JOINT REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Dear Ms. Kearsley:
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the U.S. release of this book for months. It incorporates characters and settings from two of your previous books, The Winter Sea and The Shadowy Horses. Since I reviewed and recommended the former and Jayne the latter, we thought it would be fun to do a joint review for The Firebird.
The novel opens in contemporary London, where Nicola Marter works in an art and antiques gallery. Nicola has psychometry, a type of extra-sensory perception that gives her insights into people and events when she touches specific objects. She touches a scarf belonging to a customer and is drawn into the owner’s life and history, which in turn causes her to reconnect with an old friend and not-quite-lover, Rob, who is gifted with even stronger psychic abilities. Together they set off to find proof of the provenance of the customer’s Russian artifact, a carved firebird, which was given to her ancestor, Anna, by Empress Catherine of Russia. Their journey takes them to the Scottish Highlands, Belgium and eventually to Russia, and along the way they and we learn the story of Anna, who we first met in The Winter Sea, as well as that of her parents and the Jacobite community in early 18th-century Russia. As Rob (from the Shadowy Horses) and Nicola uncover Anna’s and the firebird’s secrets, they grow closer together, but their differing attitudes toward their psychic skills and how to manage them threaten to keep them apart once more.
Jayne: It took a while to get into. The modern stuff caught and held my attention much more easily. I thought the historical parts started out fascinating and I was riveted while Anna was still in Scotland, then Ypres and then her escape in Calais but once in Russia, things slowed down. I still found it interesting due to what I was learning – about Jacobites in Russia – and the wealth of period detail, but I did find myself wondering where it was all leading and why it mattered to the story. It did cause me to dig more into Russian history and I spent an enjoyable hour or two brushing up on the Who’s Who of 18th century Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Great Britain. Still it took until the end of the novel for it to all tie together and make sense why it was all included and all these people were in the story.
Sunita: I had the same reaction. I didn’t read anything about the book before I started, so I expected more of it to be set in Scotland and less in Russia. I enjoyed the Russian setting, but I agree with you that it was paced in a leisurely way. Every once in a while someone would be introduced and I wasn’t sure why, but then the plot would reveal their importance. I was impressed at the way Kearsley integrated the real and the fictional characters; until I read the author’s note I was never sure which characters were real or not (apart from the obvious ones).
Jayne: If you could have psychometry would you want it and how public would you go with it? Nicola is more hesitant to let outsiders know of her abilities partly due to what her Russian grandfather endured at the hands of the Soviets before he escaped to the West and partly due to not wanting to be thought a freak or put her job at risk. Which turns out to be the major conflict she and Rob have. He can’t imagine not being open and honest about what he can do as he views it as a major part of who he is. I have to say that I doubt I’d want anyone to know what I could do just because of the risk and fate of Nicola’s grandfather. If any Powers that Be cottoned on to Rob’s abilities I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t try and take advantage of them.
Sunita: I though that aspect wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly at the end. After a lifetime of hiding her gift, Nicola made the change pretty abruptly, and there were almost no consequences. I understand that the choice she faced about Rob forced the issue, but I would have liked to see more of the aftermath, especially with her grandfather.
The structure of the present and past storylines was very much like The Winter Sea, a book I adored. Since in this book Nicola and Rob knew each other beforehand, their friendship and attraction doesn’t have to be set up in the same way, and I liked that we were immersed from the beginning. It’s also a good example of how you can get a lot of information from a single POV. We only see Rob through Nicola’s perspective, but I didn’t feel that I was shortchanged in understanding his thoughts and feelings.
Jayne: Yep, totally agree with you on all of this. I was struck by Nicola’s assessment of Anna’s maturity at age 17 but also by the decision Anna makes at age 9 when faced with possible capture by English agents who might have used her to influence her family and sway them from the Jacobite cause. How many modern girls at 9 would be willing to deny anything and everyone they know in order to keep those people safe? Anna shows her fighter’s ancestry in being willing to head into exile and keep her secrets close all those years.
Sunita: I thought Anna at 9 was a terrific character. I don’t read a lot of books with children as the protagonists, so I don’t have many points of comparison, but she seemed smart without being overly precocious. She had great instincts, but she also made mistakes typical of a child of her age.
I appreciated as well that even though she had to move from one setting to another several times in order to ensure her safety, the adults took her into their homes and were loving and caring to her. This was not a child in jeopardy story, but a story about a child (and then a young woman) living in a dangerous time.
Jayne: I was delighted that not all the Scotsmen in the story at Highlanders. Let’s hear it for the Lowlanders! And that Rob takes Nicola to task about James VII’s correct numbering. He also provides her with some of the reasons why people were willing to fight to see James VIII be King – they fought for honor and the justice of seeing a King they felt was born to his position regain it.
