David Clement-Davies,
Fire Bringer
(Dutton, 2000;
Firebird, 2002)

In Scotland, not long after the departure of the Romans, when the Vikings were raiding and considering a full invasion, there were other residents who had their own story to play out. The red deer of Scotland had lived in peace for generations, following the laws and principles set down by their deity, Herne. But, the peace was beginning to unravel. Driven by the evil but charismatic antlerless stag, Sgorr, a social movement was under way, with increased militarism, the banning of old customs, the outlawing of certain beliefs and the goal of supremacy over all Herla (deer) and Lera (all animals).

Will Sgorr and his new order go unchallenged? For generations beyond count, there has been a prophecy that says:

When the Lore is bruised and broken,
Shattered like a blasted tree,
Then shall Herne be justly woken,
born to set the Herla free. ...

Fawn of moonlight ever after,
so shall all the Herla sing.
For his days shall herald laughter,
born a healer and a king.

Behold! A fawn is born, just as Sgorr takes another step toward dominance, and that fawn bears a mark upon his forehead, like unto the shape of an oak-leaf. The fawn is called Rannoch, and his father, Brechin, stands as one of the last to openly oppose Sgorr. After Brechin falls, a group of deer, including Rannoch, flee northward toward the Scottish Highlands.

Is Rannoch really Herne reborn? Will he accept his destiny, fight it or flee from it, seeking peace in remote lands? Will all of the prophecy gradually come true?

I have now read Fire Bringer three times and it does not lose its magnificence and wonder as time goes by. This novel truly earns the honorific of "epic" and is a story as big as the film Lawrence of Arabia and Tolkien's marvelous The Lord of the Rings.

This is the debut novel for David Clement-Davies, whose earlier works were rewriting ancient history so that it could be understood, and enjoyed, by children in elementary school. Clement-Davies in Fire Bringer has woven a complex adventure tale that features elements from King Arthur, the Bible and many other epics.

I know that some people feel Fire Bringer is a rip-off of Richard Adams' Watership Down. I do believe that Clement-Davies was inspired by Adams' work, but I have read both books and I have a slight preference for Fire Bringer; it's a richer, more complex tale. Both tales might also be allusions to the rise and fall of the Third Reich, but Fire Bringer has a more personal feel to it than many epics, and has elements of the story, from Greek mythology, of Prometheus.

Fire Bringer is beautifully written, with powerful characterizations and a strong power to evoke images of the setting. While the symbolism is strong, it never overwhelms the tale. Instead, the beautiful, rich and sometimes tragic story unfolds apace. You will never forget this tale once you have read it, and it is definitely good for rereading.

by Chris McCallister
16 June 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.