Firebird (Mercedes Lackey's Fairy Tale Series #1)

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Overview

In Firebird, Lackey draws inspiration from the classic Russian fairy tale to present a marvelous coming-of-age fantasy with a most unusual setting: medieval Russia before unification under the Tsars. Ilya is the son of the boyar, a Russian prince. In his father's rough-and-tumble household, Ilya is persecuted by his large, doltish older brothers, who delight in tormenting him and making him seem the fool. His only friends are three old people: a priest, a magician, and a woman who toils in the palace kitchens. ...
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Firebird (Mercedes Lackey's Fairy Tale Series #1)

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Overview

In Firebird, Lackey draws inspiration from the classic Russian fairy tale to present a marvelous coming-of-age fantasy with a most unusual setting: medieval Russia before unification under the Tsars. Ilya is the son of the boyar, a Russian prince. In his father's rough-and-tumble household, Ilya is persecuted by his large, doltish older brothers, who delight in tormenting him and making him seem the fool. His only friends are three old people: a priest, a magician, and a woman who toils in the palace kitchens. From them Ilya learns faith, a smattering of magic, and the power of love - all of which he will need desperately, for his life is about to be turned upside down. The boyar's magnificent cherry orchard is visited at midnight by the legendary Firebird - a gigantic, magnificent hawk whose wings seem to be made of flame. Ilya's father and brothers swear to capture the magical creature - but each fails. When Ilya disobeys his father and makes his own attempt to catch the Firebird, he is banished. The young man journeys through a fantastical Russia full of magical mazes, enchanted creatures, and untold dangers. Gifted with the ability to understand the speech of animals, Ilya saves the life of a fox, who becomes his most steadfast companion. As happens in the best fairy tales, Ilya falls in love with an enchanted princess. To free her, he must battle a cantankerous wizard and a powerful dragon. Magic swirls throughout this battle as Ilya uses his wits, his warrior's and magical skills, and some very unusual allies to save the day and win true love.
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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Marsha Valance
In Firebird, Lackey has written a classic quest/coming-of-age fantasy set in medieval Russia, deep in the untracked forests far from civilization. Ilya, fifth of Boyar Ivan's eight legitimate sons, is a thinker, unlike his brothers, who despise him for not spending all his time fighting and hunting. Instead, Ilya learns from three wise oldsters: Mother Galina, the herbwoman who runs the palace dairy; Father Mikhail, the boyar's despised chaplain, brought to the estate by Ilya's dead mother; and Vasily, the shaman who advised Boyar Ivan's father. With their help, and the help of the bannik (a brownie-like hearth spirit who lives in the sauna) and his ancestral ghosts, Ilya escapes the plots of his murderous brothers and sets out in search of the magical Firebird who has been stealing fruit from his father's orchard. Because he touched her feather, Ilya can understand animal speech. The palace dogs and his beloved horse aid in his departure, and when the horse is gored by a wild boar, Ilya weaves a protective magic bracelet from his tail. Lacky has drawn on folklore for many of her motifs, and well-read readers will recognize the dead horse's protection, the companion fox Ivan recruits on the road, and finally, the wicked magician's palace where Ilya discovers the imprisoned princesses. Lackey's strength, however, lies in her details and in her well-constructed plot: Ilya survives the dangers of the magician's palace, as he did his father's, by feigning idiocy. He defeats the magician not only with logic, but also with the help of the fox and the Firebird. And having experienced true love and friendship, he is able to escape marriage to one of the princesses and depart the wizard's palace with the Firebird. Lackey brings medieval Russia alive for us: the vast, dark, menacing forests; the many spirits (benevolent banniks and cruel leshys); the boyar's palace (the dairy where cheesemaking and milking keep the maids' hands soft; the gloomy crypt beneath the chapel, where ancestral ghosts keep Ilya company as he recovers from his brothers' beatings; the sauna, kept clean and welcoming for the attentive bannik); and the palace of the wicked magician, where Ilya toils as a gardener's drudge. The internal magic we encounter is consistent and cohesive; the characters are well drawn and engaging (such as Sergei the rabbit-monster, and aspiring artist); and the reader is involved with Ilya throughout his hero-journey. This fantasy is a must-buy for any collection where YAs enjoy good fantasy. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Midwest Book Review
A brilliant and dedicated author.
Locus
With any book Lackey works on, the principal joy is story: she sweeps you along and never lets you go.
Fantasy Review
Absorbing...enjoyable, warm, and delightful.
From the Publisher
Praise for Firebird

