Mortal Fire is set in a time that's quite like our own, but isn't, on a Pacific island called Southland. Canny is sixteen. She's a mathematical genius, fiercely devoted to her best friend Marli (who spends her days trapped in an iron lung as a result of polio), and knows that she's a little different from everyone else. For one thing, she can see the 'Extra' — semi-transparent ribbon-like wisps of calligraphy, floating in the air, that carry messages Canny somehow intuitively understands.
When she's forced to accompany her older stepbrother and his girlfriend on a trip to research a strange coal mine disaster that happened thirty years earlier, she finds herself drawn into the enchanting Zarene Valley, inhabited almost entirely by children who all have the same last name and who can all perform a kind of magic that makes things stronger and better than they already are. She also encounters seventeen-year-old Ghislain — handsome, intriguing and possessed by a powerful spell, he might hold the key to her origins if she can only work out what it is she's looking for.
It's not often that I encounter a book so startlingly original that it just about takes my breath away. In Canny, Elizabeth Knox has crafted a lead character with brains and heart. The plot twists and turns its way through time and place, while the lyrically descriptive writing paints a vivid picture of a beguilingly beautiful world that conceals layer upon layer of secrets. This is a truly satisfying read.
Title: Mortal Fire
Author: Elizabeth Knox
Publisher: Gecko Press, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: July 2013
For ages: 15+
Type: Young Adult Fiction