Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Firebrand by Gillian Philip

From the Back Cover:

At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world…but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired. 

Discarded by his mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up half wild in his father’s fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.

But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch-hunt—in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen’s machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch-hunters’ fires…

My Thoughts:

I became absorbed in Firebrand right away, and the reason was the kick-ass prologue followed by a trip back in time that introduced me to the young Seth MacGregor and allowed me to follow his journey to his moment of crisis presented in the prologue. It's coincidental because I was just reading an article on antiheroes, and Seth is a wonderful example of such a character. In Philip's evocative story world, a whole other magical race inhabits the Scottish Highlandsthe Sitheseparated from mortal humans by a Veil that cloaks them and keeps them safe from the witch hysteria sweeping through sixteenth-century Europe. A bastard child of a powerful Sithe lord and a powerful Sithe witch, Seth is treated as an outsider in both his father's and mother's clans. He's a lonely, angry, bitter child until his older half-brother, Conal, the golden boy and heir to the clan, comes home and takes him under his wing. Thanks to his brother's intercession, Seth is grudgingly accepted by a few members of the clan and over the years learns to become a fierce warrior, and there's no one he loves and protects more fiercely than his brother.

But he becomes an unwitting pawn in an ancient political battle spearheaded by the beautiful but deadly Sithe queen, who seeks to harness Conal's magnetism and born leadership for herself in a time of unrest and unhappiness under her rulership, and amid rumors that the Veil that sustains them is dying. She's not above using those Conal loves, including Seth, to force him and his clan to her side. Seth finds himself in new and dangerous territory, attempting to navigate the pitfalls of a Sithe court seething with secrets, betrayals, alliances, and murderous intent. Though his angry and bitter heart has never fully healed, he remains true to his beliefs and to his brother, and to the handful of Sithe he has come to call friends. But when the queen has enough of Conal refusing to fully submit to her, she banishes him to the mortal world, and Seth stubbornly refuses to let him go alone.

Seth never thought he'd miss the snake pit of the queen's court, but living in the mortal world proves to be more difficult than he realized. Forced to live among squalor, poverty, abuse, and rampant superstition, Seth is disgusted by they way humans live their lives, while Conal's big heart won't let him stand by and do nothing to help. And that leads to trouble. On their own in a foreign world, the brothers have only each other to rely on, and when Conal is swept up in a witch hunt incited by a fanatical priest, it's up to Seth to save himor die trying. But if he can rescue his brother, what will become of them? Returning to the Sithe world will keep them safe from mortals, but the fury of the Sithe queen is even more dangerous. What follows is an exciting sequence of eventsfull of action, drama, and even a little lovethat kept me on the edge of my seat to the very last bittersweet page.

I really liked this story world, I liked the way the author held no punches, and I loved, loved, loved Seth! This story was filled with so many gut-wrenching emotions, complicated layers, subtexts, undercurrents, and plot twists that I was fully submerged and could not put it down. I was loving this book so much I really thought it was headed for 5-star territory, but things fell apart a bit at the end. I applaud Ms. Philip for creating a complex story world and resisting the urge to explain every nuance, to let the reader learn by context, and that worked wonderfully for me until the last few pages. A couple of shocking things happened very quickly and they appeared to have far-reaching consequences and hidden meaning, but I was left wondering what the heck had just happened and why everyone was making such a big deal out of it. I was so confused! It seemed really rushed and half-formed. So that was frustrating, and since I couldn't grasp the full impact of the ending, I didn't have the feeling of satisfaction I craved. But Firebrand is a great start to an imaginative, gritty, and dangerous fantasy series, and the ending also opened up a new beginning, so I'm off to follow the character I grew to love so much on the next leg of his journey!

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!



Thanks to the lovely people at Tor, one lucky reader will win a copy of Firebrand AND its recently published sequel, Bloodstone!
To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address!

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and ends at 11:59pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!


  1. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. Sounds fascinating. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. What a great giveaway which interests me. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  3. Thanks for the fabulous giveaway! This series sound very interesting!

    mmafsmith AT gmail DOT com

  4. Sounds promising; love a good sequel. Thanks for the giveaway.

    nanze55 (at) hotmail(dot)com

  5. This book sounds great! kimbers10[at]yahoo[dot]com

  6. You had me at Witch Hunters! Great write up for the book! Would love to read it!

    king_nickolay @ yahoo . com


I love comments! Getting feedback on my posts makes my day! Thanks for being here!