Recently, I pulled up The Firebird’s Trail by Louisa Dwyer on my Kindle Unlimited account and gave it a read. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, and when I did finish it, I finished it in a quick sprint where I had meant to only read one chapter. I read three and went to sleep much later than I expected. The ending really made the whole story for me.
I had a problem with beginning the book though. It’s not the fault of the novel, the author, or the subject matter. It was a problem of my recent few years approaches to fantasy. Like a lot of people, my recent reads in fantasy can be characterized with Game of Thrones. The idea that fantasy is an extreme amount of action and adventure, packed with meaty amounts of gratuitous violence. This is not that book, but that’s part of what made it a good read for me.
This novel reads more like Shakespeare, in fact the language reads very closely like Shakespeare. It’s not the life and death, murder and ominous witches of Macbeth. The Firebird’s Trail reads more like Much Ado About Nothing or Othello. There is romance, there is refinement to the language and the speech of the characters. The interactions are nuanced and elegant.
As far as the specifics of the book, the fantasy world Dwyer generates as you read is intriguing. In her fantasy world, the people of the different lands can live a very long time, it seemed multiple centuries were the average with full adulthood not being realized until about the fifth or sixth decade of life. With such a long lifespan, less people have children, they specialize and put priority on extreme mastery of skills. It seems, most importantly, to the story, they have a very intricately detailed and complex social tradition around courtship and marriage.
This detailed ritual is made more complicated by the fact that close family members and extremely close friends can share a soul bond. What that means is that individuals sharing a soul bond can communicate complex feelings and emotions via a minor touch of each other. This can be between a brother and sister, as is demonstrated via the King of the Forest People and his sister the princess. It can also be between just two very close friends, as shown between the two primary characters, Ravar and Amalin. This soul link brings them together as what is called soul friends, and the soul friend is entrusted to be the first gatekeeper to being able to court a person.
I won’t go further into the social contracts erected in this elaborate tail, but it does make for a compelling environment and setting for this story. If you are looking for a high fantasy novel that is expounding without characters being killed every third page, I’d highly recommend The Firebird’s Trail. If you are looking for a fantasy novel with killing every third page, I’d still say give this a run and expand your horizons some, it can be a great palate cleanser while waiting on that next Game of Thrones or Dresden Files book.