Sunita: Yes, it’s the anti-Scottish Historical Romance! There’s a great exchange in the story, when Nicola and Rob are eating ice cream in St. Petersburg:
Rob turned his collar up against the wind and took a bite of ice cream. “You might want to get a warmer sort of ritual. With cocoa, like.”
“I thought you Scots were hardy.”
“Hardy, hell. I’m from the Borders. St. Petersburg would be at the same latitude as Thurso, on the northern tip of Scotland. It’s all Hielanmen up there, they like the cold.”
Jayne: LOL, I laughed at that line too. Rob and Nicola not only share a physical connection and attraction but a mental one as well. Imagine their kisses!
Sunita: Kearsley never has explicit sex scenes, but the emotional intensity comes through. When Nicola and Rob finally get together, it’s very satisfying. And I loved that she shows you how their emotions overwhelm their words and how their thoughts are intensifying and reflecting their physical desires.
Jayne: I love the way that the early Firebird fairy tales Nicola tells Rob end up foreshadowing what happens with the two of them. What they sought was not what they ended up with but everyone will be happy and will have gained something they hadn’t initially looked for.
Sunita: Oh, good catch! I think that readers who enjoy the intermingling of fairy tales and legends in their fiction will really like this part.
Jayne: I was left with two happy endings both of which I adored. But at times it was slow going to get through some of the parts in historical Russia. Grade: B
Sunita: I agree. Like the Guy Gavriel Kay book I reviewed recently, this book required attention and concentration. It’s not at all a difficult read, but there’s a lot going on and it’s immersive. But it really pays off for the reader. If you’ve read The Winter Sea and/or The Shadowy Horses, you’ll really enjoy returning to the characters and locations. But if you haven’t, you’ll still have no trouble following what’s going on here. Grade: A-
Love Susanna Kearsley’s work – while waiting for The Firebird I am currently reading Princesses by Flora Fraser (joint biography about the daughters of George III) and Georgette Heyer’s classic Devil’s Cub.
Yay for a new Kearsley!
I’m currently reading Sherry Thomas’s new YA fantasy, and it’s a corker.
Just finished Susanna Kearsley’s Mariana and have previously enjoyed The Winter Sea and the Rose Garden, would love to read more!
I’m reading a mystery – Gluten for Punishment.
Shadowy Horses and The Winter Sea are two of my all-time favorite contemporary romances, so I was stoked for this book. I agree that the contemporary material was initially more interesting but about a third of the way in, Anna’s/the historical stuff became just as compelling. It’s fairly slowly paced and I’m always hyper-aware of the plotting (I find myself asking, how is Kearsley going to get her way out of this?) but ultimately, it was an incredibly satisfying book for me that met my admittedly high expectations. For whatever reason, the plots of Susanna Kearsley novels always sound awful to me in the abstract (I dislike paranormal, time travel, etc.), but she’s such a superlative writer that I always end up loving her books.
Great contest. I am currently reading the latest Flavia deLuce novel-Speaking from Among the Bones.
I’m reading The Marrying Kind by Ken O’Neill which I found on DA deals. It is pretty funny.
I loved The Winter Sea so I can’t wait to read this book.
I’m a very new Kearsley fan, but very excited for this one! I read The Winter Sea a month or two ago and am about halfway through The Shadowy Horses.
I keep meaning to check out Susanna Kearsley since she gets such raves; thanks for the giveaway! I’m currently reading About Last Night by Ruthie Knox.
Honestly, I was going to read the review, but I saw “Susanna Kearsley” and “The Firebird” and I just went all over stupid and speechless. Yes, please. And when Ms. Kearsley writes about the phone book or darning socks, I’ll be right there.
Wait: I’m supposed to comment on what I’m currently reading? Uhhhh, Marian Keyes’ “The Mystery of Mercy Close.”
Time to order this book from my library!
I keep meaning to try Susanna Kearsley, but I just haven’t gotten there yet. I am presently recovering from my book hangover after reading Heart of Obsidian and am searching through my TBR pile for something to read, but nothing is grabbing my attention.
on the last pages of the shadowy horses !
Ugh, I have tons of work to do so I am not allowing myself any reading. But waiting in the wings, I have the 4th book in the Pennyroyal Green series (can’t remember the title off the top of my head).
I’m currently reading the Sword Dancer. So far it is pretty good.
Kearsley has been on my “want to read” list for a long time, but my library doesn’t seem to have her books and they so rarely go on sale!
