Fire Bringer Reviews
Interestingly enough, both Flint and Kaelan submitted reviews of Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies on the same day. Rather than choose between them, I've included both reviews below.
Review by Kaelan
It is a dark time for the deer. A tyrannical new Lord of the Herd has ended the old way, the yearly play of antlers that ensure a change of leadership. At his command is a corps of young stags, antlers sharpened for the kill, whose mission is completely dominion over the animal world.
But a prophecy among the deer promises a hero -- a fawn with the mark of an oak leaf on his forehead. His unique bond with all creatures, including humans, will bring a new age of freedom.
Rannoch is born the night his father is murdered. His mother, Eloin, keeps him hidden from the deadly attention of the Lord of the Herd, but soon Rannoch is forced to flee, beginning a perilous, wonderous journey. Among the moutnins and haunted glens of the Great Land, the young stag encounters strange herds, makes unusual allies, and, at last, finds the knowledge and courage to face his extraordinary destiny.
In this grand epic of old Scotland, with its echoes of myth, history, and Scripture, David Clement-Davies has created a classic hero tale, full of thrilling action and told with the resonance of legend.
As a writer and an avid reader, I naturally tend to be very critical of books that I read. Yet I also take into account other factors that attribute to a book's greatness. Many "great" books have scored 0 on my list. However, Fire Bringer is an excellent tale that is woven together with history into a rapturing story that was difficult to put down. I stayed up many, many nights reading this book.
That brings me to my first real complaint about this book: it's really too long. There are almost 500 pages of single-spaced lines and nearly nonexistent margins. I am a very fast reader, and this book took me, combined, over a week of reading several hours a day. Yet, despite the length, this book was able to hold my attention and make me keep coming back for more: most of the time.
My second complaint about the book is that history is thrown into the storyline at inopportune times and without hardly any smoothing over. I could have thought up of hundreds of transitions that would have made the book easier reading. At least twice, I was tempted to put the book down and never pick it up again. I was busy with other things in my life, and the book loosened its grip on my attention. I plugged away at those sections and continued reading -- I'm happy I did. Save for the abrupt ending, of course.
All in all, this is a worthy book. Not nearly as great as Richard Adams' Watership Down, but still a good read. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
Review by Flint
Well, it's warmed over Watership Down for sure. Actually, I was a little disappointed in this one. The author never could seem to decide which way he wanted to go: at one moment its an allegory for historical battles and the unification of Scotland, and the next its a much more traditional sentient animal story.
I think the biggest problem here is that his primary characters just did not come across as likable or memorable to me. His villains are pretty good and several of the down-level characters made a much better impression on me, especially Bankfoot and the lost reindeer who shows up later in the book.
Basically, prophesied fawn is born, orphaned, exiled from the herd, undertakes a journey, gains enlightenment, returns and sacrifices understanding to restore the instinctive world of Herne's Law. Can you say James Campbell folks?
However, just because it is unoriginal doesn't mean its not interesting. I did find the antagonist's motivation of trying to free the deer from their instinct driven world to actually think to be an interesting twist on this story. At least he had a real motive besides his own greed. Sgorr (the bad guy), made me wish that more time was spent on how and what and why he changed the deers' behavior and not as much on the journey of the protagonist, Rannoch. It covers 6 or 7 years of time and that may be part of its problem as it's nowhere near as long as Watership Down was.
Anyways, as these sort of books go I'd give it a 3 or 3.5 out of 5. Not as good as Watership Down or the Wolves of Time, but better than the run of the mill sentient animal story and it has a lot of decent backstory for how the deer's world works. And if you are a deer aficionado then I'm sure you will like it.