What was this book about? The question is not rhetorical, I am not really sure I can answer it adequately. The easy answer is it is about Fairies caught up in a sixteenth century witch-hunt; at least for half the book. From there it is a slow burning buildup to possible rebellion. Which sounds like a disjointed approach but the two halves transition seamlessly and do read as one tale. But it’s not really historical fantasy, only a small portion takes place in ‘the real world.’ And it isn’t much of a Faerie tale; outside of longer lives the Sidhe live lives almost identical to the mortals many of them look down on.
The series is called Rebel Angels, and perhaps because of that I spent half my reading time drawing parallels between the land beyond the veil in which the Sidhe live to a bastardized garden of Eden. I have some nice notes about the parallels of exiled Sidhe and angels on earth; some ideas about how a religion could have grown from misunderstood fairies. Even had a nice heavenly revolt in the form of the protagonist’s building antagonism toward the Sidhe queen. At which point I actually Googled ‘Sidhe’ and realized they were just a localized version of the same Fae present in fantasy all over. So all my comparisons are probably in my head. Oh well.
Seth makes an interesting protagonist; a bit of hothead, not always the sharpest around, but fairly competent and with a realistic mix of compassion and selfishness. His brother went from a bit too perfect in the early going to someone who had a few flaws; the brotherly love between the two was very strong. Likewise the young lady introduced in the prologue, at the time about to be burned as a witch, starts a prop to be saved and turns into half of a very bittersweet romance. One of the better played romantic angles I have read recently; the different life spans between Seth and the mortal girl provides some very interesting implications. Rare book that I wish had focused more on its romantic elements.
The story itself was strait forward enough, fast moving and easy to follow. My issue is deciding if I actually enjoyed it or not. It was good enough to keep reading but never surprised me, never mesmerized me, never really made me care. I spent more time thinking about the implications of Sidhe=Angel thing, and occasionally trying to figure out minor rules of this fictional universe (wait, was that a witchhunt in the land behind the veil?), than I really spent dissecting the main plot. I got lost when it came to characters; a strange place to find myself considering how small the cast really was. For instance one character in fairyland held an intense dislike of Seth and I couldn’t find if or where we were told why.
Eh, not every book works for every reader. With an interesting protagonist and different path than the typical English faeries , Firebrand should(and has) appeal to many people. But a lackluster plot didn’t do a whole lot for me and I have little interest in following through with the next book in the series.