Supposedly some other story is The Greatest Ever Told, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the story of the siege and fall of Troy that deserves that title. I’ll take my Troy tales in whatever form I can find them – The Firebrand gave it to me from the perspective of the women, Kassandra in particular, that made a refreshing change with Bradley weaving classic elements of the myth with her own inventions into a take that was mostly successful.
Our titular Firebrand is Paris, after his mother’s dream before his birth of Troy burning leading she and Priam to send him from the city to be raised. In this Bradley makes Paris Kassandra’s twin, with Kassandra’s visions enabling her to ‘see’ through his eyes so that we can experience his back story before coming to Troy and bringing their doom upon them.
Kassandra (although it feels weird to me spelling it with a K!) has always been one of the more interesting figures for me – cursed to speak true prophecy that will never be believed – and Bradley made her journey to priestess and beyond an interesting one, first spending time with the Amazons and visiting other kingdoms to give us a view of what they might have been like at the time. Bradley has turned these societies into ones having long been matriarchal, although that’s changing with the arrival of the Akhaians (Achaeans), which I was on board for but it seemed to me that for a change that had apparently happened within that lifetime it seemed to be the best kept secret ever with no-one seeming to remember this at all but for a few women.
Aside from Kassandra and a few others, the characterisation was rather simplistic at times, with some apparently only seeming to have one trait, although I thought this worked for the gods and I don’t agree with some of the other reviews I’ve read that were appalled by Bradley’s take on Achilles – probably because I’ve long detested him and think him exactly the type that Bradley portrayed him as.
So, while not quite ever hitting the heights of the truly fantastic Mists of Avalon, I still enjoyed The Firebrand a lot and would definitely recommend for people who want to look at the story of Troy through different eyes.