Cry of the Firebird is the first book of The Firebird Fairytales by Amy Kuivalainen, a series that promises a fresh twist on the world’s mythologies and folklore.
Anya has always been unusual – an outcast ostracized from the people of her village and raised by her isolated grandfather, Eikki. Burdened with strange visions, Anya’s favorite pastime is drowning her unwanted sight in a bottle of vodka. Her downward spiral into drink and apathy soon come to a jarring halt, however, when Tuoni, the incarnate aspect of death, pays her a visit shortly after Eikki’s murder. Her life is abruptly swept away by supernatural forces, and Anya finds herself cast into a world of magic, gods, fantastic creatures, and terrifying peril. Only with the aid of a mythological-bird-turned-prince will she escape certain death. But nothing will be able to save her from her past, for Anya soon discovers that her blood is linked to a magical gateway. It will take all of her courage – and a veritable army of mystical allies – to repel the Darkness that seeks to consume the world.
On a fairytale level, Cry of the Firebird displays a gleeful innocence, but this is far from a Disney rendition of the Grimm stories. It’s an adult novel, from the first word to the very last. Kuivalainen starts her narrative with the roots of Russian mythology, deftly blending in Grimm tales, classic Greek and Norse mythology, and a real world setting with satisfying results. From the first page, a perilous plot of powers, magic, and monsters is promised. Kuivalainen in no way reneges on that promise.
The cast of characters is satisfyingly broad and diverse. From spirits to gypsies to werewolves, Kuivalainen immerses her tale in the fantastic – a fact that will no doubt thrill fantasy enthusiasts. Romance readers are also likely in for a treat. Cry of the Firebird has enough love triangles and romance subplots to keep this genre’s fans entertained for days – though other readers may find the nearly exclusive emphasis on romance plots distracting. The ultimate purpose of the characters occasionally gets buried beneath the sheer number of romantic tangents. Despite this tendency, the story has a nice flow. Kuivalainen keeps her characters running from one danger into the next with well-timed pauses for explanation and world building.
It must be noted that, while most characters are sufficiently fleshed out, many seem to lack credible motivation for their actions. Their incentives are vague. Many seem to be helping only because a friend of a friend of another friend wants them to be there. The lack of personal stake in events was regrettably conspicuous.
The editing also left something to be desired; no book is complete without a professional copyedit. Luckily, Kuivalainen’s storytelling ability compensated for many of the technical issues, inevitably drawing attention back to where it belongs: the story.
Conclusion? Cry of the Firebird is a solid story marred to some extent by technical issues and inexperience. It contains a compelling cast of characters and a delightful grounding in the some of the world’s most ancient legends – all told by a natural storyteller with an obvious affinity for fantasy and romance. With additional time and experience, I’ve no doubt Amy Kuivalainen’s works will prove very potent indeed.
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