Wildfire Reviews and Comments
"The harsh realities of ancient war and a woman's struggle to break free of male dominance blend brilliantly in this dream-drenched sequel to Micklem's 2004 debut, Firethorn. Exquisite prose (“I had no edges between inside and out”) enhances this glowing tapestry narrated by Firethorn... Believing she has been branded by the god Ardor Wildfire, she suffers a painful recovery that leaves her with a lopsided face, strange garbled speech and the ability to see shades... her further travails lead her to truly understand the gift of “inward fire.” Micklem has penned a rich and memorable tribute to endurance and self-enlightenment."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review (scroll down to fantasy section)
"Intricate world-building rooted in vivid, visceral details and the harrowing journey, both physical and psychological, of the divinely afflicted, lightning-struck heroine of Wildfire make for a compelling read."
--Jacqueline Carey, author of Kushiel's Mercy
"Micklem takes you on a fantastical ride filled with imagery, magic, and mayhem... and will enthrall readers from beginning to end."
--Sherrilyn Kenyon, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"In Firethorn and Wildfire, Sarah Micklem treats the reader to rich, evocative language, and her art background shines through in her vivid creation of the setting. This is adventure fiction told in ancient tapestry."
--Emma Bull, author of Territory and War for the Oaks
"Firethorn has a knack for confronting life's difficulties head-on... In Wildfire, the reader shares Firethorn's experiences as she passes through degrees of darkness that aren't for the faint of heart."
--Locus, reviewed by Faren Miller
"Wildfire packs a lot in its 520 pages as well as being a page turner with some big twists and turns, so on the first read I could not put it down eager to find out what happens, while on the immediate second read I enjoyed its details and texture at leisure... And the ending is just superb, one more big twist followed by a natural stopping point from where the series can go many places... I could not leave its universe for several days."
--FantasyBookCritic.blogspot.com, reviewed by Liviu Suciu
"If Firethorn was the story of Firethorn and Sire Galan, Wildfire is Firethorn's story alone. Throughout the novel, her quest is to discover what the gods want with her, and what sort of person she should strive to become. We follow her as she tries to help others, bargains with gods, and sometimes loses her way."
"This tough, capable, intriguingly flawed heroine and her huge, dense, absorbing saga show no signs of running out of steam."
Firethorn Reviews and Comments
"Micklem plunges us into a fully realized world, full of grit and beauty, hungers of every kind, and gods who are either remote or meddlesome. She takes the time to let relationships develop and events unfold, giving us the sense of having lived and loved our way through Firethorn's world. My only complaint is that the second book isn't out yet."
--Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game
"Micklem's majestic and powerful debut, the first volume of a fantasy trilogy, introduces a compelling heroine with a strong, original voice. A sweeping adventure saga as mystical as it is raw, the novel is also a biting commentary on violence and its effect on relationships defined by a caste system. Enriched but not defined by the influences of many cultures (Celtic, Norse, Egyptian, etc.) and authors as diverse as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. LeGuin, Mary Renault, Jean Auel, Margaret Atwood and, yes, even Tolkien, this hypnotic tale of passion and survival will resonate with sophisticated readers of both sexes."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review (See the whole review on Amazon.)
"Micklem instantly establishes a strong, confident, sensitive voice for her protagonist. As Firethorn navigates the fault lines of her world, the reader is simultaneously educated in the intricate ways of this fully imagined society. Micklem's prose is stately yet sprightly, rife with gorgeous descriptions of landscapes and palpable emotions. And her feminist and political subtexts are mature and resonant, never egregious."
--Washington Post, reviewed by Paul Di Filippo
"Gritty, sinewy, exceptionally well researched, and highly impressive."
--Kirkus (See review on BarnesandNoble.com.)
"Straightforward, no-quarter-given style of storytelling... a novel that grips the reader from the very first page and holds on until the final words are read."
--CurledUp.com, five star review by Shannon Frost
"An underlying theme is honor, and the differences between true honor and the way honor is often measured in a violent, sexist society. In the Marchfield, men's honor is a matter of duels and vendettas, women's honor is too tied to chastity, and "mudmen" (commoners) are believed to have no honor at all. Firethorn is struggling to do the right thing in a situation where doing the right thing often leads to punishment rather than recognition.... Micklem casts a critical eye on ideas that go unquestioned in some fantasies."
"Micklem has brought to life a realistic, medieval world of love and war. Highly recommended."
