Longlisted for the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award Quality Fiction Category
Book Title: Fire Girl
Author: Matt Ralphs
Publishers: Macmillan Children's Books
‘A YOUNG WITCH. A GRUMPY DORMOUSE. A MAGICAL ADVENTURE’
I must admit to reluctantly picking up my copy of Matt Ralphs ‘Fire Girl’. Its front
cover and the above tag line rather uninspired me. So much so that I committed that cardinal sin and judged this book to be ‘Disney’s Frozen’ but with fire’, before reading a single word!
Nevertheless I practice what I preach as school librarian and ‘gave it a go’ and I’m so
glad I did. I could not have been more wrong!
Set in 1656, Ralph creates an alternate history for England, one that is full of unease
and suspicion, scarred by the aftermath of the Witch War .Witches have been driven
into hiding by Witch hunters and our protagonist, Hazel, has been raised in a magical
glade created by her ‘wielder’ mother, Hecate. Hazel is unaware of the outside world
and desperate for something to happen and boy! Do things happen?!
Hazel’s life of seclusion is rapidly turned upside down and our feisty, naive but
extremely likeable heroine is thrown into a world of demons, curses, walking dead
and true horror. Discovering power she never knew she had, Hazel becomes the Fire
Girl and embarks on a mission to rescue her kidnapped mother from the hands of evil,
recruiting help from some unlikely sources along the way.
Historical fact and fantasy are expertly woven together by Ralphs and the world he
creates is populated by well developed and believable characters. Bramley, Hazel’s
sarcastic but clever Dormouse familiar, is a loveable creation who adds a thread of
humour to the dark tone of the story. Even the smaller, seemingly insignificant,
characters are rounded enough to engage the reader; the woodsman and his haunting
story in particular touched me and would provoke lots of class discussion if reading
‘Fire Girl’ is far from being the feast of twee that I feared and richly deserves its
nomination for the Quality Fiction Category in the North Somerset Teachers' Book
Award. It is beautifully written, intelligent and surprisingly moving, ideal for older
readers that like a shock or two and for use in the classroom as its historical context
provides many learning opportunities.
In fact I only have one criticism (other than the front cover which does not do this
original adventure justice) I am left with a number of unanswered questions! So I guess
I’ll be first in the queue when the sequel ‘Fire Witch’ is released- hopefully- in the not
too distant future!