Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes sees images; glimpses into its past, and of those who have owned it before. Born with this rare ability, Nicola sees it as something to keep hidden. But when a young woman arrives at the London gallery Nicola works at, offering a wooden carving for sale and claiming it belonged to Russia's Empress Catherine, Nicola faces a dilemma.
With no proof of its past, Nicola's boss believes the carving - known as 'the Firebird' - is worthless. But Nicola has held it, and she knows that the woman, who is in desperate need of money, is telling the truth. Compelled to help, Nicola turns to a man she once left, and still loves: Rob McMorran, whose own psychic gifts are far greater than her own. With Rob to help delve into the past, Nicola travels from Scotland to Belgium, and on into Russia. There, in St Petersburg, the once-glittering capital, Nicola and Rob unearth a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption - a story which will change their lives for ever.
Ms Kearsley’s timeslip novels are always wonderfully researched and this one incorporates the contemporary art world with the Jacobites who fled to Russia in the early 1700’s and their connection with the Empress Catherine.
The story begins with the relationship between Nicola and Rob, abandoned by Nicola two years previously when she denied her psychic gift. Rob embraces and develops his, whereas Nicola is afraid of being seen as ‘a freak’, and pretends it doesn’t exist much less talk about it.
Their quest to discover the provenance of a carved bird, the Firebird of the title, takes the pair from Scotland, to Belgium and Russia, and picks up the thread of Ms Kearsley’s former novel, The Winter Sea, where a Jacobite child, Anna, is left with strangers to keep her safe. The two stories run alongside and become an intricate and symbolic journey for the two couples.
The relationship between Nicola and Rob is beautifully crafted, in that they occupy each other’s heads and speak without words. It was so beautiful I began to get impatient with Anna’s story which began as a means to an end, and then completely took over so that Rob and Nicola were consigned to supporting cast for Anna’s more dominating narrative.
I found myself skipping the slower parts of Anna and Edmund’s story because I wanted to get back to Nicola and Rob. This novel encompasses so many things, including a clever and intricate meld of three of Ms Kearsley’s former novels. Rob was a child in The Shadowy Horses, and the author revisits places and mentions former storylines from both novels.
This story is not a quick read and deserves the reader’s full attention, which means it also deserves a second reading to fully appreciate Anna’s story.
Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Press in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour