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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Review: Firebrand

Author: Gillian Philip
Release date: 13th August 2010
Genre: Fantasy / Historical fantasy
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Strident Publishing:

It’s the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars in the full-mortal world. But the Sidhe are at peace, hidden behind the Veil that protects their world - until their queen, Kate NicNicven, determines to destroy it.

Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sidhe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil.

But even the Veil’s power can’t protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin…

Firebrand is so vast in its magnitude that I almost find it impossible to summarise. It has a longevity in its nature which mirrors the lives of the Sithe people that populate its pages. It has a brutality in its heart for the narrator Seth does not have a childhood structured with affection. He is an outcast. A child of his father's lover who unceremoniously drops him at his father's feet and expects him to take care of him. His father Griogair treats him with a raw contempt. Yet Seth idolises him and longs for his father's approval, love and respect. Sadly, he does not find affection in his father's arms. Seth is almost feral and at the very least a wild boy. When the first born son of Griogair returns home to the dun, Seth despises him.  Conal has everything that Seth desires but mainly the unconditional love of their father. Yet Conal casts his almost lion-tamer magic over Seth and soon he worships the ground that Conal walks on. In fact Conal is the one person that Seth would do anything for. He would kill for him. He would die for him.

The Sithe people live in a world that is not unlike the world of the full-mortals. It is a place of beautiful sky, breathtaking lochs and embodies the sublime awe of nature. The Sithe are hardly witches in the sense that we imagine them to be. Their special ability is to see into the minds of others and communicate with them. They also live for centuries. The Sithe have a special light in their eyes and so do the fantastical creatures that share their world. Beyond the veil live the full-mortals. It is the late sixteenth century there and the village people live an almost savage existence. It is a time when witch trials are gaining a violent fervour and the innocent are persceuted and tortured into confessing sins they have not committed.

Seth is forced to leave the relative safety of the Sithe world and exist in the world of the full-mortals. He despises them for their lack of dignity and their inability to think for themselves. He is also demoralised by the disease and illness that kills the full-mortals both young and old.

There are so many things about this book that make me crazy with love and quite frankly in adoration of it. Firstly, it is beautifully written. The Sithe world was so visible to me that I could almost reach out and touch it in my mind. Secondly, the plot kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I loved that the author doesn't give you want you want. It is a journey that you go on with Seth. You share his blood, his sweat, his tears. You feel every slash of his knife. You hear every sound from the raven's laughter to the horses' whickering.
But most importantly, you cannot help but simply adore Seth. He is fierce and angry and arrogant and raw and soft all at the same time. He melted my heart and made me want to reach out and cuddle him, soothe him, love him. I feel like a literary adulterer. Suddenly I am sharing my love for a Mexican badass with a Sithe warrior. What can I say? Seth has captivated me.

Firebrand has made its way on to my best books of 2010 list. In fact it has made it on to my best ever fantasy books list. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It takes you to the wilds of Scotland and makes you smell the air and feel rugged ground beneath your feet. The story wraps around your heart and makes you ache for the characters. They become a whole family that you want to adopt. Gillian Philip is a breath-taking writer who has taken a genre that is swimming with the mediocre and given it an awe-inspiring transformation and I worship her for it. The passion I feel for this book is just bursting out of me. You must all go and buy it!

Thank you to Strident Publishing for sending me the book to review. I am forever in their debt.


Shy said...

Wow! I recently read "The Queen's Thief" series and thought that it is the best fantasy that I've ever read. And reading your review on this particular book makes me wonder if this one can topple the bar, in which The Queen's Thief has set so high! Sounds very good, indeed. I surely want to give this one a shot!

Caroline said...

Awww Becky!!! You talked about this book yesterday, but I didn't realise you loved it that much!! *need to get a copy ASAP!*
It is true I haven't read a good fantasy book in a while, and this one looks character-driven, with very good descriptions of fantasy places... WOW!
Thanks for sharing your views on this book, what an amazing review, I am already sharing your enthusiasm!

Rhiana said...

OMG, if Seth has joined Alex in your heart, I think I need to get me some! This sounds absolutly amazing, and the fact it's historical fantasy set in the 16th century Witch hunts clinches it for me. Brilliant review as always :-)

Becky said...

Shy, yay! Yay! Please do get this one. It is just so brilliant!

Caroline, I love this comment so much. Yay! Cannot wait for you to love this book as much as I do. Also I should have pointed out that the Sithe society is very respectful of the rights of women., They have equality which I know is important to you in your reading.

