully, she realizes that she not only understands it--she can perform the magic, too, so well that it feels like it has always been a part of her. With the help of an alluring seventeen-year-old boy who is held hostage by a spell that is now more powerful than the people who first placed it, Canny figures out the secrets of this valley and of her own past.
I am not really certain what just happened, but I think I liked it! The first quarter of that book felt like trudging through sleet to get to a party. You know you want to be where you’re going but you’re feet feel so heavy. You’ve considered giving up and turning home more times than you can count, but every time you’ve just kept going.
It was clear from the beginning that Mortal Fire was a cut above most books, if not in the questions it was asking than in the terrifically dense plot. There was so much information, Knox left no details unexplored, but at a cost to the pacing of the story. It dragged often, with recounts of the past that droned on like a history lesson until even magic became a science that was weighted with confusion.
This book had one of the most bewildering magic systems I have ever read. The application of the magic was understandable, the symbols that classified commands. But there were so many other aspects that were thrown in along the way that ensured I lost focus of what the magic even really was. Despite the general confusion that it induced, there were little details that made the rest worth it. I adored the part about every spell being a question that was asked and the best part of the magic being the answering. Rarely does the magic say yes with enthusiasm, and even more seldom does it utter “your wish is my command”.
It did however, to Canny Mochrie, Mortal Fire’s main character, a straight faced math genius who has this way of being devious and scheming in a way that is so pure and rational you won’t even notice. She’ll be enacting her plans as you’re reading, calculating it all so that it works in her favour. She’ll employ disgust to play on a character’s emotions, mark her brother’s tents in order she has a prolonged stay at the Zarenne valley.
Only Canny is in no way devious, just curious and confused. She, like the other characters, was very real. No one in this book was so animated that they had me in stitches, but I certainly won’t be forgetting them any time soon. Ghislain, Sholto, Iris, Cyrus, Susan, Marni, especially Sisema. The mother-daughter layer to the plot, the mere fact that so much of where Canny went seemed to mirror the footsteps of her mother and yet was so different was such an interesting part of the story.
This book is worth a reread, because I feel like I missed so much while trying to make sense of what was happening. Confusing descriptions of magic and characters who turn out to be not as they seemed as well as the barrage of details that came with the discovery of the truth of the mining incident and later, the jeep. Even the Master Rune business had my head spinning.
But not enough to be distracted from the fact that by the time I had gotten over the majority of the information slump I was wrapped up in the story like one might be in a Spell Cage. Like walking through heavy snow to get somewhere important, when I got there, the trek seemed minimal compared to how happy I was to reach the destination. Definitely worth it.