Allison & Busby
Copy borrowed from Marg
Nicola Marter was born with the unique ability to glean information from items she touches. She sees images, hears conversations and gets glimpses into both the past of the object and those who have owned it before. This is something Nicola doesn’t like to publicise and she keeps it hidden – very few people in the world know of her gift. Nicola fears the skepticism and judgement of non-believers, should she ever make her abilities known even though during her work at a London gallery, it often comes in handy especially from telling a forgery from the genuine article.
When Nicola touches a small wooden statue that its owner believes once belonged to Russia’s Empress Catherine, Nicola senses that this is most likely true. But she has no proof and she cannot use the fact that can see into this object’s past as proof of its authenticity. Knowing something about the statue’s current owner as well, Nicola feels compelled to help her. She is going to Russia anyway, to purchase a painting on behalf of a client of the gallery and Nicola sees no harm in using that trip to attempt to find out more about the small wooden carving known as ‘The Firebird’. She is also forced to turn to someone for help, someone far more powerful than her.
Rob McMorran has always been extremely psychically gifted. Whereas Nicola has often spurned her gifts, or kept them hidden, Rob has made no such attempts throughout his life. Those in the small town in Scotland where he lives have always known that Robbie had the gift of the sight – and often the ability to communicate with those long departed. If anyone can find out more about The Firebird and help Nicola hone her gifts into getting the information that she seeks, it’s Rob. Nicola loved him once and loves him still but they have always been in two different minds about their gifts and it drove Nicola from him once before.
From London to Scotland to Belgium and Russia, Nicola follows the story of Anna, searching for the way in which she came to possess The Firebird. Her story is a special one connected to the Jacobites of the 1700’s, continuing a story that readers have been clamouring for.
I’m an unabashed fan of Susanna Kearsley. Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader is a shameless “pusher” of this author on people and she got me started some time ago with The Winter Sea. I quickly followed that with The Shadowy Horses, Mariana and The Rose Garden, most of which left me in very good stead to read this book, which contains some very beloved characters from previous ones. My copy is on pre-order and I think it must be the American one because it’s something like 140 days until it ships. However Marg was lucky enough to score herself an early copy, which I
stole borrowed from her.
Perhaps as the first one I read, The Winter Sea has always been my favourite, followed by The Shadowy Horses and characters from both of those novels reappear here. Rob McMorran most readers will remember as the young boy Robbie in TSH, gifted with extremely potent psychic abilities. And through Nicola’s tracing of Anna’s story we get reacquainted with Captain Gordon from The Winter Sea. I love a good sequel and that’s part of the reason I fell in love so completely with this one. The other reason is Rob McMorran.
As a confirmed skeptic of the “woo-woo”, the strength of this story relying on psychic abilities had the potential to really make it hard for me to connect with it. I think Nicola’s blatant shunning of her ability is what made me like her – she’s different and she doesn’t want to be. She knows she has this ability to see and learn things by touching but she doesn’t dare tell her boss or their rich art-seeing clients because they’d think her quite mad. She’s a bit embarrassed by it. In contrast, Rob McMorran owns his proudly. Everyone knows of his abilities and he’s not frightened to tell those that don’t. Rob and Nicola were something to each other once but she fled him and his open life. When she wants to track the history of The Firebird, he is the natural choice to help her. He has gifts that she believe far surpass her own, but as Rob points out to her, Nicola really has no idea of the extent of her gifts because she rarely, if ever, uses them and doesn’t test her abilities.
All of my skepticism faded into the background as I sank into this story. Robbie was a charming boy in The Shadowy Horses but he’s a grown man now – and decidedly delicious. The psychic connection was actually quite sexy and his never-ending patience with Nicola, both about her abilities and her indecision in general was typical Kearsley. Her heroes are all gentle, understanding “nice guy” types who definitely do not finish last and I think Rob might be my favourite of them all!
It can be a difficult thing to blend the historical and the contemporary – it can be all to easy to lose yourself in one time only to be jarred out of it as the perspective changes. With these books, I am always lost in both worlds, devouring each page eagerly, because I’m desperate to know what happens in one timeline so I can get back to the other and find out there too, every scene leaves me wanting more but doesn’t leave me feeling cheated or reluctant to leave each timeline.
I don’t re-read very often anymore (too many books, too little time!) but during this I actually went back and re-read The Shadowy Horses in its entirety and had I had The Winter Sea handy I would have read that too! This one is also ripe for a re-read but Marg has reclaimed her copy and now I must wait for my own to arrive.
Book #10 of 2013
The Firebird releases in Britain 28th January (but is currently already shipping from The Book Depository) and in the USA on 4th June.