The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Much like with Kearsley’s The Winter Sea, the focus of this book is the Jacobite history and the characters’ development in the middle of it. The history is actually explained without massive info dumps, with a clarity that helps the understudied reader along. The rest falls into Kearsley’s talent for writing fully-formed characters with great amounts of realism and charm, and it’s because you latch on to them so readily that you care what happens as history happens around them. Suffice to say, there is a lot of heart in this story, and that brings the history to life without hitting you over the head with it. It’s natural and easy. For me, that’s what historical fiction is all about, even when the gimmick to make it work requires some suspension of disbelief, as I’d wager it will on the part of most. Still, it’s a conceit that, if you just go with it, it’s written well enough to help you buy it.

I am once again impressed by Katherine Kellgren’s performance. Her willingness to distinguish all of the characters’ voices, accents, and attitudes is praiseworthy, and that she has the vocal dexterity to pull it all off so seamlessly is a large part of what helps the audiobook work. Never underestimate the subtle nuances a performance like hers can add to a story’s verisimilitude.

4 stars

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