Book Review: Firebrand by Sarah MacTavish

24764918Title : Firebrand

Author : Sarah MacTavish

Publisher : Dove Hollow Books

Release date : March 22nd, 2016

Rating : 4.8/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

In the summer of 1860, when slavery ruled the heart of America, two young abolitionists discover how dangerous it can be to believe in freedom for all.

Saoirse Callahan’s family is broken. Hunger forced them out of Ireland and they still struggle to survive in their new home, where scorching Texas droughts threaten their small farm. Then, on one blazing Sunday afternoon, a series of mysterious fires devastates the region. Whispered rumors of a slave rebellion soon flame into a statewide panic. Vigilantes scour the countryside for arsonists, targeting foreigners and slaves in a bloodthirsty witch-hunt. Saoirse is determined to find out how the fires really started, but the more questions she asks, the more she puts her family and friends in danger. And the truth may be more than she can handle.

Meanwhile, safe in Pennsylvania, Westleigh Kavanagh can call himself an abolitionist with little fear. But when he realizes his father’s new boarder is actually a runaway slave, he must keep the wanted man’s identity a secret. Because Westleigh’s father is the sheriff, and bound by law to help capture fugitives, whether he believes in slavery or not. Westleigh wants to protect his father from the truth, but the longer he lies, the greater chance they will all be caught. Then Westleigh makes his own discovery—an old forbidden journal that holds secrets of his father’s past. Secrets that lead to the Callahans. Secrets that, if unraveled, could destroy both families.

Review :

Historical fiction strikes me yet again to the heart, and I can thank Sarah MacTavish for several emotional hours of reading.

Like many people, I have taken history classes in high school; I might not have paid much attention, but I always got the general idea of a historical concept, you know? When I hear the word “abolitionist”, I think of heroes, of revolutionaries, of courage and of change. But I forgot that with those, there come villains, resistance, danger and a cause to change. And that’s what I realized in Firebrand. When your whole country opposes your way of thinking, the world becomes dangerous.

What I liked most about this novel was the dialogue. It was raw and sharp, and I appreciated the normality of the discussions. What do I mean by normality? You know when you’re reading a historical fiction, and the author goes out of her/his way to embellish sentences and to find elegant and old-fashioned words in order to make the readers practically feel out of place? Yeah, that’s not what you’ll find in this book. The characters talk in a way that you don’t feel like it’s 1860, you don’t feel uprooted by the sheer old-fashionedness of their dialogue. It just comes across as natural, not forced.

Firebrand is written in two POVs: one from the South, one from the North. Their perspectives on the world and slavery are very different, and this gives depth to the book. Readers encounter two separate lifestyles. Along with those two characters, the rest of the cast is amazing as well. They are all well developed, all with their own experiences, fears and desires. Action-packed scenes help to highlight how all of them are each an individual who is complete, in their own way. They bring so much life and emotions to the pages, that it felt so entirely right that I read it.

Firebrand is beautifully written, and Sarah MacTavish really did a marvelous job for a debut novel!

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