Thursday, 8 July 2010

Firebrand by Gillian Philip

Fantastic Fantasy
Review by Gerry(TheMole)

It is easy for fantasy to become formulaic - Hero becomes the centre of the universe goes out and saves the world/planet/universe. Gillian Philip clearly hasn't read the formula and brings a new life to fantasy and it's writing.

As the sixteenth century comes to an end we meet Seth for the first time at a witch burning, watching with a cross bow in his arms waiting for his moment to shoot the 'witches' before the flames engulf them. Scene changes and we learn of Seth's history. The second and unwanted son of the MacGregor clann, he has been returned to the clann because of the actions of his mother and he feels unwanted and at odds with everyone in the clann. Determined to not be accepted, he fights with everyone and is semi feral. Clearly after a chapter or two we will return to the witch burning - or at the end of the book. Seth has a brother, Conal - but by a different mother and the two brothers develop a bond of love and loyalty. Conal is the older and inherits the leadership of the clann when their father is assasinated. Kate, the Queen, then contrives to exile them to the full mortal world to extend her power base.

Seth is what many of us see ourselves as:- loyal, angry, powerful, pivotal, wise, honest, passionate and so much more and this makes it easy for the reader to identify with him and share his adventure with excitement.

We don't return to the burnings where we expect and although crucial to the story there is still much to tell beyond that. I like to know how many pages there are in the book so turned to find out. In doing so I saw the title of book 2 - 'Insurrection'. This enabled me to see what was going to happen. But it didn't. Gillian didn't apply the formula instead the plot twisted and turned and gave surprise right to the end.

There is death and violence throughout the book and I found none of it in bad taste but I did get a surprise. It is a long time since I read a book where I felt choked about any death but Gillian did this to me in Firebrand - I thought I had become inured to such things.

When compared to the themes of Gillian's books Crossing The Line and Bad faith then Firebrand truly shows the range and scope of this gifted author. Insurrection please? NOW!

I have seen a copy of intended artwork for the cover and would DEARLY have liked to share it but (a) I don't know if it's the final version and (b) I don't have permission. But let me say that it is a striking cover that complements the story and is the most striking of Gillian's books so far.

TheMoles's review - 5 stars
Publisher Strident
Genre - Fantasy

Firebrand (Rebel Angels Series) is published on 13th August 2010 and can be purchased from Amazon amongst many other outlets.


  1. Kathryn, I have and it is worth the wait!

  2. Thank you Gerry for a lovely review! So delighted I managed to both surprise you and choke you up
    Book 2 is currently having a thorough rewrite, and has been retitled 'Bloodstone' - but I'm hoping to finish it soon... thanks again!