Mortal Fire – Elizabeth Knox

If you like magic and mysterious circumstances you’ll like Mortal Fire. This is the story of Canny Mochrie and how she finds her magic.  Set in Southland (a fictional New Zealand) in 1959, Canny is a Pasifika girl and a mathematical genius who can see something Extra.  That’s how she describes the magic she can see in and on things, they are runes she can’t understand, and no one else can see them.

Canny ends up being shipped off on a trip with her step-brother Sholto over the summer, forcing her to leave the bedside of her best friend Marli who is struck in an iron lung due to Polio. She is anxious and a bit surly until she stumbles upon the magical Zarene Valley and manipulates the situation so she and Sholto must stay at the Zarene family guesthouse.  She then uses her time there to figure out the magic runes that the Zarene’s teach their children.

The plot thickens when she stumbles upon a be-spelled house which imprisons an attractive young man, Ghislain.  As she gets to know him, they fall in love, though if you ask me it is a little bit quick and forced. And as she is discovering more and more about the secrets of magic and the valley, she discovers even more about herself.

This book as some great themes: tragedy, first love, friend and family relationships, all mixed together with magic and mystery told by a pasifika-esque voice which is a rarity in itself.  I enjoyed unravelling this thread and reckon many others might too.

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