"A charming fairy tale."—Locus

"Vivid and colorful. A well-told tale."—Booklist

"Will delight Lackey's fans. Fast-paced."—Library Journal

"A must buy."—VOYA

"Filled with earthy wit and magic."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812550740
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Series: Mercedes Lackey's Fairy Tale Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.74 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Mercedes Lackey is the author of the bestselling Valdemar series, the Obsidian Trilogy (The Outstretched Shadow, To Light a Candle, and When Darkness Falls), the Enduring Flame trilogy (The Phoenix Unchained, The Phoenix Endangered, and The Phoenix Transformed), and the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms.  She has written many other books, including Trio of Sorcery, Phoenyx and Ashes, Sacred Ground, The Fairy Godmother, and Alta. Lackey is the co-author, with Andre Norton, of the Halfblood Chronicles, including Elvenborn. Mercedes Lackey was born in Chicago and graduated from Purdue University. She has worked as an artist’s model, a computer programmer, and for American Airlines, and has written lyrics and recorded more than fifty songs. She lives in Oklahoma.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2002

    Decent Effort, But Lackey Can Do Better

    The Firebird is a book based on the classic Russian fairy tale of the same name. Ivan is a self-styled tsar who has many strong, trained, warrior sons, but none of them are very bright. Except for Ilya, the middle son. He is much smarter than his brothers so they naturally assume that he is a sorcerer and use every opportunity provided to beat him to a pulp and just generally make his life miserable. When someone steals Ivan's prize cherries, he sends his sons one by one into the orchard to discover who the thief is. Ilya knows who the thief is because he spied on the orchard and saw her. It was the Firebird. As a reward for not telling Ivan who was stealing his cherries, she gives him the gift of speaking to animals. As his older brothers fail to discover the thief, they become convinced that Ilya is the thief and give him the worst beating of his life. Ilya now fears for his life and can think of no other plan to save himself than to pretend that the beating addled his wits and turned him into a fool. However, not even his pretense protects him as his brothers continue to play cruel jokes - such as tying him to his horse and setting the dogs on him during a hunt. Using his newly acquired skill to communicate with his horse and the dogs chasing him, he is able to get away. However, when his horse is killed, he is lost out in the forest in the middle of winter with no supplies. A kindly ex-employee of his grandfather takes him in for a time and then Ilya becomes restless and follows the feeling of magic back into the woods. There he comes upon a giant maze which leads to an evil sorcerer's castle. After catching one glimpse of the 12 beautiful maidens that the sorcerer keeps captive, he falls in love with the lovely Tatiana. He decides to do whatever it takes to free her and to kill the evil sorcerer. But, with evil demons, a dragon, and other impossible tasks, can Ilya accomplish what so many other heroes could not? I gave this book 3 stars because there was such slow story development that I almost set it aside. I usually finish books in a day or 2 and this one took me a week and a half to plow through. The characters were likeable enough and the story was fine, but Mercedes Lackey spent well over half of the book just setting up the story. The first part of the book just dragged by as the author described Ilyas terrible life and the horrible things that his family did to him. She weakly explained that Ilya didn't dare leave because he couldn't survive out in the forest alone long enough to get anywhere else where he could survive. But, if Ilya's home life was actually as bad as it was potrayed, Ilya definitely had enough backbone to leave - long before the whole cherry tree incident. By the time Ilya actually does leave his father's land, there isn't a whole lot of time left for the real action in the book. The reader is going along at a nice slow pace and then suddenly is raced through to the ending where everything changes and nothing ends quite the way it was set up to. The ending was quite abrupt and left the reader hanging, too. If this book was a duology or a trilogy, then it would be understandable that Lackey spent so long setting up the story line and left the reader hanging at the end, but, as far as I am aware, it is a standalone novel. Perhaps Mercedes Lackey was planning on writing another novel to follow this one and it never happened?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2012

    Wonderful!

    I've loved this book for years, and was very happy to find it in a Nook book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Enchanting.

