I normally love Susanna Kearsley’s work, in much the same way as I love Mary Stewart’s, but The Firebird didn’t really work for me. I stalled out halfway through, and then eked my way through a couple of hundred pages before I found my way back into it again. Partly it might have been mood, but partly I think it was the structure: The Firebird follows Nicola, in the present, as she searches out the history of an item for a client, and a girl called Anna, in the past — the girl who once was given the item, a firebird, by the Empress Catherine.
I was interested in both the historical fiction and in Nicola figuring out her issues — including her psychic talent, which sits sort of awkwardly next to the grounded reality of the historical plot — but… well, that’s the problem, I think: for me, it sat oddly. The time wasn’t evenly divided between the two, with odd stops and starts of action and then long, long stretches spent with the past.
I don’t mind the past/present juxtaposition in principle, and there are books that pull it off. This one, though, just didn’t come together for me, and I didn’t remember enough about the other books this one is related to in order to be pleased by the cameos and references, either. A bit sad, honestly; I wanted to love it. I think there’s a lot there for other folks, particularly those interested in the Scottish and Russian parts, and there’s a solid romance as well, in both the historical story and the part set in more-or-less the present.