cover image Firebird


Mercedes Lackey. Tor Books, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85812-4

Taking a vacation from the Vale, the setting of her popular fantasy trilogies (Last Herald-Mage, Mage Winds and Mage Storms), Lackey draws inspiration for her resonant new novel from classic Russian folktales. Ilya Ivanovitch is the middle son of a self-proclaimed ""tsar"" who has put off selecting an heir, preferring to let his eight sons thin their own ranks through constant, sometimes brutal, fighting. Ilya's luck takes a fateful turn the day he sees the legendary firebird, a beautiful magical hawk with a woman's face and feathers made of flame. The old stories say that once you've seen the firebird, you can never forget her, and you will never be satisfied with a common life. Ilya realizes the truth of this when he begins to have strange dreams and then discovers he can understand animal speech. Driven by curiosity, surviving by his wits (and through the help of a few friends made along the way), he begins a journey that will bring him face to face with the mysterious creatures of Russian folklore. Lackey's first standalone novel since Sacred Ground (1994) is a charming coming-of-age tale filled with earthy wit and magic. (Dec.)