Currently I’m reading Heart of Obsidian. I’m taking my time to enjoy it :)
Thanks for the review! I have been looking forward to this new Kearsley book for a long time.
I just started reading “Any Duchess Will Do” by Tessa Dare. I am not loving the nature of how the H/h meet but I am going to give it a few more chapters before I give up on them!
Firebird is finally released! Yahoo!
I am reading G.M. Malliet’s St. Just series…..cozy mysteries with vile characters…..I’m loving it!
Heart of Obsidian is on deck for this weekend……spouse and I are having a “reading” getaway in the Sierras…..glorious peace and quiet…..can’t wait!
Currently reading Red Moon by Benjamin Percy…
Looking forward to The Firebird and the weaving in of her previous locations and characters!
All the books of Susanna’s that I have read have totally captivated me! I cannot wait to dig into this one. The Winter Sea is one of my “all-time-favorite_6-star” books.
Thanks for such a fabulous giveaway!
Let’s see I’m listening to non-fiction at the moment (Taylor Branch’s 3 volume life of MLK) and reading Maggie needs an alibi by Kasey Michaels at Bedtime and Brene Brown Power of vulnerability for inspirational reading.
I read The Winter Sea earlier this year and loved it. I’ve been looking forward to The Firebird ever since!
I’m currently reading Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. Interestingly, Harkness’ writing reminds me a lot of Kearsley’s!
I just want to verify that it’s okay to enter in multiple rafflecopters above as long as I satisfy at least one of the geo regional restrictions in that particular giveaway?
I am reading the last Sookie Stackhouse.
I’ve had this on my to be read list for forever! A few of her books are on there actually. :)
And I’m reading Angels and Demons
Yay! I tried to buy The Winter Sea at Kobo recently to send to my mom for Mother’s Day, but couldn’t due to geo restrictions, so I’m happy to see that this one is available to us Canadians.
I am currently reading Code Name Verity for my book club. I was a bit tired of the literary fiction we were reading, so pushed through a book with plot as this month’s selection. So far, it lives up to all the hype.
@Christine: Yes, you can enter all the ones you’re eligible for, but you can only choose one prize if your name comes up more than once.
I am reading The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen.
I’m currently in the middle of three books:
The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag
Eventide by Kent Haruf
More Than You Know by Nan Rossiter
Great! Thanks for the reply.
I’ve purchased both The Shadowy Horses and The Winter Sea but haven’t started them yet. Other books, ones I’ve been waiting forever for, seem to get in the way. :( I’m trying to be better about reading books I own, but it’s hard going.
Most recently, I finished Heart of Obsidian and have started listening to Leopard’s Prey by Christine Feehan.
Yay! I reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor
I’m currently reading an old Jane Heller, Internal Affairs.
I am really interested in reading this. Thanks for the giveaway.
I am a big Kearsley fan. I love how she weaves the past and present and to do so with characters from two more of my favorites stories she writes? Win!
Currently reading Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.
I am currently reading OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell. :)
Just finished Heart of Obsidian – it took me all week because work has been so hellish. I now have to re-read it because I don’t remeber half of it – that’s how bad work was :)
Up next is getting through some of my audible back-list as I am packing up to move, but for some reason I keep going back to my favorites.
I finished this last night (The Firebird) and I loved it. Being a history buff I enjoyed the Russian bits. I’m always impressed by her seamless writing and the way I totally understand her male characters even though we don’t get their POV.
Currently buried in Nalini Singh’s latest, which should keep me happily occupied for some time. :)
If I didn’t have to start reading to study for an exam, I’d read all three… alas, I’m stuck with the wonderful world of insurance for the next two and a half months.
I’m rereading What I Did For a Duke. I haven’t read Kearsley yet, but the covers in this series are divine.
I won a copy of The Shadowy Horses, so I should probably take myself to the local indie bookstore to get a copy of this one!
I just finished “The Actor and the Earl” by Rebecca Cohen, which I picked up because I’m a big sucker for stories with girls disguised as boys and wanted to read one that was vice versa, and I recently had to DNF another book with a similar premise. Very fluffy, a few anachronisms, and about as convincing as the idea that anyone would actually mistake Sebastian for Viola in Twelfth Night. But I love Twelfth Night. Super-light reading, but what the hey.
I’m currently halfway through Carolyn Crane’s “Against the Dark.” Secret agents and safe-cracking jewel thieves. I always enjoy Carolyn Crane.
And I have “Hot on Her Trail (Hell Yeah!)” lined up because…I…just couldn’t not…
I have never read any of the Kearsley’s books, but they come so highly recommended – I’m hoping this giveaway will give me a chance ;-)
Ah, and I just finished Ruthie Knox “Ride with me”. I really liked it. Cannot decide what to read next from my 50+ unread on my kindle, though.
i am currently reading a book with my little cousin, Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane……..
