Book Review: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Posted March 12, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Firebird by Susanna KearsleyThe Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Genres: Fiction, History
Published by Sourcebook on June 4, 2013
Pages: 539
Format: Paperback
Source: the library


Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

Also by this author: Winter Sea, Named of the Dragon

Second in the Slains historical fiction series with a touch of fantasy and carries on with the daughter who is born of the characters in The Winter Sea, 1.

My Take
This is a sweet foray into history and self-acceptance.

“‘Hiding the person you are,’ he said, ‘won’t make you happy. I never hide who I am. What I am.’


‘You’ll never ken half of the things ye can do if you won’t try.'”

So practical:

“If I sell the thing, then I’ll only have satisfied one client. If I leave it where it is, then every one of them will think it can be theirs one day.”

It’s very early in the book when Kearsley confuses me with Sebastian’s statement about knowing. Knowing what? Kearsley uses this as an excuse to discuss Nicola’s psychic ability, but I’m still left hanging on that sentence. I’m also wondering what happened to the Logans after Colonel Graeme spirited her away.

There’s a brief mention of the previous book and some history behind what happened to Slains Castle. As sad as that moment is when Anna learns the truth as a child, I think Kearsley could have wrung more out of it, made it more devastating. As it is, she relies more upon tell than show. There’s also a bit of explanation (and well done I might add) as to what set off the first revolution against King James and how it led to Hanover George. Yet more history reveals the founding of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great. Such an ego, LOL.

Nice twist in that ending, and we do find out about the black stone with the hole in the middle, and who wears it now. I don’t want to give his identity away, but I do wish that we knew who Anna married at the end.

Oh, I cried when I learned of Colonel Graeme’s fate. What Anna went through to stay safe and keep everyone else safe was so sad. I almost cried, too, at Ned’s reputation, and how it affected Anna. As for the break-up scene, it was too quick, although I did understand Rob’s position.

I do adore what Anna said to the empress! Touché!

The Story
There are all kinds of tricks Sebastian is teaching Nicola about the arts and artefacts business. But there’s nothing he can teach Nicola about compassion when Margaret Ross steps into the shop and sends Nicola on a race into history, tracing the provenance of a family heirloom.

It’s not only the Firebird that Nicola will learn more about, but more importantly, she discovers comfort in herself.

The Characters
Nicola Marter works in the Galerie St-Croix, a Russian arts and antiques shop. A good fit since she has a master’s in Russian Studies and History. She has the psychometric touch, but refuses to use it. Colin is an older brother. Grandfather, Ivan Kirilovich Birkin who becomes “John Birkin”, is also psychic, and refuses to use it after what he suffered for it in Russia.

Keenan, a.k.a., Rob McMorran, was/is a psychic Nicola met at the Institute from which she fled. He’s a mind-reading cop in Eyemouth and volunteers on the lifeboat.His parents are lovely; his dad, Brian, has the gift as well. Jeannie is his mom and a force of nature. Jings is Keenan’s dog. The Sentinel is a Roman ghost still keeping watch on the McMorran farm. Sheena is a waitress at the pub Keenan likes.

Sebastian St. Croix owns Galerie St-Croix and charms the ladies into buying. Gemma Richardson is the new receptionist. Yuri Stepanovich, a senior research associate at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, is the curator for an exhibition of The Wanderers, or Peredvizhniki, a group of Russian realist painters who were at odds with the Academy of Arts back in the day. Ahh, a claim to legitimacy as artists, LOL. Wendy Van Hoek owns a painting that Sebastian desperately wants for another client, Vasily.

Margaret Ross has a family heirloom she wants to sell against her own deadly race. Andrew is the brother who died in Afghanistan. Anna is the ancestor who supposedly received the Firebird as a gift.

Back in time…
Anna “Logan Jamieson Niktovna” Moray learns her father was Colonel John Moray, who fell at Malplaquet, and her mother was Sophia Paterson Moray McClelland (see The Winter Sea, 1). Robert is one of John’s brothers, a lawyer. Maurice Moray is John’s youngest brother.

The Earl of Erroll is host to Colonel Patrick Graeme, Anna’s great-uncle on her father’s side, who had been the captain of the Edinburgh Town Guard back in the day. Father Archangel is one of Colonel Graeme’s sons; he’d been a soldier and became a monk.

Donald Logan is one of the Logans’ older children. The one who spills the beans. Aunt Kirsty is married and still at Slains. Captain Jamieson is a wounded companion to Graeme the night of the flight across the channel.

A convent of Irish nuns in Ypres, Belgium is led by Abbess Butler. Sister Xaveria is one of the nuns. Christiane is a disgraced young girl sent to the convent. Mrs. Ogilvie is a spy.

Captain Gordon refuses to swear the oath and ends up an admiral in the Russian navy. He’s had some sad losses, including Jane, his stepdaughter; Nan and Mary are his other daughters. Lieutenant Charles Gordon is a nephew of the captain’s and calls himself Anna’s cousin. A very protective one. Dmitri is a protective household servant.

General Pierce Lacy leads the tsar’s armies, is one of Gordon’s colleagues, and asks for Anna’s help for his wife. The children include Michael, Pierce, Helen, and Katie. Father Dominic is a Franciscan friar who is part of the general’s household. Edmund “Ned” O’Connor is one of the general’s relatives and quite the keeper of secrets.

Mr. Taylor is a member of the Factory, a group of merchants authorized to set up trade abroad. Sir Harry Stirling is a leading member of the Factory, and Nan is interested. Mrs. Hewitt is the gossipy wife of one of the merchants. Captain William Hay is of Gordon and Lacy’s friends. Captain John Deane is an English spy with no morals, the “hero” of Boone Island. Trescott owns a popular tavern in St. Petersburg.

Empress Catherine is the recent widow of Peter the Great. Sergei Ivanovich, Willem Mons, and his sister, Matrena, find out that Tsar Peter was serious about corruption.

The Emerson Institute of Parapsychology studies psychics and is headed up by Dr. Keary Fulton-Wallace.

The Cover
It’s an interesting cover with, I assume, Nicola twirling so quickly she’s a blur of lime green and orange against a golden-to-orange background.

The title is the whole point around which the story and Nicola revolves, for it’s The Firebird that will force her out of her shell in so many ways.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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