Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review: Firebrand by Gillian Philip

Note: Gillian Philip was kind enough to provide me with a copy of Firebrand in exchange for a fair and honest review - many thanks Gillian!)

Seth MacGregor is a Sithe. For the uninitiated amongst you, that means a fairy - but if you've avoided tales of the Fair Folk over the past decade, fairies these days tend to not be your standard pink Tinkerbell clones. Seth and his brother Conal are about as far from the old stereotype as could be possible, shown in a tremendous opening scene in which Seth prepares to shoot his older brother and a girl to kill them mercifully before they're hanged for being witches.

That scene takes place in our world, but we're quickly taken back to Seth's childhood to see how he got to this stage... and what a tale it is. Full of political intrigue, a wonderful blossoming of the brotherly love between Conal and Seth, and brutal 'justice' being meted out, Gillian Philip does a fantastic job of showing us how Seth grows up and becomes the 'half-feral' narrator of this story.

I really enjoyed the setting of the world beyond the Veil but Philip is equally as talented when it comes to recreating the full-mortal world of Scotland in the 16th century with religious fervour whipped up to a frenzy. The best world-building, however, would still bore me completely without some fine characters and a great plot but Philip definitely doesn’t disappoint on that score either – Seth himself, his brother, and the queen who exiles them, Kate NicNiven, are really well-developed characters but there are a host of others who are beautifully portrayed even if they’re only around for a handful of pages. My personal favourites, Ma Sinclair, an old lady who claims to have a bit of the Sithe blood in her, and Malcolm MacKinnon, the voice of reason as a priest incites a crowd against Conal and Seth, both come from the part of the story when they’re in exile, but it’s the kind of book where everyone will fall in love with Seth and at least one other character. (I defy anyone NOT to develop a crush on Seth, despite him being aggressive, full of fury, and capable of incredible violence – he’s a truly brilliant central character.)

I appreciate I've said virtually nothing about the plot here but really, this is one where you'll thank me for letting you find out what happens for yourself - just prepare for bloodshed, tears, cheers and heartbreak.

An excellent start to what should be a superb series, I can’t wait for the next book in the Rebel Angels trilogy, Bloodstone, as Seth’s story continues…

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