The Firebird (Slains #2)
By: Susanna Kearsley
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Whoever dares to seek the firebird may find the journey—and its ending— unexpected. Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes sees images, glimpses of those who have owned it before. It’s never been a gift she wants, and she keeps it a secret from most people, including her practical boss Sebastian, one of London’s premier dealers in Russian art.
But when a woman offers Sebastian a small wooden carving for sale, claiming it belonged to Russia’s Empress Catherine, it’s a problem. There’s no proof. Sebastian believes that the plain carving—known as “The Firebird”—is worthless. But Nicola has held it, and she knows the woman is telling the truth and is in desperate need of the money the sale of the heirloom could bring.
Compelled to help, Nicola turns to a man she once left and still loves: Rob McMorran, whose own psychic gifts are far greater than hers. With Rob to help her “see” the past, she follows a young girl named Anna from Scotland to Belgium and on into Russia. There, in St. Petersburg—the once-glittering capital of Peter the Great’s Russia—Nicola and Rob unearth a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption . . . an old story that seems personal and small, perhaps, against the greater backdrops of the Jacobite and Russian courts, but one that will forever change their lives.
The Firebird is the last Susanna Kearsley novel that’s been sitting on my TBR queue (at the moment?). Despite reading The Winter Sea (review) and The Shadowy Horses (review) right after each other, I decided to take a wee bit of a break before delving into this novel. Many contain spoilers if you haven’t read Susanna Kearsley’s other novels!
Okay, I regret not reading this book right after the other Kearsley novels as this book tied in to The Winter Sea a lot more than I thought! I also had no idea that many elements from The Shadowy Horses would also make an appearance in this novel, which was a pleasant surprise. Definitely glad I read TSH first before this book! But yeah, wished I read this book right away as I sort of had to reacquaint myself with bits of TWS (I read a lot of books between my last Kearsley novel and this one!) :3
Anyway, heck yeah for Russian history and art! Ahh, imperial Russian history; kind of a random aside but I was pleased with all of the mentions of the Russian Navy and the English presence in its fleet as it was one of my sub-interests in Russian history 🙂 But it was all in all quite nice to revisit that period in history through this novel, especially in such a period of both English/Scottish history and Russian history. There was also a lot of travelling inolved in this novel, which was a pleasant bonus, from the familiar sights of Eyemouth and the Slains to Calais and then to St. Petersburg.
I admit, this book was a lot different than what I expected. I think it’s partly because of the psychotelemetry angle of the story; in the previous four novels that I’ve read by Susanna Kearsley the paranormal angle wasn’t quite as apparent (except for in The Rose Garden (review) where there was a straight-up time slip). I’m not one to shy away from a paranormal element in a novel but it did take some getting used to for whatever reason. It also took me a while to warm up to the book because it does take a good fourth of the novel for the story to actually get rolling. But once things do get moving, I just couldn’t put the book down until I finished.
I liked all of the characters involved and following Nicola and Anna’s respective stories. Again, for some reason when I first skimmed through reactions to this book, my understanding was that Anna was a secondary character but I was pleasantly surprised to see how this book was really her story and what happened to her since the end of The Winter Sea. I loved how Nicola and Rob were essentially following her footsteps and that we the readers are following what they discover about her experiences from following her trail. I felt sometimes however that her story dragged a bit, especially when she got to St. Petersburg, but otherwise it was interesting to watch her interact with the characters living there and observing the larger political events happening elsewhere in Europe.
I found Nicola’s story a little more interesting (*le gasp*) with her struggle to accept her abilities and step out of her comfort zone with them. The tension with Rob was a little too much at times; found myself wanting to scream “Just kiss already!” for a good chunk of the book, lol. But I thought it was cute the way Rob helps Nicola out (there’s this cheeky reveal somewhere halfway as Nicola prepares to set out to St. Petersburg for work); you’re never quite sure when his humour would step in or which way he’ll respond. But yeah, I thought their chemistry was interesting, especially as they had a history together prior to the start of this novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Firebird, it was a fantastic follow-up to The Winter Sea. I was quite pleased with the way things turned out for all of the characters involved and I loved all of the Russian history elements in the story. The story felt a wee bit slow at times but all in all it was another fantastic read from Susanna Kearsley. Definitely worth checking out for readers of historical fiction, romance, and a mesh between past and present storylines 🙂