You know that feeling when you’re really in the mood for a specific book but finding it seems nearly impossible because theres likely nothing published that will match what you’ve conjured up in your mind? Yeah—that’s me with all of my reads. Lately, however, I’ve been craving Slavic folklore retellings. I find those fairytales to be the most intriguing, and I love the dark atmosphere they usually bring. But seeing as Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente and Uprooted by Naomi Novik are two of my all-time favorite books, the rest I come across have a lot to compete with.
What initially drew me into Cry of the Firebird by Amy Kuivalainen was the synopsis. “Firebird” being in the title was one thing, but “…a noir paranormal series that brings to life the bloody fairy tales of the North” made me cross myself and thank whatever Gods have been guiding me along my search. Honestly, it couldn’t have sounded better to me.
The ebook for Cry of the Firebird is FREE on iBooks right now, and if that wasn’t another sign for me to start reading immediately than I don’t know what else to tell you. Naturally, I stayed up until 4am for two nights before finishing the massive book (to be fair, its not super long but the online version was roughly 1,450 pages) and here’s what I’ve come to think of it.
It didn’t let me down, but it also didn’t exactly live up to my expectations. The writing is a little choppy at times, and there were a few phrases being overused when there wasn’t any need for them to be. I’d say that the first 30% of this book had me on the edge of my seat, but it kind of dwindled after a while and I felt as though I was reading the same scenes over again for chapters. There is also an influx of characters that come into play one after the next, and while I love books that have tons of characters I felt as though these ones weren’t getting the development that they deserved. The author draws you in with their stories, you grow attached, and then she leaves you hanging as to what will become of them. After all, there are so many to keep track of.
What I did enjoy about this book was the setting, plot, and the quirkiness and individuality of each character. For as many cons as I’ve listed, it balances out all of the pros. I’m still unsure how I truly feel about this one, but I’m leaning more towards a positive vibe because for all of its flaws, the good parts are too good to look over.
The characters—all one-hundred of them—are wonderful. I frequently find that with side-characters there are many authors who will bundle them together in similar mindsets so that they only serve the purpose of the main characters. That’s definitely not the case here. I loved nearly everyone, and it was wonderful to read how such a diverse cast came together for the sole purpose of defeating a threat to their realm. That’s was something I wasn’t expecting to happen, and it couldn’t have come as a nicer surprise.
World-building is definitely Kuivalainen’s strong suit.
We are brought across the Russian wilderness to a dark forest in an otherworldly spirit realm, back to Russia, all the way to France, and then eventually to Budapest. Each character is from a different country, a different era, and no two people (seemingly) share the same ‘species’ so to say. Bare in mind, everyone has a supernatural ability of sorts…or an unnatural talent with knives and guns and riding motorcycles.
I wasn’t expecting this to be a series so when I read the final page, a cliffhanger no less, I was ready to scream until I saw the prologue for the next installment. I’m definitely going to read all of the novels in this series because I need to know what happens next.
Perhaps this one isn’t great for getting out of a book-slump because of its length and swapping point-of-views, but it’s great if you’re looking for something new. Fans of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo will likely enjoy this one.