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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Stories on Saturdays: Firebrand

Title: Firebrand
Author: Gillian Phillips
Publisher: Strident
Published: 2010
Genre: YA Fantasy

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says ...
It is the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars in the full-mortal world. But the Sithe are at peace, hidden behind the Veil that protects their world until their queen, Kate NicNiven, determines to destroy it. Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sithe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil. But even the Veil's power cannot protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin...

My verdict: Engaging characters and plenty of action (strongly recommended for YA and adult readers - seriously, go and get this book now!)

This story is narrated by Seth, who is one of the most engaging characters I've ever come across (and as a lifelong avid reader and an English teacher, I have read a fair few books!).  His voice is pitch-perfect, revealing his flaws as well as his strengths, and endearing him to us as we follow his journey from the Sidhe world into the Otherworld (our version of the world).

Seth's background is difficult at best - unwanted by his mother and unacknowledged by his father, he is nevertheless capable of love and loyalty, almost despite himself.  This love is largely directed to his half-brother Conal, whom we see him preparing to shoot at the book's opening, to save him from being burnt as a witch.  Following this exciting episode, we are taken back to the long chain of events that leads to this point, to arrive there again about halfway through the narrative.  The brothers' relationship is realistic and touching in its depiction of male affection, including the trading of insults and jibes.

This is a gripping adventure story in a fantasy setting with its fair share of twists and turns, but it is the characters that steal the show.  I'd strongly recommend this to readers of 12 plus - and will certainly be lending it to my 12 year old.  There are references to sex, but they are subtle enough for younger readers to miss, while the novel's grand sweep and the masterful characterisation is more than sufficient to engage adult readers.

This is my second post for the Bookette's fabulous British Book Challenge.  Sign-up is open until the 31st Jan.


  1. Sounds good :)

    I quite enjoy YA books and find them engaging on the whole.

  2. Thank you, Beth, for a lovely review! So glad you liked Firebrand (and Seth!)

  3. Beth, you may (or may not) know that FIREBRAND has recently been longlisted for both the David Gemmell Legend Award and the Catalyst Award.

    You may also be interested to know that book 2 in the (Rebel Angels) series, BLOODSTONE, will be published on 1 Aug 2011...so not too long to wait.

  4. I loved the relationship between Seth and Conal too. Every time I read a review of this book I want to read it again. I am such a HUGE fan. Great review.

  5. Sounds good! Liam says he likes the look of this, based on your review.


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