Land of Hidden Fires
Published 24 January 2017 by Greenland Press
Read from 22 April 2017
“The grumble of a low-flying Heinkel 111 snapped Kari abruptly from her reverie. She looked up just in time to see its distinct, bullet-shaped nose as it rumbled past, presumably on its way to the German base in Trondheim. She picked up her pace and continued on, trudging back up the hill. Before long, she spotted the cabin in the distance.”
Occupied Norway, 1943. After seeing an allied plane go down over the mountains, headstrong fifteen year-old Kari Dahlstrøm sets out to locate the wreck. She soon finds the cocky American pilot Lance Mahurin and offers to take him to Sweden, pretending she's a member of the resistance. While her widower father Erling and the disillusioned Nazi Oberleutnant Conrad Moltke hunt them down, Kari begins to fall for Lance, dreaming of a life with him in America. Over the course of the harrowing journey, though, Kari learns hard truths about those around her as well as discovering unforeseen depths within herself.
Land of Hidden Fires is the second novel from author Kirk Kjeldsen. This is a short and punchy read in which Kjeldsen showcases his talent for creating tension and atmosphere. I rapidly found myself tensing in anticipation of a climax to the great chase. Kjeldsen quickly builds a picture of occupied Norway with clean prose and translates rich historical research into a compelling narrative (indeed he was inspired by a personal family connection to the story - see more on this over at Booklover Book Reviews).
I’m on a Norwegian fiction kick at the moment in preparation for a trip later this year, and Land of Hidden Fires ticks two of the key things I look for in pre-travel reading by nailing the sense of place and neatly framing the narrative in historical context. The rapid switching of viewpoints kept the pace ripping along and allowed Kjeldsen to quickly build a good picture of each character, although I must admit I felt we didn’t get enough depth in Kari to really justify her spontaneous life-risking behaviour. This flaw was quite distracting for me until the point that the adrenaline took over in the chase.
Land of Hidden Fires would translate to cinema easily, with Kjeldsen’s ability to ‘show-not-tell’ a real strength in painting a rich picture of occupied Norway. It’s a thrilling ride, and a great quick weekend read.