I received this book for free from the publisher / She Reads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on June 4, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance (?)
Source: the publisher / She Reads
Goodreads | Amazon
Nicola Marter was born with a gift so rare and dangerous, she keeps it buried deep. When she encounters a desperate woman trying to sell a small wooden carving called "The Firebird," claiming it belonged to Russia's Empress Catherine, it's a problem. There's no proof.
But Nicola's held the object. She knows the woman is telling the truth.
(from the back cover)
Hang on to your hats and mark it on your calendars, folks: I gave four (out of five) stars to a Historical-Fiction-Paranormal-Romance novel. (See? I don’t even know what genre this book falls into because I don’t typically read/enjoy this type of book.)
I was so pleasantly surprised with The Firebird, and that makes me happy. This is the first book I received as part of the She Reads Blog Network / Book Club, and I was so worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it. Paranormal romance isn’t usually my thing. But the historical fiction part of The Firebird swept me away, and even the modern-day romance part is pretty good. So thank you, Ms. Kearsley.
Here’s the deal: Nicola has the paranormal gift of psychometry. (This is made known at the very beginning of the book, so no spoilers.) She can “see” the history of an object by touching it. In her capacity as the personal assistant to a man who owns an art gallery, Nicola comes into contact with an object (The Firebird) that its owner thinks once belonged to Empress Catherine of Russia (Peter the Great’s wife). The owner would like to sell the artifact, but she has no proof of her claims. Of course, Nicola has seen a piece of its past, so she knows the woman is telling the truth. She decides (for reasons not given here) to help the woman prove The Firebird’s origin. Nicola is already heading to Russia for work-related purposes, so it will be no big deal to look into the history of The Firebird while she’s there. But Nicola’s gift has limitations, so she turns to a friend for help. Cue romance and historical fiction.
The historical fiction part of The Firebird takes place in Scotland, Belgium, and Russia in the early 18th century and tells the story of King James II and the Jacobites. It follows the story of a young girl named Anna (a Jacobite herself), who receives The Firebird as a gift from Empress Catherine. I learned a ton of stuff about that part of history from Anna’s story–it is very interesting stuff–and the romance in this part of the story is truly romantic and down-to-earth.
Anna is a fantastic character with her I-don’t-want-to-be-a-proper-lady, I-want-to-be-a-soldier attitude. Go, Anna! You break that mold! I would love for Kearsley to write another book about her that continues where The Firebird left off. I would definitely read that book.
The big reveal in Anna’s story is a bit predictable–I knew what it was going to be very early on in Anna’s story–but that didn’t detract from the story at all. I still wanted to read every little detail about all of these fascinating people. (In the author’s note at the end of the book, Kearsley explains how she came to write Anna’s story, which characters are actual historical figures, and which of them are fictional. Most of the characters in the story were real people, and the overall situation of the Jacobites in the story was a real thing.)
As far as the romance in either story goes, it’s not over-the-top at all. It’s there, but it’s not all gushy and ridiculous. Yes, the men are all dark and handsome and strong and heroic. There are brooding eyes and looks that say more than words. There is tension and unrequited love and all that jazz. Although I’m a romantic at heart (is that redundant?) and my relationship with Eric is a very romantic one, I don’t like the romance in books a lot of the time. I don’t know why that is. But the romance in The Firebird was done right, I think, and it is truly romantic. It also isn’t the main purpose of either plot, so it’s easy to just go with the flow and enjoy the actual stories.
(And Kearsley gives a nod to Stephen King’s The Dead Zone early on in the book, which immediately put her on my good side. How very wise of you, Ms. Kearsley. Heh. Also? Lucky stones. How did you know that would hit so close to my heart?)
I did not know–until I read the author’s note at the end of the book–that The Firebird is a companion book to The Winter Sea, also written by Kearsley. Thankfully both books can be read as stand-alones, although now I want to read The Winter Sea, too. Hopefully I can get to that one soon.
The writing in The Firebird is very good, the historical fiction aspect is super interesting, and I enjoyed the book much more than I expected to. I highly recommend The Firebird to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction and/or paranormal romance novels. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.