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The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The Firebird (edition 2013)

by Susanna Kearsley

Series: Slains (2)

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3942827,176 (3.94)26
Title:The Firebird
Authors:Susanna Kearsley
Info:Sourcebooks Landmark (2013), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:paranormal, historical fiction

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The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

  1. 00
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (LAKobow)
    LAKobow: Also involves elements of realism mixed with fantasy, Scotland, romance, and historical fiction.

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This is a companion book to The Winter Sea, so while it is nice to read both, and to have read The Winter Sea first, it is entirely unnecessary. Both are very well researched, shedding light not only on the Jacobite Movement in Scotland, but in this book, on the active Jacobite community in St. Petersburg as well.

The action in The Firebird moves back and forth from the present to the early 18th Century. The protagonist in current times is Nicola (“Nick”) Marter, who works at a gallery of Russian art and artifacts. As the story begins, her boss Sebastian introduces her to a Scottish woman who has a small carved bird she calls “The Firebird”; she claims it was given to an ancestor named Anna by the Empress Catherine (the wife of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great). When Nick holds the bird, she suddenly has a vision of Anna receiving the bird from the Empress. Nick has the gift of psychometry, which allows her to see visions about objects that she touches. She has tried to repress this gift, however; she doesn’t want to be seen as a freak. She doesn’t tell the woman or Sebastian about what she sees; it wouldn’t help in any event to use information derived in that way as “verification.”

When Sebastian asks Nick to go to St. Petersburg for an art exhibit, Nick wonders if she can find some evidence there to prove the true provenance of the carved bird, and turns for help to Rob McMorran. Nick met Rob when she took some tests at an institute researching parapsychology. There was no one there with more skill than Rob, and they began seeing each other. But Nick ran from the relationship; she wanted to hide her skills, even from herself, and have a “normal” life.

Rob has never gotten over Nick, however, and accompanies her to Russia. On the way, Nick tells Rob about Russian folklore concerning the firebird. Although there are a couple of different stories, the point of both of them is that what you bring back with you at the end of a journey might not be what you started out searching for in the beginning. And that of course will clearly be the theme of the book.

When they get to Russia, Rob and Nick together reach back into the past and find the young woman Anna, who was born in Scotland but later lived in St. Petersburg. As the two go back to their past (via their visions), we learn how and why Anna ended up in St. Petersburg along with other Jacobites. [Jacobites were mostly Irish and Scots in the early 1700’s who were seeking to bring the exiled Catholic King James VIII back from France to take the Scottish throne. James is Jacobus in Latin.] The two “meet” a number of characters from The Winter Sea, as well as some new ones, since Anna was just a very small child in the previous book.

There are parallel romances in both the past and the present, with one character even paraphrasing one of the most famous quotes from Jane Eyre (and probably the one most often paraphrased), saying:

"And looking at his face I felt a swift, insistent tug beneath my heart, as though someone had tied a string around my ribs and pulled it sharply.”

The ending will satisfy readers, even though, as with the quest for the legendary firebird, all the various seekers end up with something different than what they thought they wanted.

Evaluation: I’d have to say, to my surprise, that I liked this book a tad more than The Winter Sea (which I also enjoyed), in spite of the fact that this book had a paranormal element and the previous book soft-peddled that aspect. I loved the characters, especially those in the past. Anna is a winning character both as a child and as the 17-year-old she becomes later in the book. The author is very adept at romantic scenes, more interested in conveying the emotional engagement of the characters than giving readers anatomy lessons. And of course it’s hard to beat a setting that combines Scotland and St. Petersburg! ( )
  nbmars | Jun 29, 2015 |
Lovely book. Great characters, well-woven story, and fantasy element reinforcing human foibles we all know and love (or suffer from!). Loved the historical detail, the time periods and locales chosen (Scotland, London, St Petersburg). Hero/ love interest was a little too perfect, but that's ok, it kept me from falling too hard for him. ;-) ( )
  MargaretPinardAuthor | May 23, 2015 |
I love this author's works! The characters are interesting, the plots are fascinating as she invariably weaves storylines between modern day and some historical time. Her use of the supernatural is exciting and captivating. Can't wait to read more of her books! ( )
  dd196406 | Jan 25, 2015 |
I have enjoyed every novel of Susanna Kearsley's that I've read. She has a talent for writing romantic suspense set in two different timelines. In The Firebird, we have Nicola and Rob traveling first to Belgium and then to Russia in the present day in an attempt to authenticate Margaret Ross's heirloom. The second timeline involves the little girl that the wooden bird was given to-- a time shortly after the death of Peter the Great, a time when a Stuart was trying to retake the throne of England, a time when the English were doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening.

