Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review - Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (3/5 stars)

Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Size: 448 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Amazon Vine
Rating: 3/5 stars

I got a copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. This is a hard book to review for me. There were some parts of the book I really enjoyed and other parts that I found to be boring and confusing. This book was an inconsistent read. Some parts were rambling and boring, while other portions were very intriguing and engaging. I almost stopped reading it multiple times and am still uncertain as to whether I enjoyed it or not.

The story is set in an alternate New Zealand in the late 1950’s. It follows the story of Canny. Canny is a teenager whose mathematical genius defines her, however she has a lot of trouble getting along with others. When her brother and his fiance decide to travel to a small town for the summer, Canny is sent along to accompany them. While Canny’s brother tries to dig up historical accounts of a tragic mining accident that happened many years ago, Canny explores the Valley. Things are strange in the Valley, for example there is a house that no one but Canny can see. In the valley Canny meets the Zarene family who practice a strange sort of magic. When Canny finds that she too can perform the magic, she is drawn into a story of dark secrets and determined to unravel the mystery of this strange house.

As I said this is a tough book for me to review. Some chapters I found boring and confusing and some were incredibly engaging. At points in the book the dialogue and language between characters is very awkward. There were a number of points in the book I had to reread a passage a few times before I could figure out what the author was trying to say. Some of the dialogue is so awkward that I ended up thinking maybe Know did it that way on purpose; but it was awkward in an inconsistent way (not with just one character, but sporadically throughout the book). It was almost like parts of the book were written by different people.

Canny is an interesting character but hard to engage with. She is a genius of sorts, and has a lot of trouble interacting with others. She breaks even the most basic things (locations, colors, poems) into a mathematical way of thinking. This results in her being lonely and curious, but her lack of emotional engagement with the world makes her hard to like. When she does show emotion it comes off as distant and stiff.

The most interesting character in the book is the young man Canny meets in the strange house, Ghislain. He has a mysterious past and is an intriguing character. Throughout the book his interactions with Canny come off as a bit dreamlike, awkward, and disjointed. Still I was intrigued by his mystery and why he was trapped in that house.

Canny and Ghislain have a romance of sorts, but that also came off as a bit awkward for me. They didn’t have much chemistry together and the “romance” comes off as a bit creepy at times.

I did enjoy how this world in the Valley was both part of and removed from our world. I enjoyed the magic system of runes. I also enjoyed the somewhat peaceful and dreamline quality to the writing. The book wraps up fairly well too.

Overall this was a mixed read for me. I enjoyed the magic and Canny’s genius. I enjoyed the mystery behind Zarene Valley and behind the character of Ghislain. I also enjoyed the interesting asides into mining and the mining disasters. However the writing was awkward and alternated between engaging, confusing, and boring. It was just very inconsistent. The conversations between characters felt forced and awkward. The romance between Canny and Ghislain is sudden and a bit creepy. The pacing of the story is also a bit off; parts are incredibly engaging and parts are wandering and boring.

Honestly I can’t really recommend this as a good fantasy read. If you really have your heart set on reading this I would recommend reading the first chapter of the book...it’s one of the most awkward parts of the book...if you can get through that and enjoy it then you will probably enjoy the rest of the book. If that chapter bothers you, then the rest of the book will most likely bother you as well.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- YA/MG Fantasy Reading Challenge
- 150+ Reading Challenge
- Young Adult Reading Challenge

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