Review + Giveaway: Firebrand

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review + Giveaway: FirebrandFirebrand by Gillian Philip
Series: Rebel Angels #1
Published by Tor Books on February 19, 2013
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world…but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired.

Discarded by his mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up half wild in his father’s fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.

But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch-hunt—in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen’s machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch-hunters’ fires…

Brimming with intrigue and rebellion, Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series by Gillian Philip, the Carnegie Medal–nominated author of Crossing the Line and multi-award-nominated Bad Faith.

First Sentence: “The courtyard stinks of animals and much and human waste.”

What I’m realizing lately is that I have different requirements for fantasy than for most other genres, particularly fantasy of a more classic, epic vein. Where I don’t mind essentially plotless books in realistic fiction or science fiction, characters drifting and just living out their lives, it really doesn’t work for me in fantasy. Now, I don’t mean that nothing happens in Firebrand; in fact, a lot happens, much of it exciting, but there’s no driving, overarching plot. When I read fantasy, I want there to be a clear goal from the outset, whether it be a quest or a villain to defeat or whatever. Firebrand does not follow this style and, thus, I enjoyed it less than I’d hoped, though it’s a well done novel.

Since the hero is 16, Firebrand has been getting some attention as possibly being YA, though its imprint is not. Though Seth is 16 through most of it, the story is told like he’s an old man looking back on his life. This removes some of the immediacy and means that he comes off more like a grownup than a teen. He occasionally reflects on things he would have done differently had he known then what he knows now, making sure the reader remembers this. I really wouldn’t call Firebrand YA.

The world itself is very cool. There’s a sort of parallel universe vibe. Basically, Seth and his people live in one world and beyond the Veil lies another, the land of the full-mortals, our distant, unwashed ancestors. They can pass between the Veil, but they are persecuted for witchcraft there, not being normal by full-mortal standards. I love stories about a world of magic hidden within the ordinary one, and I love how it ties into history here.

Seth and his half-brother, Conal, have an interesting relationship. Seth, not by nature especially trusting, assumes that his brother will want his death, but Conal is actually the sweetest guy, and essentially raises Seth. Their love for one another, even when they very much do not agree on important matters is touching, and not the sort of relationship I’ve seen much of in fiction. None of the other connections rang as true or mattered as much as this one. Seth does fall in love, but he would still choose his brother over his woman any day.

One thing I do need to mention about the romantic relationships is that I like that Philip didn’t use a cop-out. The Sithe can essentially live forever, so long as they don’t get killed (or at least so long that it feels like forever compared to our lifespans). The full-mortals have lifespans of 16th century humans, so not long. One of the Sithe falls in love with a human, and I love that Philip didn’t come up with some loophole that would let their love last forever.

If action-based fantasy is your thing, there’s a good bit of sword play and fighting. As I said, there’s a lot that happens, but I just couldn’t get especially caught up in the story, a combination of the lack of driving plot and the storytelling method, which means you know Seth will survive ultimately. I was, however, entertained and I didn’t have to struggle through the 364 pages. It’s good, but not necessarily the ideal book for me.

Firebrand is well-written and has a fascinating concept, but is more ideal for a different type of fantasy fan. I probably will not be reading the next book, just because there are so many other books out there I would probably like more, and I’m okay with where Firebrand ended.

Favorite Quote:

“‘A woman can admire a man without being in love with him,’ she told me acidly. ‘A woman can be grateful to a man, and think he’s a good and brave and decent human being, without being in love with him.'”

I’m passing my copy along to one of my readers. US/CAN only, since I’m shipping, sorry. Just fill out the Rafflecopter.

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16 responses to “Review + Giveaway: Firebrand”

  1. erin says:

    Thanks for the review! I’m kinda torn about this book. it’s going on my wishlist but I think I’m definitely going to wait to either borrow or sales.

    • Christina says:

      You can always check out the preview on Amazon and see if it grabs you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing from the library. If you love it, you can always buy later on!

  2. Audra says:

    So.Torn. One hand, I wanna love. Other hand, your review gives me pause.

  3. The cover of this one really caught my eye … I’m also somewhat picky about fantasy (more so than say, historical), but that cover … I may give it a go and see what happens. But like you, I’m not sure I’d be compulsively stalking the series (unless it really WOWs me, haha)

  4. Since I am Tor Books stalker and basically add everything they publish to my tbr, I of course have this book there too. 🙂 I didn’t read it yet, and after reading you review, your general feeling about the book reminds me of me right now while reading ‘Blood’s Pride’ by Evie Manieri: Not feeling any special attachment to plot or characters. I’m think I’m going to wait a little bit more and then probably borrow from library or a friend (just to be safe).

    • Christina says:

      I love Tor. I stalk them too. There are very few Tor books that haven’t been at least 3 star reads for me. That’s a good plan. Much as I love Tor and trust them more than most publishers, every book can’t be a 4-5 star, just because I have different tastes.

  5. I am exactly the sort of fan who should read Firebrand I think — like I don’t need a huge sort of goal for the characters to work towards and can deal with meandering as long as the world is interesting and the characters engaging — so yay this review actually has me excited for a random book I got. YAY.

    • Christina says:

      Awesome. Yeah, I’d never really thought about it, but in certain kinds of books, I really need there to be a story arc. Like, in contemporary, I don’t care where it’s going, but in fantasy I’m like WHERE IS THIS GOING?

  6. Kayla Beck says:

    I’ll be honest – I didn’t read your review. After I read the description, I knew without a doubt that this book was written for me. (Oh yeah, I said it.) This is going to be my treat to myself when I get some of these reviews under control. 😀

  7. I think I’ve already mentioned that everything I request from Tor I end up loving. I can’t help it, it’s definitely my favorite publisher at the moment. So I find it funny that they keep sending you stuff that’s not quite up to your taste :))
    However I knew what you meant when you said what you didn’t like in Firebrand. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but I quite enjoy such fantasy. You never know where exactly it will end 😉

    • Christina says:

      You have, and that makes sense. I love Tor a lot, but you’re an even more diverse fantasy reader than I am. They’re one of my fave pubs too. I really do trust that even if a book isn’t a favorite, like this one, I will like it. This is what happens when I get books unsolicited. I might not have accepted this review request, especially sine I’m so busy right now.

  8. Tricia C. says:

    You made me think with your comment about plotless books. I’ve never thought of describing a book quite that way. Definitely know what you mean though. I think it depends on my mood. I do like a lot of action/adventure so this cover would have caught my attention.

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