cover image Mortal Fire

Mortal Fire

Elizabeth Knox. FSG/Foster, $17.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-374-38829-4

Like a Sunday afternoon stroll, Knox’s story sets a meandering pace with an uncertain destination—a page-turner this is not. Given time and an eye for detail, however, Canny Mochrie’s summer odyssey unfolds from a dry depiction of school life in 1959 to a lushly strange dream in a Shangri-La valley. The novel is set in Southland, the lightly fictionalized New Zealand Knox created for Dreamhunter and Dreamquake. Canny is a 16-year-old Ma’eu, taciturn, antisocial, and exceptionally gifted in math. References to Canny’s “Extra,” almost incidental at first, gradually expand as she unwillingly accompanies her college-age stepbrother and his girlfriend on a research trip to a remote town. The Extra is an ethereal script that Canny alone can see, attached to plants, buildings, or nothing at all. When the three come upon a valley dense with the Extra, Canny realizes that there is more to her visions than her own oddness—there are people, the Zarenes, whose existence is interwoven with this magical language. But what is Canny’s connection to them? Dreamlike yet clear-eyed, Canny’s encounter rewards those who give themselves over to Knox’s storytelling. Ages 12–up. (June)