Wildfire: A Novel
by Sarah Micklem
Cover Artist: Mark Stutzman
Review by Mel Jacob
Scribner Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780743265249
Date: 07 July 2009 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Wildfire by Sarah Micklem continues the story of Firethorn begun in the first novel, Firethorn, of her trilogy. A dark and gritty fantasy, it features Firethorn as mistress of Sire Galen of the Clan Crux. Passionate, she clings to him with fierce abandon. Despite his order that she remain behind when he sails across the Inland Sea with the king to conquer Incus, she stows away with her friend Mai. On the voyage lightening strikes her. It marks her and takes away her speech and other faculties.
A story of growth and survival, the novel follows Firethorn as she undergoes trials that would destroy lesser beings. With every obstacle, she regains more of her abilities and acquires new ones. However, she does not survive without suffering and scars.
At first some readers may find the effects of the lightening strike slow reading. Those who persist will find an episodic novel that traces Firethorn's recovery and initial reunion with Galan. As she recovers, she fears he will not longer desire her. Once a healer and a seer, she loses these abilities and must relearn her skills and how to communicate. The physical changes in her and her garbled speech surprise Galan and he doesn't know how to deal with her. They reestablish their bonds, but he goes off to battle. As always, she follows because she fears he may be killed.
Her friend Mai suffers a difficult birth that neither the midwife nor Firethorn can ease although they manage to deliver the child, a son as Mai predicted. She rejects it when her young son Tobe dies of a plague just before the birth of his brother. The enemy attacks the camp followers and the army supplies. Firethorn tries to save a fleeing friend, but encounters a fierce Rift priest who tries to kill her and the other woman. When she survives, she takes Mai's newborn and runs, but is forced to leave him in a temple.
Her capture by Corvus, the defeated King of Incus takes her away from Galan and her friends. King Covus schemes to escape his enemies and eventually to return and regain his realm. He uses Firethorn's dreams to guide him although she tries to mislead him. The trek through snowy mountains in deep winter takes a heavy toll, and Firethorn must tell him the way to safety to ensure her own survival.
Micklem's lyrical language makes good use of Firethorn's visions and dreams. Often Firethorn at first fails to understand the full import of these. She seeks guidance from the gods and uses casts of the finger bones of dead teachers to guide her.
Some readers found both the grittiness and the endless coupling in Firethorn (the first novel) between Galan and Firethorn a turnoff. With her capture by King Corvus, less sex occurs in Wildfire. Micklem is working on the third volume of trilogy.