At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world…but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired.
Discarded by his mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up half wild in his father’s fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.
But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch-hunt—in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen’s machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch-hunters’ fires…
Brimming with intrigue and rebellion, Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series by Gillian Philip, the Carnegie Medal–nominated author of Crossing the Line and multi-award-nominated Bad Faith.
Rebel Angels: Firebrand by Gillian Phillip isn’t urban fantasy, as it’s been labeled by some, but is more like a blending of fantasy and Celtic elements. It should be noted that this is the first volume in a series, and the next one won’t be released until this fall.
The central characters are two brothers, Seth and Conal, who are Sithe, and are involved in the politics of their world. However, when one of the brothers goes against the will of the Queen, he is banished to the human world. Seth follows his brother, and they discover that, not only do they have to try and find their way in this strange place, but also have to deal with the Sithe political dealings that have followed them.
Both of the brothers are ‘standard fantasy characters’ in that Conal is ‘the good guy,’ to what is an almost ridiculous degree. He’s the one that follows the rules, and it’s easy to see why that could get him into trouble when politics and other Sithe would rather ignore them. Seth, on the other hand, is more prone to reckless behavior, and more apt to jump and then make a joke when he lands wrong.
In some ways this book feels like setup for the rest of the series. It focuses on the ways that brothers deal with politics and the human world, and the story moves very slowly at times. There are medieval elements, such as the requisite paranoia about magic and witches, and the romance is kept to a minimum at this point.
The main lesson is that Sithe power struggles are extremely dangerous, and it’s better not to get in the middle of them. Unfortunately, the brothers don’t have any choice about it, and have to do their best to survive and help their loved ones.
For anyone who likes their fantasy with a large helping of politics and a more meandering plot, this will be a good read. Anybody who wants a fast paced tale is going to have to look elsewhere.