Elizabeth Knox

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Mortal Fire


Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie has always been a little different; she’s never known her father, she’s always had a calculating, mathematical mind, and she’s always been able to see something Extra. When she begrudgingly joins her older stepbrother on a trip to research a strange coal mine disaster that happened thirty years earlier, she wanders into a nearby enchanting valley, occupied almost entirely by children who have the last name Zarene, and who can perform a special type of magic that makes things stronger and better than they already are. With the help of the alluring—and somewhat threatening—Ghislain Zarene, who is held hostage by a powerful and out-of-control spell for his part in that mine accident long ago, Canny starts to untangle the mysteries of the valley—only to find that its secrets are her secrets, too.

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Praise for Mortal Fire

I love this book with all of my heart, which is not that surprising, since Elizabeth Knox wrote it. I love all of Elizabeth Knox’s books. Mortal Fire and its heroine, Canny, are that rare thing: real magic.’

Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monsters

‘Knox fans (and we are legion) who’ve been longing for another visit to the Southland of the ‘Dreamhunter Duet’ should fall upon Mortal Fire with cries of glee. This book is finely wrought magic from start to finish. It has brains; it has heart; it has people to fear and to fall in love with; and it all takes place in a totally beguiling world full of natural beauties, glittering puzzles, and earthy problems. It’s a rich and satisfying read.’

Margo Lanagan, Printz Honor Award-winning author of T ender Morsels

‘In Mortal Fire, Elizabeth Knox combines mathematics, romance, a mining disaster, and magic in one of the most beautiful and original fantasies I’ve read in a long time. Nothing—from the intellectually passionate, very real heroine to the central mystery—is quite what you think it’s going to be, making for a wild and wildly satisfying ride.’

Delia Sherman, Prometheus Award-winning author of The Freedom Maze 

‘This literary fantasy demonstrates why Knox is one of the premier writers in the genre. The prose is lush and descriptive…the characters are drawn with finesse, the plot is a series of riddles nested within one another like Russian dolls, and the themes of crime, punishment, guilt, and forgiveness are worked out amid startling religious symbolism of “severing and sacrifice,” resurrection and virgin birth.’

The Horn Book

‘Knox takes readers on a journey to a world just slightly askew from our own. Intricately plotted, highly literate prose, along with alternating points of view, illuminates the fantastical heart of the story. This is the superficially straightforward tale of girl meets boy (and falls in love and loses him and then fights to save him) made complex through magic and dreams and their repercussions on reality. This is one of those books that, when finished, prompts the reader to go back and reread it in hopes of catching all the clues along the way.’


A deeply intriguing heroine, Canny provides the focus for this powerful, perplexing story rife with enigmatic characters in a spellbound setting.’


‘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.

Publishers Weekly


Mortal Fire was short-listed for the 2014 LA Times Book Awards and won the Young Adult Fiction prize in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards

xlfull_terminalhillI wrote a number of Guest Blogs and one related short story, A Visit to the House on Terminal Hill , to go along with the publication of Mortal Fire.

That story was reviewed on S F Signal
And beautifully, here by Nina Allan at Strange Horizons
And in Locus

Guest Blogs

The Unexpected Exotic
Invisible Monsters
My Kind of Heroine
How to get out of your own way when writing

And there is my own blog on Knoxon Letting in the Ghosts

An Interview

David Larsen in the NZ Listener


The Listener Book Club Bookseller podcast
The Listener Bookclub ‘real-life’ podcast

Radio New Zealand Review by Kate de Goldi


Here’s a fantasy worth celebrating, reading and re-reading. Knox returns to the magical, alternate New Zealand-inspired world of the Dreamhunter Duet, but this time her heroine is the aptly named Canny, whose ability to see something “Extra” has always puzzled her. On a research trip with her stepbrother, Canny is drawn to a valley inhabited by one extended family, the members of which have powers like her own. But Canny doesn’t feel free to reveal her abilities, and once she meets the beautiful, powerful brother Ghislain, imprisoned at the top of the valley, she feels even more need to be “canny”. In trying to unravel the spell that traps Ghislain, Canny realizes that she, too, is somehow caught in the valley’s history. Secrets upon secrets; a rich, multilayered and poetic plot; a heroine who’s smart (a math whiz), relentlessly curious and stubbornly confident — this makes for an immensely satisfying read.

Deirdre Baker, Toronto Star

Paula Green in The New Zealand Herald

And this

‘Canny is a kick-ass protagonist, smart and a little bit scary, but with enough compassion to make her three-dimensional. She feels at least as real as the setting, a conglomeration of real and fictional places and events. Massenfer and its coal mines—like the Hunger Games’ Twelfth District—evoked poverty, disaster, and small town dynamics in a way that made me feel right at home as a Kentuckian. The novel’s setting within the 1950s, as well, felt natural; Canny’s obliviousness to pop culture made inane topical references impossible, and the historical events surrounding the period were simultaneously vital and secondary.

Mortal Fire is rife with frustrating and intriguing characters, and there are times when not one of them seems in the right. But the novel itself thrives on ambiguity, much like Canny’s own sense of in-betweenness. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read.’

Emily Nordling, Tor.com

Walking into one of Elizabeth Knox’s worlds is easy, like opening your eyes or stepping out into a moonlit night – everything looks familiar but is strangely altered. Time moves differently; magic seems tangible.

Fans of Knox will delight in her latest work, with is both seductive and elusive. Her sensual writing delights in the weight of bodies, the fragrance of flowers and the heavy buzz of bees, but the words also have the power to hold, to grip, to sting and slap.

Knox deftly weaves them into a puzzle and a trap for the reader, springing snares and sprinkling shining breadcrumbs along the way before building to a rushing conclusion. What a bravura work.


And some bloggers

Educating Alice
Edutronic (UK)
The Golden Adventures of …
By Abigail Nassbaum at Strange Horizons





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