Thursday, 17 June 2010

Firebrand by Gillian Philip


Firstly, I must say how pleased and excited I was to receive a proof copy of Firebrand - latest novel by Gillian Philip, due to be published on 13th August. Its the first in a fantasy series spanning 5 centuries set in both our, fully-mortal, world, and the world of the Sidhe, behind the Veil, in another dimension. The Veil is failing though and the Sidhe will no longer be hidden from the fully-mortals or safe from persecution by them. But before it does Kate NicNiven, the "neurotic and cruel" Sidhe queen intends to destroy it, and anyone in her way, in her wish to dominate BOTH worlds.

Seth is unceremoniously dumped by his mother with his father who has no interest in this son. He grows up with no real family until taken under the wing of his half brother so when that brother Conal is exiled into the world of the fully mortal, for opposing his Queen, Seth follows him out of loyalty. From the opening scene as Seth waits fearfully while his half brother is led out to be burned at the stake to the last dramatic chapter the reader is drawn along in a hellter skelter whirl. We share Seth's neglected childhood, run with him across heather moors and machair, ride with him as he tames his wild kelpie horse and follow him as he matures and learns to let down his defences enough to trust, and even love, others.

The other Gillian Philip books I've read have been modern, urban, gritty novels - full of knife crime, murder, dystopian futures - this book is a bit of a departure. Ok there's still the knives - well, swords- and a fair amount of murder and violence but set against the backdrop of the pristine wild land and sea scape of the Sidhe. The physical presence of this world really leapt out of the page at me as I read, with the feel of wind and sunshine over the machair, the shimmering sea, loch dripping with pigment. At times, Ms Philip builds a word picture akin to those of contemporary scottish West coast painters with their splashes of vibrant colour, pulsating with light, brought immediately to my mind by description of reflections in the water of a loch that a hand dipped in would come out 'dripping with pigment'.

This is an action packed, fast paced novel capable of surprising, despite many hints, to almost the last page, with a cast of real living breathing characters -the half-wild Seth, ruthless Queen Kate NicNiven, Catriona the fully mortal girl rescued and taken through the veil to a world so very different to her own. Although marketed here as YA I understand that in US it will be sold as adult fantasy and think it will be a worthy addition to the genre.

My only complaint is I NEED to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Strident
Genre - YA, fantasy

Have realised that I've made it sound like a cliff-hanger ending. It isn't. I REALLY dislike the cliff-hanger ending that just sets the scene for the next book. The plot for this book reaches an end but there's obviously an on-going story arc over the whole series.


  1. Maryom, thanks SO much for this lovely review! I know how fond you are of the real landscape depicted in Firebrand, so I'm thrilled that it resonated with you when seen through Seth's eyes. I will try hard to make sure that 'what happens next' lives up to your expectations!

  2. I have to go and see if Firebrand is avaibable locally, me being Ms Philip's number one fan and all that! ;-)

  3. This post totally made me want to rush out and grab a copy of Firebrand right NOW!