Land of Hidden Fires by Kirk Kjeldsen, Review: Taut & compelling

Kirk Kjeldsen’s Land of Hidden Fires is a refreshing change from more traditional WWII stories.

Land of Hidden Fires Kirk Kjeldsen

Land of Hidden Fires Synopsis:

Occupied Norway, 1943. After seeing an allied plane go down over the mountains, headstrong fifteen year-old Kari Dahlstrom 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.

(Grenzland Press)

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In February Kirk Kjeldsen shared with us the family story (and photos) that inspired him to write Land of Hidden Fires. Many have written tales of wartime adventure, drama and intrigue, but few have been set in Norway in the dead of winter, or feature a female teen heroine.

What first struck me was the immediacy/directness of Kjeldsen’s prose – nothing extraneous litters the readers path – a style I particularly enjoyed. For the most part, he ‘shows’ rather than ‘tells’ the reader, providing different story viewpoints and building tension through swiftly alternating character narratives.

That Kjeldsen has first-hand experience in this environment (and respect for the dangers inherent) shines through — succinctly yet beautifully setting the scene at the beginning of each new narrative viewpoint. I found myself highlighting many of these chapter openings, so taken by the stark imagery and atmosphere evoked. Here is just one of many fine examples:

The new day dawned grayer than the previous one. The air smelled like rock salt and sheared metal, and it was cold again, February cold, like the calendar had changed directions and was heading in reverse. To the northwest, by Trondheim, a thin rope of black smoke rose twisting in the wind. To the south, thick storm clouds gathered over the mountains, pooling like spilled mercury. It felt ominous and still , like the world was coming to an end.

Unsually though, while I found the supporting characters and their motivations well developed, Kjeldsen achieved less depth than expected in the leading roles of Kari and Lance. On reflection however, Kari’s mental strength and determination is certainly endearing, and that these characters were not conversationalists actually adds to this tales credibility — too often has people’s behaviour in such harrowing circumstances been romanticised.

Kirk Kjeldsen’s Land of Hidden Fires is a taut and compelling story of adventure and survival — a refreshing change from more traditional WWII stories.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5  —  Overall 3.75

Get your copy of The Land of Hidden Fires from:


Genre: Action-Adventure, Historical, Drama, Thriller

We have also since reviewed Kjeldsen’s third novel, a psychological thriller set in Malaysia, called The Depths.

About the Author, Kirk Kjeldsen

Kirk Kjeldsen received an MFA from the University of Southern California and is currently an assistant professor in the cinema program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. His first novel, Tomorrow City, was named one of the ten best books of 2013 by The New Jersey Star-Ledger. He also wrote and produced the feature film Gavagai, which was directed by Rob Tregenza. He lives in Essen, Germany with his wife and two children.

* My receiving a copy of Land of Hidden Fires from the author for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.