“Land of Hidden Fires” by Kirk Kjeldsen

Land of Hidden Fires

Kari’s just your typical teenage girl, dreaming of boys and being like Rita Hayworth…except that her country is currently occupied by Nazi Germany. When an American pilot crash-lands near her father’s farm, she sets off on a desperate adventure to smuggle him to Sweden.

I always have my eye open for some good Nordic reading, so obviously I snapped this up (even though the author is as much American as he is Norwegian). It’s a quick, light read, coming in at 135 pages. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of action, as we follow not only Kari’s trek through the snow towards Sweden, but also her father’s chase after her, and the search by the German officer assigned to find the American pilot whose plane has gone down.

Kari is an appealing character, combining girlish romanticism, adolescent rebellion, and a strong sense of right and wrong. She thinks Lance (the American pilot) is the man she’s been waiting for, and rushes impulsively into a ill-thought-out rescue attempt, only to discover that the real hero of the piece is she herself. The other characters are more lightly drawn and typical, but still distinct: Erling, Kari’s father, is a gruff widower who can’t demonstrate his love for his daughter, and Moltke, the German officer, dreams of glory with Rommel in Africa rather than being stuck in backwoods Norway. The atmosphere is also typically Nordic: lots of snow, ice, and skis. The interwoven plot is perhaps the most successful thing about this book, with shifts between the different characters as they all race to reach each other and the Swedish border. Not a giant war epic, but still an engaging and fast-paced novella about a lesser-covered front in WWII.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Buy links: Barnes and NobleAmazon

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