Book Review: Firebrand by: Gillian Philip

Rating: 4/5

Publisher: Tor Books

Publish Date: February 19, 2013

Origins: From Publisher for Review

Format: Hardcover

Order From:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: 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…

Brimming with intrigue and rebellion, Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series by Gillian Philip, the Carnegie Medal–nominated author of Crossing the Line and multi-award-nominated Bad Faith.

Review: Seth MacGregor has always been a strangely wild and fey child, even among the Sithe. Living behind the Veil, keeping them from the full-mortals’ attention, the Sithe are a magical and proud race. When Seth comes to live at his father’s fortress, he is ignored by his father (Griogair) and looked up with suspicion by his stepmother (Leonora). Only his half-brother Conal makes time for him, along with the few friends Seth has made in the fortress. When the cold and cruel Sithe Queen, Kate, decides to exile Conal beyond the Veil, Seth goes with him to live among the full-mortals. Amongst their fears, superstitions, and a vicious witch-hunt in their adopted village, Conal and Seth must survive…

Ms. Philip has brought to life the worlds of the humans and the Sithe, but does so brilliantly and with a fresh perspective. ‘Firebrand’ is a very character-driven story which does not lack for bloody action in the least. You’ll discover characters you love to hate (such as Queen Kate and Lilith) and those you just plain love (Conal, Seth, Eili, and Raineach). The bonds between characters are truly beautiful and the blend between historical Scotland during the waves of witch-hunts (from 1550-1700) and the fantastical and magical world of the Sithe behind the Veil is captivating. I adored ‘Firebrand’ from the beginning, becoming entrenched in the action and falling in love with the characters. If the first book is this addictive, I can’t wait to see what Ms. Philip has in store for the MacGregor family next! 

Rebel Angels series: Frost Child (0.5), Firebrand (1), Bloodstone (2)


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