“The firebird drops a feather,’ was his summary, ‘and if you’re fool enough to pick it up and chase the bird itself, you’re in for trouble.’ ‘And adventure.’ ‘Aye.’ He nodded. ‘True enough. But what you bring back with you in the end,’ he said, ‘might not be what you started out in search of to begin with.”

– The Firebird, Susanna Kearsley

This was my first Susanna Kearsley. I always hear good things about this author, but never quite got round to reading. But this book was £1.99 and I admit, the beautiful cover drew me to it, and then the setting – Russia and Scotland – sealed the deal. This book slips between past and present effortlessly, telling the story of Anna in the past and in the present, of Nichola, who has a gift that allows her to see flashes of the past when she touches an object, a power she feels uncomfortable having and struggles to accept. Nichola touches a small wooden carving of a firebird, and sees her first glimpse of Anna, as she receives the statue from Russia’s Empress Catherine, and the rest of the book is spent following Nichola as she joins up with her ex lover Rob, a far more powerful psychic, and chases after the back story behind that one, fleeting vision.

Anna’s story was riveting and I laughed and I cried and bit my lip in nervous anticipation at every twist. What would happen to her? I always wanted to know. Where this book let me down was in its present storyline, with Nic and Rob. Rob was so powerful in his abilities, seemingly limitless in his capability to read people, and present and past. There was one scene, one point in the book that I had to stop reading as I was so overwhelmed by…an indescribable feelings, perhaps something akin to sadness, for him. Just how was he so collected? So functional? When he seemed to be constantly slipping into the past, or future. Did he even see the present? And when he saw his visions of the future, surely it would distract him? Did he sometimes slip into peoples mind accidentally, when tired or unaware and see things he did not wish to? And maybe he could control what he saw of the past, but how could he control what he saw of the future? I admit I stopped to ponder Rob, and his abilities and found myself lost. Also I could get behind Rob pushing Nic to accept her gift and embrace it in her personal life, but I was disgusted when he pushed Nic in a corner in order for her to admit to her abilities in her professional life. That could have gone so wrong, and it felt too convenient that it did not. And to go back to Rob and his powers it was revealed a couple of times he had seen before what would happen in the future, the events in the book, so what would have stopped him from knowing all of it, right from the start? I could not help but feel that it was all a bit manipulative of him, if he knew, and did not let Nic know the extent that he did. That’s the problem with giving a character too much power, without clearly setting their limits, you cannot help but doubt them. Though it shows how invested I was in this book that I pondered it so. The author writes exquisitely, and the book just comes alive in your mind, the places and people so vivid. Its a beautiful book really, and an engrossing read, but not without its flaws.

(Also: it really, really bugged me how the author insists on writing out the Scottish accent. It was distracting.)