9780765333223Reviewed by Sara Drake

Seth knows more about hating than loving. As an unwanted bastard, his mother sent him back to his father’s Clann. His half-brother, Conal attempts to break through Seth’s isolation, being the first to pull him into the life of the Clann. The bond between the two becomes the one defining aspect of Seth’s life. When the Queen of the Sithe, Kate, exiles Conal, Seth voluntarily joins him. The human world they are exiled to, sixteenth century Scotland, holds dangers Seth cannot even imagine.

In a reverse of the typical fantasy, Firebrand presents main characters which are Sithe who enter the human world. I enjoyed the variation from the genre standards. The world of the Sithe, vividly described, presents a violent warrior culture whose telepathy and empathy do not hamper them from warring with one another. The long lived Sithe build power struggles that encompass hundreds of years. Ms. Philip’sdepictions of these struggles struck me as being rather simplistic with hints that there was something more complex lingering in the background. For example, Queen Kate appears to have it out for Seth and Conal’s Clann but no explanation of is given. Small hints that the Queen has a deeper plan than presented are spread throughout the book. As this is the beginning of a series, the reasons behind the Queen’s bullying may become apparent later on.

Seth, our narrative, has a delightfully complex character. He strives to be hard and angry yet his fierce loyalty shows his softer side. He takes a while to warm up to and is not the most sympathetic character in the beginning. He grows throughout the book and that growth makes him much more likable by the end. The secondary characters never stand out as well rounded people; however, part of that stems from Seth’s narration. He has no clue about people himself so he is not the best observer to let the reader see the people around him.

I may be nitpicking, but there were a few things that got mentioned once and then dropped. They felt important at the time they were mentioned. I know they could yet appear in following books. However, they dropped completely out of this narrative. For example, a character notices he has two shadows instead of one. No other mention made. Yet, I kept wondering about it. Didn’t the other characters notice the extra shadow? Did it go away? What did it mean?

Despite the dark tone to the tale, I enjoyed reading this. I am not sure yet whether I want to read the others in the series but I am glad I read this one. Ms. Philip has a lyrical writing style which blended well with the Celtic backdrop.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Tor Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.