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.