book review

Mortal Fire ( I love this title)

I bought this book a few months ago, and I thought that it looked interesting, plus it had a New Zealand author. Whats not to like? Answer : the confusing parts. I would rate it about 3.5 stars.

I have no idea how to respond to this book. Well, I have LOTS of ideas, but they don’t quite make sense. Sort of like Mortal Fire.
I’m going to separate this review into good, bad, and confused, because that is how I feel about this book.

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I loved the setting. The author had obviously put a lot of thought into the Zarene valley, and I’m definitely going to hunt down the Dreamhunter duet (spotted at the library). I also really loved that it was based on New Zealand, and that the author was a New Zealander. I feel sort of unpatriotic, because I don’t don’t really read many books by New Zealanders. I’m working on changing this, but there isn’t much speculative ya, or I don’t know how to find it. The magic was very detailed…perhaps too detailed. I had no idea what was going on. The plans were very clever, and I felt enough in the dark that I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
The setting, a sort of idyllic paradise with a dark side, was almost tangible. Elizabeth Knox did a lot of world building, and she obviously understands the world she built really well. Using elements of New Zealand culture and history and mixing it with magic and coal-mining worked very well. The characters also had plenty of backstory, and I liked seeing parallels between Canny and her mother, especially considering what was revealed at the end.
The plot made sense, and kept moving, though the flashbacks didn’t quite work.
The bad for me was the same as the good. I feel like so much effort was put into the lush setting that the characters took a backseat. Canny spent so much time wandering through the forest past the wild pigs and admiring the midnight healing in the immaculate house that she could have spent in action. I would have liked it to be more fast moving.
With all the backstory, it took about half the book before stuff started moving. I knew exactly how things came to be, but I would have liked a little more action earlier on. The magic was so detailed that it wasn’t used as much as it could have been. The plot sort of tripped up over the magic. The plot kept deviating to explain this or that. The back stories took too long.
To cut a long story short : the details diminished the plot. The book was too slow moving. If I am committing myself to 400 pages, I want there to be 400 action packed pages.
What I really didn’t get in this book was the characters. Specifically, the characters relationships and though processes. Why were Marli and Canny friends? What did Sholto and Susan think of Canny being with them? How did Canny feel about her magic? I get that she doesn’t quite get people, but I want to understand her. Why did Ghislain and Canny like each other? The characters were told not shown, and I didn’t understand how that worked at all. The characters weren’t at all relatable.
i am definite going to read this book again, when I know how it works. I liked lots of things. But it wasn’t quite fast moving enough for me.

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