Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

First Sentence:  He sent his mind in search of me that morning.
Nicola Marter has a gift but it’s one with which she is uncomfortable.  However, when a woman comes into the art gallery for which she works, she is intrigued by the history behind an item the woman desperately wants to sell.  Asking the help of Rob McMorran, briefly a former lover, whose gift is even greater than her own, they travel to St. Petersburg, Russia looking for answers for a gift given to the woman’s ancestor, Anna, by Empress Catherine.  In order to find the answers, they much follow Anna from Scotland to Belgium to Russia, seeing her life through the years.
A curious, but intriguing open fades to precise descriptions bringing you back to reality.  One thing I remember about the movie "The Da Vinci Code" were the scenes when the characters saw locations as they once were.  Ms. Kearsley's descriptions obviously reminded me of that as they are just that vivid.  No matter the time period, the sense of time and place is clear and compelling.

Kearsey has a wonderful voice, with a lovely wry humor, reminiscent to that of Mary Stewart’s earlier books.  She draws you into the story, the locations and the characters, bringing them all to life.  Her dialogue is natural and flowing with regional accents to provide veracity yet not to the point of making reading difficult.
The level of Ms. Kearsley research is very apparent.  Whether it be, the history of the Jacobites, or the various locations and actual historical characters, you know you can trust the information which has been overlaid with a very good story.  Insofar as the abilities of the modern characters, while I do believe in people having the abilities of telepathy and psychometry, I’m not certain anyone has them to the level of the characters.  However, my criticism is very small in comparison with how essential those talents are to the story and how well it made the whole plot work overall.
The story set in two time periods; contemporary and the 1700s and the transitions are done very smoothly.  You never feel lost.  What is even more remarkable is that both stories are equally strong.  There is never a sense of wishing there were more of one story than the other.  Although they move from one to the other, it was as though I was reading two books simultaneously and loving them both.  While perhaps not a mystery in the true sense of the word, there is the mystery of finding out about the history of the object which sends Nicola and Rob on their travels. 
Ms. Kearsley creates wonderful characters that are fully developed and come to life.  None of them feel as though they are secondary characters as each has a significant role to play.  However, I must say that for those of us who read “Shadowy Horses” and “The Winter Sea” there are wonderful connections to both of those books.  At the same time, new readers will have no sense of confusion from not having read them—except to have missed out on two wonderful reads.
There is a wonderful building of romantic tension in each story line.  These are not impassioned bodice-rippers—okay, there was just a tiny bit of bodice ripping—but waltzes that gracefully build to satisfying conclusions. 
 “The Firebird” is a wonderful read.  I am always entranced by Ms. Kearsley’s writing.  She is one of my "don't bother me, I'm reading" author, and it’s so delightful when you find one. 

THE FIREBIRD (Novel/Mys-Nicola Marter-Europe-Contemp) – VG
Kearsley, Susanna – Standalone
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2013

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