Saturday 12 August 2023


Timefire by Nean McKenzie (Midnight Sun Publishing 2023). Middle-Grade. RRP $17.99 paperback. $6.99 eBook. ISBN 9781922858030

Reviewed by Debra Williams

This is a time-travel novel with a difference. In the summer of 2033, young Gilbert is accused of starting local bushfires. His mother, whom Gilbert doesn’t remember, was accused of the same crime thirteen years earlier. After completing an end of year school assignment on bushfires in Victoria’s history, Gilbert finds himself drawn back and forth through time, appearing amid several catastrophic and historic bushfires.

There is secrecy surrounding his mother and his ancestors, and a fire-related legacy dating back generations. Gilbert is puzzled as to why he is appearing at the scenes of these blazes: a mysterious man named Vargo appears at each time span as well, and Gilbert struggles to find any correlation between himself and the stranger. But there are deeper family secrets to be unveiled. The past cannot be altered, but can he learn for the future and save his family?

The story is well researched as far as each fiery event is concerned. The story does get a little confusing at times, and it seems a little incongruous that his family name is Burns, considering the story is about bushfires. 

Gilbert's mobile phone mostly has no signal: but at one point, he can play an episode of his favourite holovision video Detective Danger on a mobile app in the 1850s. Nevertheless, it is an exciting middle-grade Australian tale which will appeal to readers in the 8-12-year-age range.

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