I’m a huge Susanna Kearsley fan and have had my eye on this book since I saw it was being released. Looking forward to reading it!
I adore Susanna Kearsley’s books, and I can’t wait to start the Firebird. I’m currently reading Nalini Singh’s Heart of Obsidian.
I’m currently reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and it’s breaking my heart. It’s very reminiscent of the Cellist of Sarajevo, and definitely worth reading.
I discovered Susanna Kearsley through The Winter Sea, and have read all her backlist (those published in the US). Absolutely love her books! I’m currently reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.
Thanks for this lovely review and the giveaway which includes readers in Australia! I have both Shadowy Horses and Winter Sea and they have been on my TBR list for ages – just started Shadowy Horses now as a prelude to Firebird.
I am currently reading Complete Me.
I have three Susanna Kearsley books. Sometimes the Mystery Guild has them in hardcover. Currently I am reading a cozy mystery: Book, Line, and Sinker by Jenn McKinlay (a Library Lover’s mystery).
I’ll be re-reading the Kushiel series while I wait for Firebird!
I’m not reading anything at the moment because I just finished Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare about an hour ago. Now, I’m deliberating about my next read.
I am currently reading House of Velvet & Glass by Katherine Howe.
I am a “newbie” Susanna Kearsly fan but I have gotten my hands on most of her books and have devoured them! I am SO excited about “The Firebird” as it uses my two favorite books and storylines and expounds on them :)
I’m currently reading After Hours by Cara McKenna. Next up is Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox.
I’m reading Dead Ever After. Can’t wait to try this one!
Just finished Maria V. Snyder’s Scent of Magic. I also re-read Touch of Power so that characters and events would be fresh in my mind for when I started Scent.
I really enjoyed both of these — although I had a big “NO YOU CAN’T DO THIS” at the end — a cliffhanger until the next book!!
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
I read this when the UK edition came out, but I’d live to win a paper copy.
I became a Susanna Kearsley fan with The Shadowy Horses, which was cemented with The Winter Sea, so getting Anna and Robbie in the same book was wonderful.
I am almost finished with Ruthie Knox’ “Flirting with Disaster”. Love it! Actually made me laugh out loud twice.
Reading baseball blogs and Ice Storm by Anne Stuart. I like joint reviews–always fun to get dual perspectives.
Thank you so much for this wonderful giveaway. I’m a big Susanna Kearsley fan. :)
I’m currently reading (and loving!) A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn.
Oh how I adored THE WINTER SEA and I have been so excited to try this one out too! Glad to hear it’s a winner.
I’m actually halfway through The Shadowy Horses right now. It started off slow, but I’m now eager to get back to it.
I am roughly half way through the Firebird and really love it. I’ve read many Suzanna Kearsley books and couldn’t wait for another. I knew nothing of the connections between the Firebird and the other 2 previous books, and have been very pleasantly surprised.
I just finished the Rome series by Kate Quinn. I loved it and now want to read more about Rome and ancient times.
I’ve been a Susanna Kearsley since Mariana first came out, do I’m looking forward to this one. I’vebeen reading mostly m/m romance lately, and just finished Something Like Summer by Jay Bell, which was wonderful.
I am reading Song of the Sparrow, which is a verse retelling of the Lady of Shalott/Elaine of Astolat, by Lisa Ann Sandell. Thanks for the great giveaway!
I am currently reading The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I adore Ms. Kearsley’s work, and I’ve read The Shadowy Horses and The Winter Sea multiple times, in addition to her other work. I look forward to escaping the hectic daytime routine with my two small boys, and losing myself in a book before bed :)
I’m on a Nalini Singh rereading binge after finishing Heart of Obsidian. Le sigh.
Ohhhh… Love Susanna Kearsley, especially since she’s Canadian. Can’t wait to read this new book.
Just finished a couple of Jayne Castle books and plan on starting Worth the Fall on my Kindle.
I just finished Liquid Lies and Reluctance, both of which I found here at DA ages ago – I was on a reading binge during vacation. About to start Heart of Obsidian. I didn’t know this was out – I own both The Winter Sea and The Shadowy Horses so now I’m super psyched!
I’m in the midst of re-reading all the Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews , anticipating the next book’s release!
Love Susanna’s books!!
Really liked The Winter Sea, been meaning to read some more of Kearsley’s books. Would take any format.
I’m currently reading Twenty Boy Summer , by Sarah Ockler. Thanks for the giveaway