February 20, 2013

Review: Firebrand

Firebrand Book One of Rebel Angels
By Gillian Philip
Available now from Tor (Macmillan)
Review copy

I'll admit: I almost didn't read FIREBRAND because Gillian Philip spells the word Sithe instead of Sidhe.  I feared she might be a cupcake.  I am so happy I ignored that twinge of fear and chose to read FIREBRAND anyway.

The blurb says that FIREBRAND is an urban fantasy, but it's not.  It's part historical fantasy and part high fantasy, all portal fantasy.  Perhaps there is something to that discussion last year that portal fantasy is unpopular.  But FIREBRAND doesn't follow the typical portal fantasy model.  Seth MacGregor and his brother Conal are Sithe, living in their own world, and cross the portal into our world.  (For the value of "our world" meaning "historical Scotland.")  Then they cross back into their own world . . . and it certainly doesn't live up to the criticism that portal fantasy is unpopular because the real world isn't at stake.  Both worlds are at stake, as are the lives of Seth, his brother, and basically everyone in the novel.

Kate NicNiven is the queen of the Sithe, by her people's consent.  The MacGregors are her most powerful opponents, but she's canny about keeping control and preventing rebellion.  This, despite the fact that she want to destroy the Veil the separates the world of the Sithe from the humans and keeps both sides safe.

Philip's worldbuilding is top notch.  The Sithe are not human.  They have an alien way of thinking, as well as different culture and politics.  She carefully builds her fantasy land and then she brings Scotland into the mix.  Her Scotland seems no less fully realized.

But what really sells FIREBRAND is Seth himself.  He's not only the younger son, but also a bastard.  Yet he loves his brother and has many dear friends, no matter that he took awhile to develop any connections.  He spent his youngest years neglected, but he loves deeply and is loved in return.  He's fiercely loyal, and he may not be the most moral person around, but he knows when to make a stand for what's right.

Right now, I hate everyone in the UK, because they already have books two and three in the Rebel Angels series.  Meanwhile, all of us in the US are stuck waiting for more.  But based on the reviews, the wait will be worth it.


  1. I hadn't heard of the series before, but if you say we've the whole series here... :p I hope they're released in the US soon :)

    It sounds really good, I love the portal idea and am surprised (pleasantly) that they aren't humans because at first it sounded that way, and not being humans sounds more interesting.

  2. Thanks for the link to the portal fantasy discussion. Of course, knowing there aren't any makes me want to write one all the more!

    1. It's better to write the next big thing than a rehash of what's popular now! There is a slightly parodic portal fantasy coming out soon - CRAP KINGDOM by DC Pierson, March 7.

  3. I'm one of those lucky ones in the UK and I've read all 3. If you think FIREBRAND is great, just wait until you read the others. A lot of series start well but then fade. Not this one. It gets better and better.

    1. Hate you! But it's good to know I won't be wasting my time waiting for the rest.

  4. I've been hesitating on this one - not sure if it would be the book for me (and let's be honest, that's mostly due to uninspired cover art!). I do like high fantasy, and your recommendation means a lot. Back into the TBR pile it goes!

    1. You don't even know how close I came to not reading it. Blah cover, blah summary . . . but I had some free reading time and was craving high fantasy so I gave it a chance. Of course, the best books are the ones you go into with no expectations.


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