RT senior reviewer Kathe Robin calls Susanna Kearsley's The Firebird a " ... wonderfully entertaining, non-stop read." Merging past and present, the tale follows Nicola Marter, a woman gifted with being able to "sense" an object's history, as she discovers a small Russian firebird statue that once belonged to Empress Catherine. Soon Nicola and her ex-lover are caught up in a whirlwind adventure that brings them to the court of Peter the Great, where they discover the firebird's legacy. Today we are featuring an excerpt from the novel, plus the chance for one reader to win all of Susanna Kearsley's books at the end of this post!
When I opened my eyes I saw Rob with his back to me, shaking his dark head as though he were puzzled. “It’s gone.”
“The cottage,” he said. “It’s not here. I only went a short while forward, not too far, to see if I could find her as a teenager, but all of this”—he nodded at the cottage walls that he alone could see—“is gone. It’s all in ruins.”
He turned. His gaze dropped briefly to my hand, still resting on the stone, and with that damnably quick way of adding two and two, he asked, “Did you see anything yourself?” Like that, so normally. As though I could.
I felt the small smile twist my mouth, and raised my hand to push the wind-whipped hair back from my eyes again. “Of course I didn’t. I don’t… I can’t see the way that you do.”
Rob’s expression grew more thoughtful, as though he’d heard something in my tone I hadn’t put there by design. He crossed the ground between us, thinking. Sitting on the stone beside me, he asked, “Would you like to?”
There was no good way to answer that. My envy of Rob’s gifts was so at war with my own yearning to be normal and the warnings of my grandfather that I could only shake my head and say, “It doesn’t matter. Really. This is working fine, with you describing things.”
He gave an absent nod, as though agreeing, and then studied me in silence for a moment before asking, “Can I try something?”
My voice turned wary. “What?”
“Give me your hand.”
“You said that you trusted me.”
“Then give me your hand.” His was outstretched, and waiting.
Reluctantly, I slipped my hand into his and then raised my defenses as I felt his fingers close warmly round mine.
“D’ye mind that first day at the Emerson,” Rob said, “when we did the ganzfeld? Try doing that now.”
“It’s not so hard. Clear your thoughts, close your eyes, just hear the wind and the waves and the gulls now, and focus.”
I tried. “It’s not working.”
“Relax.” A faint squeeze of his fingers. “You’ve managed to find your way into my mind afore this.”
A small warmth spread from his hand to mine and I strove to ignore it, while focusing all my attention on clearing my mind of its whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. At last I felt the calming sense of peace, as though I’d settled in a warm relaxing bath, and from the blackness that surrounded me the little moving images began their cinematic play, a filmstrip running in reverse.
I wasn’t in Rob’s mind at all, I thought. This was how my own visions started.
I waited for the moment when one image would project itself and grow to blot the others out, when gradually I realized that these images weren’t running at the speed I was accustomed to. The filmstrip slowed, and paused, and ran a few frames forward.
In confusion I asked Rob, Is that you?
Is what me?
He didn’t answer straightaway. He’d found the frame he wanted, and already it was growing and expanding as it took us in, but where my visions would have stopped and settled in their boundaries this one widened far beyond what I had ever seen before, so very swiftly that it flooded all my senses with a dizzying assault of scents and sounds.
I felt, in that first moment, like a seagull hanging on the wind high over sea and shore, and looking down with a perspective only flight could give. I saw the gray horizon and the darkness of the waves, and felt the stab of winter’s cold as I looked down upon the little cottage, thatched and shuttered as Rob had described it, drifted deep with snow that showed two lines of dragging footprints leading to the door, which was half-blocked now by the figure of a man.
These things I saw before my line of vision swooped and started lowering and raced across the snow until it reached a level just above the one it would have been at if I’d stood upon the ground. The line of vision of a man about Rob’s height, I realized.
This time the movement didn’t feel like flight. It felt like we were running as we swiftly crossed the few feet of remaining ground and slipped straight through the cottage walls as though they had been made of mist, as though we both were ghosts.
We were inside.
GIVEAWAY ALERT: One lucky reader will win a prize pack of Susanna Kearsley's books, including The Firebird. To enter, simply comment on this post telling us which historical era you'd most want to visit. You can also e-mail your answer here, along with your mailing address and the subject "Susanna Kearsley Giveaway." U.S. addresses only, please. The winner will be announced April 26.
BLOG UPDATE: The winner is Kelley J. Donaghy
For more historical tales, visit our Everything Romance Page.