Books & Literature

Book Review: Timefire, by Nean McKenzie

MIDDLE-GRADE: In the scorching summer of 2033, Gilbert Black is accused of being a firebug, just like his mother was thirteen years previously. That night a fire starts on his family’s farm. A fire with a tunnel in the centre of it. And that’s when things start to get really weird.

A fresh new fantastical adventure story about Australia’s history with bushfires and one family’s part in saving the land.
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Feature image credit: MidnightSun Publishing

Australian optometrist Nean McKenzie, who moonlights as an author, lives in western Melbourne. She has written three books for young people: Cryptosight, about Australian animals that may or may not exist, Xenoflight, about saving animals that may or may not exist, and now Timefire. Each of McKenzie’s books are set in Australia. They are all part fantasy, part fact, woven together using history, the land and its occupants, and adventurous children who have a strong sense of what is right.

Timefire begins in the year 2033. It is about a boy called Gilbert Black (Gil) who has been accused of setting fires, just as his mother was accused 13 years earlier. One scorching summer’s night, a fire starts and a strange man asks him to step into a tunnel in the fire. From then on, Gil finds himself travelling back and forth in time to the great fires in Australia’s history. He discovers things about his family’s past, all while trying not to change anything that may jeopardise his future.

McKenzie is able to write stories from a different perspective which feel fresh and new. The reader can relate to her love for the Australian landscapes and its occupants. Timefire is a story about looking after the environment, family ties, sacrificing yourself for those you love, and climate change. It gives the reader an insight into what life might be like in the future but also helps us understand what it was like in the past. The descriptive passages enable us to almost feel the searing heat of the fire and smell the acrid smoke.

The storyline is fast and it takes some concentration to keep up with the changing timeline. Timefire also ends quite abruptly, which may be a little confusing. The reader could possibly take a couple of tries to understand what has happened.

Children reading the story will remember the fires of 2020, while adults and teachers will remember the fires in 2009 and 1983. They are dark times in our history that caused widespread devastation to not only humans but our country and its wildlife. Timefire is a timely reminder for us to be careful with our precious country and make sure there is a future for our children.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: MidnightSun Publishing
Released: July 2023
RRP: $17.99

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