In the summer of 1860, when slavery ruled the heart of America, two young abolitionists discover how dangerous it can be to believe in freedom for all.
Saoirse Callahan’s family is broken. Hunger forced them out of Ireland and they still struggle to survive in their new home, where scorching Texas droughts threaten their small farm. Then, on one blazing Sunday afternoon, a series of mysterious fires devastates the region. Whispered rumors of a slave rebellion soon flame into a statewide panic. Vigilantes scour the countryside for arsonists, targeting foreigners and slaves in a bloodthirsty witch-hunt. Saoirse is determined to find out how the fires really started, but the more questions she asks, the more she puts her family and friends in danger. And the truth may be more than she can handle.
Meanwhile, safe in Pennsylvania, Westleigh Kavanagh can call himself an abolitionist with little fear. But when he realizes his father’s new boarder is actually a runaway slave, he must keep the wanted man’s identity a secret. Because Westleigh’s father is the sheriff, and bound by law to help capture fugitives, whether he believes in slavery or not. Westleigh wants to protect his father from the truth, but the longer he lies, the greater chance they will all be caught. Then Westleigh makes his own discovery—an old forbidden journal that holds secrets of his father’s past. Secrets that lead to the Callahans. Secrets that, if unraveled, could destroy both families.
Plot: While an intriguing, fresh look at an important period of American history, the book takes a long time to coalesce. However, the depth of research is evident and the story speaks to the heart.
Prose: The prose is crisp and clean. The book features a fine balance of description and dialogue. Each phrase seems chosen with care for maximum impact.
Originality: The wholly original plot and examination of slavery and the abolitionists in the United States is absolutely fascinating. Of particular delight is the frank look at the plight of Irish immigrants and the moral questions that arise when one is faced with a choice between family and faith.
Character Development: Each of the characters is well developed with a clear voice. The character voices will likely speak quite well to any audience -- from young adult to adult.
Date Submitted: March 28, 2017
"MacTavish has taken a very interesting and entertaining approach with this novel. Though historical fiction, it doesn't read like an historical narrative, but like a contemporary young adult novel. History does have a way of repeating itself, and so the book transports the reader to a time that seems all too plausible for today's contentious world. For those who want a young adult novel in a unique setting with emotionally high stakes, Firebrand is a moving, expertly written, and entertaining work of young adult fiction." Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★½