Title: The Firebird
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Publication Date: Jan 28, 2013
How I got it: She Reads
Warning! Spoilers Ahead
I usually give a quick synopsis of the book at the beginning of my reviews but I'm going to cut right to the chase on this one because there are so many things I want to talk about. First of all, I have not read any other works by this author but I know that a lot of people are comparing this with her previous works, namely The Winter Sea (the story of Anna's parents.) I'm focusing on The Firebird only.
Weighing in at over 500 pages, this paperback offers quite an elaborate story. I loved some aspects of the novel but others not so much and some I even *gasp* hated. I'm kind of all over the place on this SheReads selection. I even thought of writing up this entire review as one long pro / con list.
I disliked the dual storyline because I strongly favored the Anna storyline over the Nicola / Rob storyline. Anna is the shining star of this novel. Her passion, loyalty and wit make her a lovable character. I did not enjoy the Nicola / Rob storyline because Rob seemed too perfect and Nicola too timid ("I can't....I can't") Also, I know that the answer to this is that then there wouldn't be a novel, but why didn't Rob say something right away about the signed novels in Margaret Ross' study? The lady is dying and wants to go on vacation but he wants to take Nicola on a little holiday and do some psychic practice?
Susanna Kearsley's prose reads like a fairy tale but I disliked the vernacular ("aye" means "yes" in one sentence and "always" in the next?) Yes, I know English words have multiple meanings as well, but I would get tripped up on the dialect and lose the flow of my reading. (I must confess that this problem has also prevented me from reading The Grapes of Wrath.)
This novel obviously required massive research on the author's part but I felt like I was in high school history class in parts of it (FYI: I hated high school history.) The plethora of names brought up had me wishing for a timeline or family tree of some sort. I was very confused by all the royalty and who opposed who and why. Maybe readers with a better knowledge of Scottish and Russian history would understand the complex relationships, but I had to just skim some of those sections because I had no idea who anyone was. I'm also open to settings I am unfamiliar with but I lost concept of distance, location, and direction when Anna or Nicola and Rob moved.
I loved Anna's multiple chess lessons in the novel, there was so much to read between the lines. The weaving of Anna's alliance to the Black King into the storyline was very impressive.
My absolute least favorite parts of the novel were Rob pushing Nicola to tell everyone about her "gift" and how she just blurts out that the painting is a fake. Then Wendy and the crowd just accept this with no big fuss. What?! I was very disappointed that that was just wrapped up so effortlessly, but I wasn't about to give up reading when I was almost done with this doorstopper.
All in all, not my cup of tea but very much loved the character of Anna.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review*