Book Review: The Freedom of Birds by Stephanie Parkyn

About the Book:

Two French storytellers and a runaway girl travel through fairytale lands, Italian theatres, and the battlefields of France in search of a place to belong as Napoleon’s Empire falls, from the author of Josephine’s Garden.

Remi Victoire is the golden child among all the theatre orphans; he dreams of a life on a Paris stage. But when this future is stolen from him, Remi and his faithful friend Pascal turn their backs on Paris forever.

With Saskia, a runaway orphan girl, Remi and Pascal form a performing troupe, travelling through the fairytale lands that are home to the Brothers Grimm, before finding a safe haven in Venice.

As Napoleon’s vast Empire crumbles, the French storytellers discover that Paris itself is now at risk of invasion and they fear for the loved ones they have left behind.

From picturesque villages to Italian theatres and on to the battlefields outside of Paris, this is a beautifully told story about the bonds of love and friendship, the importance of stories, and finding a place to belong.

Published by Allen & Unwin

Released 30th November 2021

My Thoughts:

The Freedom of Birds is loosely connected to Stephanie Parkyn’s previous two releases, Into the World and Josephine’s Garden, and indeed, we see at the end of this novel the life of Stephanie’s first main character from Into the World come full circle in line with the close of the French Revolution. I really loved The Freedom of Birds, the characters and their passions for their own beliefs and purposes, the history, the adventure, and all the tension holding everything together.

The story is told in shifting perspectives between Remi, Pascal, and Saskia, all three of whom I enjoyed travelling with. The author has used third person narration for Pascal and Saskia, but a first-person narration for Remi. I don’t think this is because the novel is more Remi’s story than the other characters, but rather, that it firmly allows the reader to distinguish between the voices of Remi and Pascal, who being the same age and from the same background, had natural similarities that may have been difficult to pick apart had the author just used third person narration throughout. I bring this up because first person narration doesn’t always sit well with me in historical fiction, there is something jarring about it, although in this case, I swiftly got used to it, perhaps on account of the use of third person narration with the other two characters combined with generally how good the book was.

Adventures abounded for these three characters and I enjoyed the travelling life they had, the storytelling, the performing, the creative and artistic lifestyle of centuries ago coming to life within these pages. Behind their artistic faces was a real pain though, as each was an orphan wrestling with their own pasts, attempting to come to terms with how this baggage translated to a viable future. This novel is also one of political history, and the author has done a particularly excellent job of broadcasting the resistance that spread across Europe as Napoleon plundered and conquered with zeal. The turning tide was well articulated. None of the main characters remained untouched by the French Revolution, each of their future paths set in a certain direction because of the unending war. One thing I really loved about the story was how connected to each other Remi, Pascal, and Saskia were, and yet, they were also each drawn to their own destinies, despite the knowledge that this may eventually force them apart. When Saskia joined Remi and Pascal, they become a family of sorts, but like all families, it was one that was not without its internal rumblings.

The Freedom of Birds has instant appeal on account of its majestic cover, yet be assured that within, the story itself is just as majestic. I enjoyed this novel so much and favour it over Stephanie Parkyn’s previous two releases – both of which I also enjoyed immensely. She has a notable talent for blending history with fiction and creating memorable characters – some of which endured across the three books without being a main character beyond the first. As her tales of the French Revolution appear to have come to a close with The Freedom of Birds, I look forward to seeing where Stephanie Parkyn takes us with her next release.

☕☕☕☕☕

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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