>> Sunday, January 27, 2013
TITLE: The Firebird
AUTHOR: Susanna Kearsley
COPYRIGHT: 2013 (Jan 28th in the UK and Australia, Jun 4th in the US)
PUBLISHER: Allison & Busby
SETTING: England, Scotland, Belgium & Russia, 21st and 18th century.
SERIES: Follows The Winter Sea, and is connected to The Shadowy Horses
Marg, from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and I were both lucky enough to receive ARC's for this, one of the most anticipated books of the year. Marg suggested doing our review in discussion format, and since I love her reviews (and I was dying to talk about the book with someone!), we ended up with this review:
Marg: I am so excited to be sharing a discussion with Rosario about the new book from Susanna Kearsley, The Firebird. While I am an avid SK fangirl now, ‘gently encouraging’ just about everyone I know to read her, my first introduction to Susanna Kearsley was when I read Rosario’s review of The Winter Sea nearly 5 years ago!
Rosario: Oh, you’re very welcome, Marg! It does my book pimp heart good to hear that! :)
I’m afraid I can’t even remember who to thank for my intro to Susanna Kearsley, just that she was mentioned as someone lovers of Barbara Michaels would like. I picked up The Shadowy Horses, and that was it for me, I was in love! It remains my favourite of hers still, and Robbie, whom we get to meet again in The Firebird, remains one of my most beloved characters.
Marg: Let’s start talking about The Firebird then. Robbie seems to be a good place to start seeing as you just mentioned him.
We first meet Robbie in The Shadowy Horses as a small boy with special abilities. He can see the past and communicate mentally with others who share that same ability. His role in that book was crucial to helping discover the past on an archeological dig. Now, as a grown up, he still has those skills and they are very much part of who he is. He still plays an active part in the small town he grew up in, working the lifeboats as a volunteer and working as a policeman.
I loved reading about Robbie as a grown up (although he does prefer to be known as Rob now!). Like a lot of Kearsley heroes, he is a pretty quiet man but very sure of who he is. There is no way he is going to hide his abilities, and it frustrates him to see that his ex-girlfriend Nicola is not prepared to develop her own skills or to be open about them, especially when she comes to him for the kind of help that utilises his special talents.
How did you find grown up Rob? Did anything surprise you about him now?
Rosario: Not really, he seems to me exactly the man a boy like Robbie would grow into, if he lived in a supportive community where he’s completely accepted. He’s comfortable in his own skin and accepts his powers with no seeming internal conflict or secrecy. And that is what provides the conflict in the present-day storyline, because, as you said, Nicola is completely different.
Nicola has very similar powers to Robbie’s, although with her, they mainly take the form of psychometry. If she touches an object, she can see events linked to it (very useful, since she works for an art dealer). It’s an ability passed on to her by her grandfather, who emigrated to England from the USSR, and for whom his psychic abilities were nothing but trouble. We’re talking really nasty testing here, so when he realised his granddaughter had inherited his powers, he encouraged her to suppress them and keep them to herself. This has created lots of doubts and mixed feelings in Nicola, and it was what separated her and Robbie when they first met, some years earlier.
Throughout the story, Robbie spends a lot of time encouraging and even, to an extent, pressuring Nicola to embrace her powers and not hide them. Did you think the latter was a reasonable thing to ask of her, Marg? I confess, I felt somewhat uncomfortable with that. Use them, explore them, embrace them, yes, fine, but just come out and tell all her colleagues in the art world that she’s a psychic? That felt like it wouldn’t be the best decision, unless you just want to be branded a complete nutter!
Marg: For most people, I think there is an aversion to being too different, especially with something as unusual as the kind of abilities that Nicola has and how sceptical a lot of people are when it comes to psychic abilities. Whereas Rob was encouraged to use and develop his skills, Nicola’s grandfather actively discouraged her, and this gave her reason to think that learning more was something to fear, especially seeing as she believed the people around her would not believe her and more importantly not accept her should they find out about her abilities.
Having said that, Rob wanted Nicola to develop her skills for her own good, so that she could fully accept who she was, rather than pushing this part of her that was unique down beneath her surface and squashing it down as far as it would go. As you can see, I was kind of torn by Rob’s actions - he was pushing her but he was doing it because he thought it was best for her. Nicola clearly believed in the existence of these abilities because she asked Rob for help, but she just didn’t believe in her own abilities.
Let’s talk about how the story begins.
Nicola works in an art gallery and she is present when an elderly lady brings in an object that according to family tradition was given to one of her ancestors by Empress Catherine of Russia. Unfortunately, there is no proof of that, and so the gallery cannot accept the item for sale. When Nicola touches the statue, she does sees an image from the past. The woman leaves but Nicola can’t get the vision she saw out of her mind so she heads up to Scotland to visit her again, along the way meeting up with her old boyfriend, Rob, who she believes will help her understand what she saw.
This is the start of a journey that takes both Rob and Nicola on a journey from Scotland to Belgium and Russia, as well as to the past. I must confess when I saw the synopsis for this book I was very excited. What could be better than a new Susanna Kearsley book …. if it was partially set in Russia! I really loved the modern travel, but it was really the historical story about Jacobites in both Belgium and Russia that I didn’t previously know about and really loved.
Were you surprised by the journey that both the present and past characters took?
For the rest of the discussion, please visit Marg's blog here.