Krystal's Reviews > Firethorn

Firethorn by Sarah Micklem
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Jul 07, 2011

it was ok

** spoiler alert ** I picked up this book during a whirlwind shopping trip in B&N – grabbed it because the name sounded interesting, the cover wasn’t horrible, and the reviews I found with a quick search on my phone said it wasn’t too terrible a book. So I bought it. Well, I guess it wasn’t too terrible.

It also wasn’t too exciting. Didn’t really suck me in, didn’t really have me too invested in the characters or the story. All in all, meh. There were bits of the novel’s world that were a little interesting – their gods, their society structure, etc … all sort of glossed over, not really explained in depth, sort of forcing us to assume much, glean what we could from the tidbits that are given. I will say this, I was intrigued by the fact that one of their gods had two avatars – the Sun and the Moon. Common, yes. But in this story, the Sun was the female avatar, and the Moon, the male. Now, most every fantasy novel I’ve read generally associates the Moon with the feminine. Shy, coy, mysterious, etc. And it fits. And I’m used to that. So to hear the Sun described in this world as She, blinding the world with her glittering veils … it was interesting. A little backward in my opinion, but I guess it works.

The story itself: A girl named Luck wanders into the woods after her Dame (her sort of “master”) dies. She lives out there, in like a cave or whatever, for about a year. Eats some firethorn berries, they give her visions of the god Ardor, she decides it’s time to return to civilization. (fun side note: firethorn – also called Pyracantha, in the real world – not poisonous or hallucinogenic or anything. Just nasty tasting.) So now Luck, renaming herself Firethorn, is back in her village. During a local festival, a day when the common folk are served by the ruling class, Firethorn couples with a man of the Blood (ruling class) and they both sort of become besotted. Her mainly because … well, I don’t know. He was cute? of the Blood? she had no better options? And him because he sees her as being sent to him by one of the gods for luck, basically a rabbit’s foot that puts out. He’s certain that if he brings her with him when he goes to war (which all the Blood are gathering to do) that he’ll survive. That’s right folks, it’s true love from the start.

The rest of the book takes place in the Marchfield, the plot of land where all the clans of the Blood gather to prepare for the war. And by “prepare for the war,” I mean sit around, play at mock tourneys, and basically just get into the sort of trouble that happens when lots of amped-up men get together and are then told to sit and wait. During all the crap that naturally comes from this sort of situation, the romance between Firethorn and her man, Galan, blooms. Blooms like the mandrake root charm she binds with Galan’s hair and buries under the full moon. Yeah, to bind him to her. Because having the man truly love her, not good enough.

Galan’s character is probably quite accurate for a man of that time and setting, but he doesn’t make for that likable of a love interest. And Firethorn isn’t that great either. These two are definitely bound together, whether by affection, mutual need (for security, ownership, whatever), or by the binding charm Firethorn makes … but there’s not much in the book about any sort of true affection. They both exhibit a bit here and there, but it’s not extremely believable and you can never be entirely certain about the reason for said affection.

The writing was a bit tedious at times; I often found myself quickly skimming through long paragraphs of descriptions that I really didn’t care about. Even inner monologues got long and tiresome, as none of these characters every really evolve. They basically just wax on and on about the same things through the whole book. So yeah, can’t say with all honesty that I read every word of this book. But I don’t think I missed much of importance.

The ending leaves you with a cliffhanger – Galan gives Firethorn a chunk of land and his hunting lodge/castle as her own, sending her away from the war they’re about to embark on, wanting her kept safe. Firethorn is torn between leaving him (*gasp* how could she ever be parted from him? the pain, too much to bear … this is me rolling me eyes) or defying his wishes and following him into war, without his knowledge. The book doesn’t exactly make it clear that she doesn’t make a decision to stay or go, but it definitely doesn’t make it clear that she’s doing one or the other. It’s pretty vague and annoying, actually. Now, this is the first in a trilogy (the second book – Wildfire – is out, but I don’t believe the third is yet) so I understand leaving the readers hanging. But still. The book wraps up with Firethorn worrying over her options, pondering Galan and her binding of him to her, and then it sort of trails off. After reading the synopsis of Wildfire, not sure if I really want to read it. I wanted to before, because I wanted to know if Firethorn was going to war of if she was going to the castle. But the synopsis I read of the second book told me right out that *SPOILER* she follows him to war. Well, alrighty, that’s all I wanted to know.

Now, I don’t really want to read a book about some bedservant and her man in the middle of some war. Something tells me that this author’s writing of the war would just be unbearable. I don’t even really enjoy war stories when the author’s writing is exciting and interesting. I would much rather have read a story about Firethorn, with her greenwoman skills, charms and various minor supernatural gifts from the gods … I’d like to read about her going to this castle, in a land she’s never been, a slightly higher station than before – not quite a kept concubine, but not a “sheath” (for his “sword,” get it … clever), and she’d be all alone. (Possibly with a small staff there at the castle? Would she be now sort of in charge? That would be an interesting situation for her character. A lowborn commoner now faced with ruling over those not much lower than her in station. Interesting dynamics there.) And living nearby would be Galan’s wife (yes, of course he has one) and I’d love to read some interaction between those two. I want to see Firethorn in that world, getting to know herself without Galan, learning about her skills and gifts, growing into a stronger woman. Then Galan can return from war a little humbled and a little wiser from his experiences, and they would both be better people, whole people, and they could have a real romance.

Yes, that’s a story I’d like to read. I know I’m taking my modern ideas of strong women and my love for slightly unrealistic romance/true love/passion and putting it into a medieval setting, where it probably wouldn’t have occurred in real life, but who cares. fan·ta·sy

But unfortunately, the story I want isn’t the story that’s continued in the series. And so, I probably won’t continue reading the series. If I wanted to read a similar tale only much much better – I’d read the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey.
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