The present day timeline is a good one. Nicola and Rob are two strong, fascinating characters whom you want to see getting together. Nicola has always been afraid of her gift and hasn't really explored how far she can go with it. Rob on the other hand is the "old hand" (and the old soul) whose patience and steadiness are exactly what Nicola needs. But as strong as their story is, it's not the heart of this book.

No, the heart of the book belongs to young Anna Logan, who spent the first years of her life unaware that she was living with a foster family. When the political situation takes a deadly turn, Anna is told a portion of the truth of her heritage, and she's spirited away to a convent in Belgium before finding herself in St. Petersburg. This girl will steal your heart. She's smart, she's observant, and she's incredibly brave. She may be old beyond her years, but she's still a little girl whose naivete has dire consequences. After all she's been through, you just want things to go right for Anna.

Kearsley put me right smack in the middle of that Belgian convent and before I knew it, I found myself in Russia. Anna Logan's story is compelling, and Kearsley does an excellent job of showing what happened to so many of the Jacobites who fought on the losing side. If I have any quibble about The Firebird it's that this historical storyline is so strong that the one in the present day pales by comparison. I really liked the characters of Nicola and Rob, so I do wish their story had been beefed up a bit. But that is a very small quibble indeed because each time I picked up this book, I lost myself in Kearsley's marvelous story. ( )
  cathyskye | Jan 22, 2015 |
I did enjoy reading this book a great deal, but I preferred its predecessor, The Winter Sea.

The story was involving and the characters and settings definitely had substance, however I felt the pacing was slightly off - the beginning was quite exciting, but the middle started to drag and by the time I reached the last quarter of the book I just wanted it to be finished. The ending did go out with a bang though - some twists and revelations I saw coming, and some I didn't.

Specifically, I liked how the author may have set it up so we believed that Captain Jamieson as Anna's father was the main plot twist, since although it was quite obvious (especially to those who read The Winter Sea), it was never confirmed until the end. But in actual fact the reader was hit by different twists that we may not have seen coming, which fits in nicely with the "seeing what you expect to see" moral.

Having said that, I'm not sure all the twists made complete sense. I thought the Firebird was going to have come from Edmund O'Connor, so that was a nice surprise that it actually did come from the Empress, but I thought the problem of not being able to sell it would be resolved by the buyer in Inverness taking it, as opposed to the (surprise!) complete, signed, first edition set of James Bond novels (come on, how would Margaret not have known the value of that?!). I also thought Rob's insistence that Nicola revealed her gift (and the fact that he straight up left her when she refused) was rather unreasonable, along with the way she did choose to reveal it (very publicly) in the end.

An engaging read, but although with all paranormal stories one must suspend disbelief, some parts of this were just a bit too unlikely for me. Worth reading for the descriptions of the settings though, and for closure on the characters in The Winter Sea. ( )
  Lisa17 | Jan 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Successfully blending a contemporary romance with an historical adventure is no easy task, but in The Firebird, author Susanna Kearsley goes one step further, bestowing supernatural abilities upon her protagonist. ... As Nicola and Rob follow clues from Anna’s life, the novel’s focus shifts to the young girl, and the present-day love story is put on the backburner. The shift is so pronounced that scenes featuring Nicola and Rob in the second half of the novel seem jarringly out of place. The rich details of Anna’s story, which includes the appearance of several historical figures, carries the novel, while Nicola’s story pales in comparison.
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Though I am old with wandering,
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone…
-W. B. Yeats.
The Song of Wandering Aengus
This book is for Lee Ann Ray, who first suggested I give Robbie his own story.
First words
He sent his mind in search of me that morning.
I might have been mistaken when I thought I saw Rob give a nod of greeting to the empty air behind me. But I didn’t mistake the short laugh he gave, low, nor the phrase he spoke, not for my ears. And in Latin.
“Aye. And when your father was away and fighting and ye were a bairn, why did your mother hide ye with another family?”
“So the bad men widnae find me,” Anna said.
“Exactly.” Colonel Graeme’s voice was a deep rumble in his chest that offered comfort. “They were very brave, your parents. If the agents of Queen Anne had ever chanced to catch your father, he’d have stood through any torture they’d have tried to use upon him and he never would betray his king. But if they’d learned ye were his daughter, if they’d ever taken ye or threatened ye with harm… well, then.” The colonel did not specify what Anna’s father might have done then. All he said was, “Men can bear most hurts, lass, but there’s few of us can bear to see the ones we love best made to suffer for our sake.”
“But Queen Anne’s dead,” said Anna, “and my father, too. So who is left to do me harm?”
“Your father still has brothers, lass, and they still serve the king. And so do I.” His hand felt heavy on her hair. “Those men who sought your father would be happy to lay hold of any one of us and turn us to their cause, and they’d use any means to do it.”
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140227663X, Paperback)

Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object's history and knows that it was named after the Firebird-the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:44 -0400)

Nicola Marter was born with a gift so rare and dangerous, she kept 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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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