September 10, 2017

FOF Book Club: Firebird

It's time for us to talk about Firebird, the third Flights of Fantasy Book Club read for 2017! Both Rachel & I have been very interested in Mercedes Lackey for a while now (though she has a lot of books, both solo and as a co-author, so it's overwhelming to consider where to start). We were most drawn to her fairytale retellings, so we decided on Firebird as our first foray into her writing. 

Firebird is about Ilya, a young nobleman who is despised both by his father and his brothers. He's determined to make do with the existence he leads, staying out of trouble and taking pleasure where he can... at least up until he first sees the legendary Firebird. His life spirals out of his control after that, as he is banished from home and finds himself on a magical journey with unexpected aid and whimsical situations all around him.

Firebird book cover
Plot? I grew up on a steady diet of fairytales, so I was eager to see how Lackey would tackle this one in her novel. The truth is, the main plot with the Firebird - which was the reason I was drawn to this story in the first - doesn't even really come in until nearly two-thirds of the way through. All the pages before that point are about Ilya and his life with his family, which is not terribly boring to read about, but certainly isn't the magical experience I'd been expecting. However, once Ilya departs from home, things pick up fairly quickly - and I wound up engrossed in the magic and mischief of his experiences on his own.

Character? I didn't particularly care for Ilya. I'll acknowledge that he's a decent person, who treats others with kindness and courtesy for the most part. I'll also say that he definitely can be quite clever when it comes to situations that he's got to work his way out of. But I was annoyed by his perspective on the world, particularly his opinions on women, so that definitely kept me distant from him overall.

Writing? I appreciated the fact that I felt like I was reading a fairytale as I read this story, particularly because Lackey provides a lot of detailed descriptions that brought her world to life a little bit more than the actual classic fairytale translations I used to read. She incorporated the elements of the Firebird tale (and other tropes from fairytales) really smoothly, and managed to evoke nostalgia in me as I read. I did feel like the the book could have been shortened though. (Seriously, a lot of the beginning chunk wasn't necessary, in my opinion).

Overall? While I appreciated the nostalgia this inspired, liked the fairytale elements woven in and really got into the latter third of the novel, I genuinely wish I had liked this one more. It was really mostly because of Ilya himself that I couldn't get into it, though the very slow nature of the first third (and well into the second third) of the story didn't help either. So, I'm in the middle on this particular book, so I'd advise picking it up at your own discretion. (I will say that I'm actually considering reading the next one...)

Firebird by Mercedes Lackey | Series: Fairy Tales #1
Publisher: Tor Books | Publication Date: January 8, 2008
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library


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