LOVED this novel- it's essentially a medieval Russian fairytale centered around a likeable motherless teenaged boy who has a hard lot in life, bullied by his egocentric brothers and father. He has a spirit of adventure and a desire to escape, and finds himself in a goodluck/badluck situation as a result of an encounter with an enchanted creature, the firebird. Many adventures and magical encounters ensue with a myriad of spirits, animals, and mythical creatures.
The story never loses it's fairytale quality. The only negative I can complain about is toward the end of the book, it seemed the story was being rushed. It also left some minor unanswered questions. But all in all, I would love to read similar novels or a sequel to this one.
Of all the Mercedes Lackey re-told fairy tales I've read, this is one of my least favorites. Ivan is constantly getting beat up, to the point of broken bones - and yet days later he's able to climb trees & jump fences. My husband bruised his ribs once and it was 3-4 weeks before he could even lay flat! When Ivan isn't half-dead from his latest beating, he's chasing girls. Or thinking about girls. Or thinking about the girls his father and brothers get instead of him - or after him. While there is no descriptive sex, half of the plot revolves around either hormones or violence. We're supposed to root for Ivan the hero becuase he doesn't abuse his girls as his father & brothers do, because the girls think he's good in bed, and because he doesn't enjoy hurting people. I didn't like him because of his constant wenching, his wimpiness (he never does learn to stand up to his brothers), his stealing, lying, and at the end, petty victory over one of his brothers. A hero by comparison to the bumpkins around him is not a hero at all.
Tsar Ivan has eight sons; all are brutes like himself except for happy-go-lucky, least-favored Ilya. Cast out through the machinations of his jealous, competitive brothers, Ilya stumbles onto an enchanted castle, distressed damsels, a garden of questing princes turned to stone, and the secret of the shapeshifting woman called the Firebird. In love with a captive princess, Ilya enlists the Firebird and a charming, crafty vixen to help him battle the sorcerer. But is settling down with a princess what "happily ever after" really means?
Better than much of Lackeys work, this novel retells the Russian legend of the Firebird (with plenty of editorial embellishment). Ilya, a handsome Russian prince with a habit of womanizing, seems like he has everything going for him except that his seven lunkhead brothers want to kill him, and their father doesnt particularly care. After a rash of mysterious thefts of rare cherries from a prized orchard, Ilya discovers that the culprit is a beautiful and magical bird-woman. Using the chaos shes thrown the household into to escape his family, he finds himself on a quest to rescue a dozen gorgeous tsarinas from an enchanted castle but will he ever learn the true meaning of love?
Recommended for fans of re-told fairy tales, such as those by Jane Yolen, and much of Terri Windling & Ellen Datlows Fairy Tale series.
I have always enjoyed Mercedes Lackey's fairy tales and this one is very enjoyable. It flows well and as always the good guy make the right decisions and comes out on top. Perfect book, if you want an underdog hero, a pretty AND strong lady and a happy ending! :)