Cry of the Firebird is the first novel in the Firebird Faerie Tales series by Amy Kuivalainen.
Finished on: 5.8.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]
Content Note: fatmisia, racial slur (g*psy)
Anya grew up right on the Russian-Finnish border with her grandfather. But he just passed away, and Anya is still reeling from the loss, and doesn’t really know where to go from here. An option she didn’t expect was that Tuoni, Finnish God of the dead would show up in person to leave her with hints about a magical world that her grandfather was somehow part of. And that Anya needs to become part of, too, and quickly before dark forces crosses through the border from Skazki – the border her grandfather maintained. The border she should be maintaining now. Fortunately Tuoni leaves her with a gift from her grandfather, and Anya soon finds not only danger, but also allies.
I really liked the setting of Cry of the Firebird, which was a bit like I thought the Grishaverse would be before I read it. The story didn’t work that well for me, though – but I do see potential that this series could grow.
I received an ARC of the novel, so there were still a couple of typos and a missing word here or there. That is just what an ARC is like. I mention it here, because I hope that they will edit a couple of things until the book’s official release in October – things that would be pretty easy to fix. For one, the slur g*psy is used once in reference to a group of people who are obviously based on Roma stereotypes, but in a mostly respectful, albeit slightly othering way – apart from this one instance. Lose the slur and you lose about half the problem with that portrayal. And the second thing that would be very easy to fix is a scene where a character who drinks the blood of the dead is thinking about their next meal and discards a fat body because obviously a fat person would be unhealthy and give the blood-drinker a hankering for fast food. I hope I don’t have to go into how incredibly offensive that scene is – and it is completely unnecessary, too.
There is another thing that irritated me a little, and that is definitely more at the core of book and couldn’t be fixed with an easy edit: the romantic pairing, starting with the fact that there is, once again, a love triangle in the mix. But more problematic for me was the guy Anya does get it on with, specifically the fact that he is, basically, her guardian and has known her since she was a little baby. And I just don’t find the story where a 9-year-old Anya proudly proclaims that she will marry Trajan who is already very much an adult at the time very endearing when they actually start smooching 15 years later. I find this creepy as fuck to be honest.
Despite these issues, if it seems like I have nothing good to say about the book, that is definitely not the case. As I said, I really loved the setting, the great inclusion of Russian and Finnish mythology (and a bit more). Maybe it’s because Kuivalainen is Australian-Finnish, so has some cultural connection to the area, but it felt more than just a collection of figures from fairy tales of the area – there was cultural context there as well (the thing I missed most in the Grishaverse novels and that’s the last time I’ll mention them here).
I also appreciated that Kuivalainen seems to have a clear plan of where things are supposed to go and when, so we get a good arc for this first book in an announced series, but also enough set-ups for the sequel(s). And she has a really good handle on (introducing) her characters, taking her time so you don’t meet them all at once, and making them distinctive enough you don’t have to keep asking yourself “who was that again?” – a real issue sometimes, especially when you’re supergood with names like me.
So, it’s definitely not a bad book, even if I had some problems with it. It’s a good enough read, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for the sequel.
Summarizing: very nice.