Rise of the Firebird (Amy Kuivalainen)

Rise of the Firebird is the third novel in the Firebird Faerie Tales series by Amy Kuivalainen.
Finished on: 28.1.2023
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: dubious consent/possible rape

After recent events, Anya and her companions are still reeling and try to get their bearings and strength back. But they don’t have much time as both the Illumination and the Darkness are rallying their forces, preparing for a battle to end all battles. When they find a hidden prophecy that tells them how they could vanquish both, Anya, Yvan, Aramis and some of their friends set off to cross into Skazki and other magical worlds to find a mythical sword.

Rise of the Firebird is a satisfying conclusion to the series (though it does set up things for a spin-off focusing on Mychal) that I enjoyed reading, despite a few issues.

The book cover showing a red and yellow firebird emblem on a red background.

Rise of the Firebird is not a short novel – as is so often the case, wrapping things up in a sprawling series takes some time (that the series was maybe finished in a hurry and/or under a lot of pressure might be gleaned from the fact that there really are a lot of typos/missing words. One can hope it’s because of it being an ARC). Kuivalainen does very well with keeping on top of her characters and the various narrative threads, giving everything at least a little consideration before the book ends. Given that there is so much to bring to an end, it is a little irritating that she chooses two introduce two more characters to the central group (after having split it up and reducing its number to a more manageable level). Both those characters don’t get enough attention. One is built towards a reveal that is pretty obvious. The other is portrayed as somewhat untrustworthy to everyone but Anya (for the most part) and this is never really addressed. In the end, she gives him a pretty important position and that’s that.

As was already the case in the previous books, most of the supporting female characters take a backseat here. Anya and the major villains are female, that is true, but Anya is surrounded by men, even more so in this book, and her female companions are just not as important as they are. [And yes, everybody is still almost aggressively heterosexual.] At least, there is no trace of a love triangle here. While there is a bit of sexual tension between Anya and a couple of guys, it is clear who she loves (and vice versa) and who she is destined to end up with.

The final battle was surprisingly short. That is not a complaint – I am no great fan of battle scenes, and it appears that Kuivalainen isn’t either. But some things just happened too fast there and would have deserved more time. Especially when important characters die. I could barely believe that they would stay dead, it happened so quickly. Also, Mychal took more and more of a role in this one (his relationship with Aleksandra screams problematic, btw – the way he ties his entire goodness to her has the markings of at least a co-dependent relationship and doesn’t strike me as quite as romantic as the book seems to think), and his ending is not an ending at all. I hope I am right that this points to a spin-off with him as the protagonist (there are a couple of other clues that would set it up, too), otherwise it sucks.

Alright, so these are my issues with the novel. You might be thinking, “didn’t she write in the beginning that she likes the book?” I did! And I do! I like Anya and I think she has gone through some excellent character development. That she drinks less in this one is also a good thing. I also liked her romance with Yvan that is sweet and long in the making. I loved that she gets to love other men, too. Her romance with Trajan, though finished, is not reduced for her love of Yvan. And that her somewhat mixed relationships with Aramis and Soren are more clearly defined here also works for me.

The characters were generally really nice and even if there were maybe a couple too many to give them all their due, I enjoyed getting to know them all. That the group split up seems strange at first, but might be simply because of numbers. And both parts of the plot – New Orleans as well as the magical worlds – were enjoyable to read about (small annoyance: they kept referring to the human/non-magical world as the “real world” which struck me as mightily strange for people who know that there are more than one worlds – and they are all real). Especially the latter introduced some extremely nice new aspects to an already extensive world, drawing a lot on Finnish mythology that I know nothing about and that found twice as intriguing for it.

Overall, I can really say that I enjoyed the series. I don’t know if I would have had the stamina to read a fourth book in the series, and I don’t know if I am the target audience for a potential Mychal spin-off (I like my men and protagonists less brooding), but I liked the journey the trilogy took me on.

Summarizing: good ending.

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