About the book
From Icelandic author Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir comes a heart-wrenching thriller about a woman’s desperate quest to save the people she loves from a natural disaster.
After an eight-hundred-year slumber, the volcanoes in Iceland’s most populated region are showing signs of life. Earthquakes dominate the headlines. Echoes of the devastating eruptions in the past stir unease in the people.
Volcanologist Anna Arnardóttir has spent her entire life studying the volcanic powers under the earth’s crust, but even she cannot fathom the catastrophe at hand.
As a series of eruptions threaten most of Iceland’s population, she’s caught off her rational guard by the most terrible natural disaster of all—love. The world as she knows it is about to fall apart, and so is her heart.
Caught between the safety of a nation and her feelings for her children, her lover, and her past, Anna embarks on a dangerous journey to save the lives of the people she loves—and her soul.
I really enjoyed reading The Fires. I don’t read many thrillers but thought this one sounded a bit different with its Icelandic setting and a focus on natural disaster rather than the more usual Scandi-crime. Having visited Iceland a few years back, I could easily visualise the places on the Reykjanes Peninsula which Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir was writing about. I’ve interspersed my thoughts on the book with some of my photos from the area.
The book opens with a prologue that is most intriguing. Volcanologist Anna is clearly in grave danger from a major volcanic eruption. The story then spools back six months to an initial eruption which closes Keflavik airport, covers the surrounding area in thick ash and disrupts air travel. I’m sure many of us can remember that happening after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. The title of the book refers to what Icelandic people often call a series of eruptions over a long period of time: fires rather than eruptions.
The author weaves a lot about the unpredictable nature of Iceland’s environment, the history of the region and the geology of volcanos into the narrative. I found this really fascinating. The power and unpredictability of nature is clear throughout. There’s a sense of the mounting danger from beginning to end, making this a gripping, tense read.
The relationships between Anna and many of the other characters were really interesting. She obviously adored her late father, who was also a geoscientist, a volcanologist. He was a well known and respected expert in his field and she clearly sees him as a hero figure. On the other hand, she has a more difficult relationship with her mother and describes visits to her as always ending in disappointment. Her immediate family life seems quite normal with a loving husband and a son and daughter. When she begins a passionate affair, her life becomes as dangerous and unpredictable as the landscape she studies. Anna’s mission to save those she loves from the danger posed by the eruptions against overwhelming odds seems an impossible task.
The Fires really surprised me and wasn’t what I expected but in a good way. It is a thriller in the sense that there is danger and a race against time to save Anna’s loved ones. But it’s also a love story. It’s like a love letter to Iceland and the power of nature as well as revealing a deeply felt and dangerous attraction between two people. It’s beautifully written and so well translated that you wouldn’t guess it was translated at all. One little niggle I must mention though is the lack of speech marks. With nothing differentiating speech from thoughts or from any other paragraph, I did at times find that a bit confusing.
I had thought I’d like to go back to Iceland – now I’m not so sure! Full of drama, danger and passion, I’d recommend The Fires if you want a thriller that’s that little bit different.
Thanks to Rhiannon at FMcM Associates for the invitation to take part in the blogtour and for sending a copy
of the book for review. The Fires is published by Amazon Crossing and available now in all formats.
About the Author
Icelandic author Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir studied history in Reykjavík and Salamanca and journalism at Columbia University in New York. She worked in Copenhagen before moving back to Reykjavík, where she lives with her husband, children, and stepchildren. Her bestselling debut, Island (2016), was nominated for the Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize in 2017. When she isn’t writing, Björnsdóttir works as a journalist and television news anchor at the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Björnsdóttir’s highly anticipated third novel, The Fires, is a bestseller and viral hit in Iceland.