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Sex on Earth: A Celebration of Animal Reproduction
Jules Howard

The Firebird

The Firebird - Susanna Kearsley 4.5 stars

First of all I really loved this book despite anything I might say after this. (Ha.) I was swept away to Scotland, France and Russia with little Anna and subsequently grown Anna as we see her life unfold. Anna's story was compelling and greatly engrossing and I kept wanting more. Kearsley wove together a tale which includes aspects of the Winter Sea and The Shadowy Horses, but mostly Winter Sea (neither of which you need to read before this one). And much like Winter Sea, this one brought tears to my eyes a number of times as well (something that does not occur easily).

But after all this how could there be a problem? The problem is that all of my near-tear experiences and the driving force for my urge to read the book all was due to the historical-fiction component of the book, not the present-day telling. See in the present day we have Nicola and Rob who have paranormal abilities of seeing into the past. Nicola and Rob also have a past relationship so we are clearly involved in a potential double romance, one in the present and one in the future. I could really have done entirely without the Nicola and Rob storyline, despite their characters being likeable. To me they served as more of a distraction and annoyance than an addition. While the book is still strong, I felt as though it could have been much stronger if it had been a straightforward historical fiction novel. The paranormal aspects when we are brought back to the present compelled a bit of an eye-roll from me at times.

Also, Nicola and Rob were able to see into the past, sometimes by touching an object as in Nicola's case. However, why are they also able to read the person's thoughts, know their feelings and everything else going on around them during these sessions? How believable is that? Yes, I can suspend belief and allow that they see all of these events unfolding from centuries before. But also being inside Anna's mind to read her thoughts? Really? But thankfully the HF aspect with Anna was so strong I did not care terribly much about the present day absurdity it required.

In addition, in the end Kearsley used a device that she has in other novels--to have the past parallel the present. I just cannot get on board with this, it doesn't add to the story for me, it detracts from it. It makes either the historical of present telling a bit of a joke in my opinion.

Despite these complaints my immediate response upon finishing the novel was already missing Anna and her story. Had I rated the book right then it would have been five stars absolutely. But I cannot overlook these issues, especially after having read other Kearsley novels with similar problems.

Overall I do highly recommend it!