--Library Journal, Deborah Shippy (See review on BarnesandNoble.com.)
"This is a great piece of gritty, feminist fiction, distinguished by a heroine whose vulnerabilities and fresh voice as narrator make her easy to love."
Paula Luedtke (See review on Amazon.)
"Firethorn is the beginning of what the publisher calls 'an epic trilogy' set in a world of chivalry and gods, chronicling the adventures of a young woman who runs off to war to be with the man she loves. Ho hum? Emphatically not!
...Neither grand wizardly magic nor portents of Destiny put in an appearance... Firethorn dabbles in what seems like a trivial bit of women's magic, a spell that may not even work, while Galan fools around in other ways--including a very unwise bet. The consequence of the lovers' mistakes plunge down through the realm of Shakespearian tragedy into something more primal and Greek, a raw darkness seldom found in such a tale as this one seemed to be at the outset...
'Expect the unexpected' may sound like a stale cliche, but applied to the future volumes of this trilogy, and the further career of Sarah Micklem, it becomes both a lure and a promise."
--Locus, June 2004, reviewed by Faren Miller (The review is not available online.)
"It's the sexiest fantasy book I've ever read."
--Dame Kate Harcourt, actress, as reported in the The Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand)
“Firethorn is the story of its narrator's struggle to negotiate her rigidly stratified world without relinquishing her identity or her dignity... a powerful meditation on the evils bred in a society so firmly defined by distinctions of class and gender — a society like most of those in human history, and indeed unfortunately still resonant with the one we live in today. But it could not have achieved such power without the foundation laid by Micklem's mastery of style: the voice of her narrator, the thousand minute details of her world, the richly conceived mythology of the clans, the discipline of her prose, which all together produce an entirely credible, fully engrossing otherworld... Firethorn proves that fantasy, done right, can address the most vital issues as effectively as any other form of literature. Even better, perhaps, for as Le Guin tells us, ‘when fantasy is the real thing, nothing, after all, is realer.’”
--Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2006, reviewed by Robert K. J. Killheffer
"Engrossing, suspenseful and uncompromising, this is a novel that sets a great story into motion, leaving readers eager for the next chapter. Firethorn is often harsh reading, portraying as it does the so-called age of chivalry in a realistically patriarchal light. Its story is so complex and compelling, though, that it will seduce even reluctant readers."
--Scifi.com, A.M. Dellamonica
"Micklem... throws the reader overboard into a fully-formed ocean of symbols and culture, and it's sink or swim... If you dare to swim, you'll find that Micklem has made her ocean incredibly bouyant, and you'll find yourself maneuvering with an almost magical ease through all of the Kingswood. That this is Micklem's first novel is nothing short of miraculous.
Teeming with imagery, and honestly told, Firethorn is an open and frank approach to fantasy storytelling. Compelling throughout. Firethorn will be the one people are still talking about at the next Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions."
--The Trades, Howard Price
"Sarah Micklem’s first novel Firethorn might be categorised as “low fantasy” both because it is told from the viewpoint of a low-born woman (not a warrior or nobility) and because the fantastical elements are so restrained that they might pass as real life.... Sire Galan and Firethorn are in love, but Micklem does not gloss over the inequalities of their relationship or the harshness of their life. She is every bit as good at depicting the violent excitement and confusion of battle as she is at making us feel the conflict in Firethorn’s heart.... This is powerful stuff, with a level of physical and emotional realism that is too often missing in fantasy."
--The Times Online (UK), April 2006, reviewed by Lisa Tuttle
"Sarah Micklem proves to be a gifted first-time novelist, filling her pages with strong writing. She has crafted a tale of genuine human emotions--passion, jealousy, longing and love--and yet her depiction of Firethorn's bleak world may be too vivid: one feels claustrophobic within the book’s oppressive atmosphere. Once they reach the final chapter, however, readers will be eager to plunge into the second volume of the trilogy, bound to the story of Galan and Firethorn."
--review by Jeff Edwards in The Harrow and SFReader.com
"In terms of realism, Firethorn is brutally so with respect to the physical and sexual abuse of women... However... the use of rape, free of its psychological or physiological consequences, as a plot device to draw sympathy to or to steel a female character seems reprehensible to me."
--SFSite.com, Georges T. Dodds
(Mr. Dodds invited me to respond, and my note addressing the portrayal of sexual assault is included as a link within the review.)
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