    I lived in Russia for a while. Needless to say, I adore the old Russian fairytales. Firebird touches on several of these and is done so with a literary magic that is really quite awesome. I will say that the back blurb above is a bit misleading; the things happen, but not quite how the back blurb leads you to believe. The language of Firebird is a little archaic, not so much that it's hard to read, but it is told in a more formal style that lends its self to the type of story being told. Casual readers would probably be put off by that.

    The Setting - is as far as I can tell probably some part of old southern Rus, now Russia. It is during that time when people embraced both their traditional faiths and the Orthodox Christianity that was taking root. It is a feudal society where the tsar owns almost everyone. Lackey has a way of communicating the setting for a place that makes it feel magical. The opening paragraphs describe a beautiful day to such a point that it feels real.

    The Characters - didn't feel quite as alive to me. That said, they stick very near what I know to be traditional Russian style. The main character, Ilya, is not an innocent prince, pure of heart and intention. He's a young man who is much better than his brothers, but still just a man. I liked the characters, my favorites were not the main characters by far, but I still appreciated them. I didn't really sympathize with them.

    The Plot - was the crown jewel of the story. Russian fairytales to me have always been fascinating. I love them. I also love how Lackey pays as much attention to the in between sections of time as she does to the action times. A lot happens within the pages of Firebird. It's a magical story that made me smile. I might not hand it to younger readers, but older ones will like the tale.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2006

    Wonderful!

    I recommend the book, Firebird, to any one who likes fantasy and adult fairy tales. This breathtaking fantasy is adapted from a classic Russian tale. Ilya is a young man who is frequently ganged up on by his seven brothers. Because Ilya surpasses them in intelligence and liveliness, they are jealous of him, and beat him. Ilya¡¦s father, Ivan, is a tsar who distrusts everyone, even his sons, and is greedy. One day, while trying to discover the thief of Ivan¡¦s precious cherries, Ilya sees the firebird, a half bird half maiden. But because he saw her without her permission, he is plagues with bad luck, and encounters boars, is forced to pretend to be a simple-minded fool, getting lost in a forest, and more. Ilya has to prove his intelligence and worth to save the 12 most beautiful women in the world, with help from animals and the firebird herself. The surprise ending gave me a pleasant shock, and this book is truly a traditional story turned into a dazzling and astonishing legend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    Yay!

    I grew up in a family of Russian descent, & i always loved this story. I heartily approve of her changing the end of the tale, though. Remember, this is a Russian tale! They looove depressing endings. The author gives the ending that it should've had. Thank you for that!

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    FOR FAIRY TALE LOVERS - GOOD STORY

    If you like fairy tales you will enjoy this story. A lot happens to keep you reading.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    Magical

    This story is wonderful and as usual has a addictive plot but leaves so plesently suprised and satisfied when it dose end. Full of memorable characters, and yes at least one talking animal, it not only makes a great read for all ages but makes a great re-read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Captivating

    I always wondered when an author would come out with such a touching but fantastically light-hearted novel of romance and wit. Thankfully Mercedes Lackey has saved the day. She amazes me with her attention to detail, and her ability to make each and every character shine. Firebird is gripping, but it grips with a gentle hand, not like a hard-core, edgy, scary kind of grip. She handles this book with the utmost of care. Its cuteness and characters captivated me from the start, and I catch myself wishing that every book I read is like this novel. No wonder I keep rereading this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2001

    Surprising

    Firebird is one of the best books Lackey has ever written, besides Magic's Pawn. It has characters you get into and can relate with. It didn't hurt to have a surprise ending either.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2001

    Fantastic

    Firebird is a fantastic story. I couldn't put it down. I love a good magical tale, and I especially enjoyed the super clever Ilya and the book's ending twist!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2000

    Lackey has done it again!

    Firebird by Mercedes Lackey is a great book. It's about a youth named Ilya, who becomes enchanted with a firebird he finds stealing cherries in his father's garden. This enamorment with the firebird leads Ilya on a thrilling adventure with a great ending. Lackey has done it again, weaving us a wonderful, involving story to be enjoyed by all!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2000

    I love this book!

    I picked this book up just becuase I liked the artwork on the cover, and it was one of those whims that turn out well. This is an incredibly enjoyable story, well written and the main character is sympathetic and compelling. If you enjoy fairy tales as much as I do, don't hesitate to read this book.

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    Posted February 26, 2013

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    Posted July 24, 2011

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