I wasn’t sure at first. Did I really want Gillian Philip to write a historical novel, about magic people? I sort of wanted more dead bishops and knife crime. But I looked forward to reading Firebrand, the first in her new series called Rebel Angels, which may be an indication that I expected good stuff regardless.
It’s about witches and warriors. You could call it a Scottish swashbuckler-cum-romance. It may be set in the 16th century, but in this world the women rule, they literally wear the trousers, and there is sexual freedom in almost any direction. Doubtful whether sex between full mortals and the Sithe is recommended. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
16-year-old Seth is the main character, but I feel that he’s chosen only to bring many of the others forward. Lovely though Seth is, I was more interested in the people he meets and the people he grew up with. Gillian has come up with some very bad individuals, and they do despicable things to each other. Counterbalancing that there is the free love and the strong friendships.
Seth’s life has been one long difficult journey, with far too many partings from family and close friends. With his older brother Conal he is banished to the world of the mortals, and what a dreadful lot they are. For one, they don’t live very long. They can’t read each other’s minds. They go to church. They have lots of children.
Firebrand is a fantastic tale of treachery and love, and it’s the kind of book you just want to sit down and read and read. Until the very end I wasn’t sure how the move from one century to the next would work, but now I can see. I think.
There is a lot of darkness, but there is humour too. Biting a horse that just bit you is funny. Possibly less funny for the horse.
Firebrand is published on Friday the 13th August, which is worth avoiding. (Actually, I couldn’t wait.) Gillian may write whatever she likes. I’m likely to like it. But I could do with a lesson in pronouncing all those Sithe names. And I don’t mean Seth.