Linda Strachan said...

Just finished it, too, and I agree wholeheartedly - a great book so well written that it comes to life on the page and makes you forget that we can't step through the veil ourselves and spend time in Seth's home world. Gillian Phillip's characters are at times ruthless and dangerous, but then there is the bond of love and the loyalty Seth feels for Conal, his brother, that makes us fear for them both.

Ellen Renner said...

Wonderful review. I've been wanting to read this ever since I first heard about it months ago. I have this book on pre-order and can't wait.

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

You know I said this didn;t really appeal to me? You've changed my mind. This sounds amazing. Fantastic review, Becky.

Becky said...

Emma, it is true my love for Alex has now been split in two. I also have Seth in my heart. You have to read this! You will love it!

Linda, oh yes the loyalty. That melted my ehart too. It is the connection between Seth and Conal that captivated me.

Ellen, I have it on pre-order too. I have to get myself a finished copy. I need it for my favourite authors collection. You will not be disappointed!

Sophie, woo hoo! Yay! Yay! I am so delighted I am leaping off my chair. Yes! Great. Fantastic!

Caroline said...

And the book even has some man/woman equality?!!
*off to Waterstones* =D

maryom said...

I was lucky enough to get a really early proof and was absolutely stunned. Totally gripping plot, the characters are real in a way that so few fantasy characters are and the landscape descriptions transported me straight to West Coast Scotland - though the Sidhe seem to have found a way to reduce both horizontal drizzle and midges!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

This is a beautiful review, really well written. I just fell for the book because of your review.;) I really should read it when I have the chance. It seems like an epic journey. Thanks for sharing!

Lauren said...

This sounds gorgeous, and I'm so impressed by the way your love for the book shines through in this review. It makes me want to read it too, because I love books that you can really feel in your heart. I really need a great fantasy read soon so I'll be looking out for this one.

Gillian Philip said...

Ah Becky! I just logged on to Twitter and found your review - and I'm so, so thrilled that you liked Firebrand and especially that Seth has a place in your heart. There's nothing more guaranteed to make me happy! (I'm awful fond of the brat, too.) I love how you describe Conal's love for Seth as 'lion-taming'. Thank you for such a wonderful review, I'm quite overwhelmed!

Keren David said...

Ever since I read Gillian's book Crossing the Line I've been in awe of her talent as a writer. I literally finished it and rushed to the internet to find her contact details and send her a fangirl letter...and I never do that! I can't wait to read this one, it sounds wonderful.

Becky said...

Caroline, it isn't out until August 13th so don't hurry to the shops until then.

Maryom, I loved all the Scottishness of it. The little instances of dialect and the setting.

Irena, epic yes. From beginning to end Seth really grows. I love that in a character.

Lauren, I breathe a sigh of relief. It is good to know that my love shines through. That was what I was aiming for with this one.

Gillian, so so glad that you like the review. I also loved the fact that Conal kept calling him greenarse and shortarse. There were some real laugh out loud moments. I love your writing and I cannot wait for Insurrection.

Keren, as I said on twitter, you have great taste in authors. You will love Firebrand. It has the universal love appeal of Gillian's beautiful writing and an addictive male lead. Enjoy!

The Book Owl said...

Oh boy, you make this sound awesome! It reminds me a teensy-tiny bit of Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy which I worship. So, sounds like I need to pick this up. :] Great review.

Lynsey Newton said...

Well if YOU loved it, then I'm putting it on the wishlist!!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Wow. Awesome review. I must try this :) Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

PS I want to hear more about your upcoming Monday feature ;)

Katherine Roberts said...

Sounds brilliant, sounds exactly my sort of book... thank you for the review. I am looking forward to discovering Gillian's writing!

Becky said...

Book Owl, I have read the series by Garth Nix that you mention. It is quite different really but I know you will love it. I love Garth Nix too so I think we are similar readers.

Juju, my pleasure. Ah, my new feature...All will be revealed on Monday.

Katherine, as an author yourself of the highest quality you will read this book and understand what I mean when I say the writing is beautiful.

The Slowest Bookworm said...

Sounds excellent! Going to add this to my wishlist :)

Lynn said...

Just read your review of Firebrand - I know it's a bit late! I actually read Firebrand just before Christmas - in fact I read it on New Year's Eve - and didn't go out or stop until I'd finished. I thought it was fantastic and in my top 10 books for last year. I loved your review.