November 2, 2011

Review: "The Firebrand" by Marion Zimmer Bradley

I finished reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Firebrand early this morning, and found it to be an excellent book, and one that I look forward to rereading again at some point in time.  This novel, at just over 600 pages, tells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Kassandra the Prophetess, one of the daughters of Priam and Hecuba, the king and queen of Troy.  Zimmer Bradley does a terrific job of incorporating the commonly accepted mythological elements of all of the major characters in the novel, including several of the gods and goddesses, e.g., Apollo, Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, Poseidon, and even the great Earth Mother herself.  I have to say that I was quite intrigued with Zimmer Bradley's character development of the great Achaean warrior, Akilles, and the portrayal of his rage, which is the subject of Homer's epic poem, The Iliad.  Zimmer Bradley may be closer to the truth of the matter with Akilles than that generally thought, but I'll leave the reader to form their own opinions.

While the novel is clearly intended to be read for its fantasy entertainment value, there is also the intriguing thread of cultural anthropology woven throughout that causes the reader to at least consider the differences between the matriarchal societies of some earlier Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures and the inexorable establishment of the more widespread patriarchal system in the Bronze and Iron Ages.  For example, she explores this in a social context through the roles of Priam, Hecuba, and even the Amazon leader, Penthesilea; as well as through the role that religion and religious beliefs played with the Trojans, Achaeans, and other tribes and peoples encountered in the novel.  It might be easy to just attribute this to Zimmer Bradley's brand of literary feminism, but I personally choose to think that she is really trying to remind us of the Myth of the Goddess, and that the balance of female and male in our own psyche is important even now.  Zimmer Bradley's portrayal of Kassandra in telling this story is compelling and thought-provoking.  Frankly, I enjoyed this novel even more than her wildly popular The Mists of Avalon.  This was a well-written story and a real page-turner from start-to-finish.  I have given this novel 4/5 stars.


The Firebrand
By Marion Zimmer Bradley
Simon & Schuster, 1987, 608 pages.
[This book is from my personal collection]


  1. Wonderful review, Chris. I've had this book sitting on my shelf for ages, but never seem to pick it up to read. Perhaps it's time I did.

  2. Thanks, Melissa, and I honestly do think you'd like it too. It really was an entertaining and interesting novel to read. It has been years since I read The Mists of Avalon, and as I said above, I felt that this was even better. Thanks for stopping by! Cheers! Chris

  3. I read this one when I was about 18 and was completely spellbound (pun unintended). Have you read The Mists of Avalon? I'd like to re-read it at some point next year but I'm afraid to be disappointed. It's been on my favorites list for ages.

  4. I read this book when I was 14/15 years old - having discovered it in the remnants of a left behind box of books belonging to some ex-pats when we were living over-seas.

    I read it again - twice more I think before I graduated high school, having fallen in love with all things Greek and Historical. It's an excellent read, and MZB does an excellent job in keeping her audience engrossed in the story and emotionally attached to the characters.

    a must read :O)