Fire Bringer

Fire Bringer 

By David Clement-Davies

Reviewed by Kenny Brechner

    There is a saying in the music business to the effect that "good songwriters borrow, great songwriters steal." Anyone who doesn't believe that to be true will struggle to feel at peace with David Clement-Davies' new epic fantasy, Firebringer.

    Firebringer is a tale set in a Scotland of long ago in which an unnatural body politic has imposed itself on the red deer of the lowland. The tone and sentiment of Firebringer clearly evoke Richard Adams' Watership Downand yet, in the first one hundred pages of the book, Clement-Davies makes it clear that he is no less than a virtuoso at intermingling other writers' narrative devices into a single, almost wholly derivative story.

    The story opens by employing the age old theme of a prophecy that someone with a distinguishing attribute will be born, and then go on to unseat some tyrant or other. We may expect that the tyrant will be on the lookout for the prophesied one, and that some wise, Merlin like figure, will see to it that the baby in question, ala King Arthur and Moses, is raised by someone other than his parents, unaware of his true parentage and destiny.

    In this case a fawn with a white oak leaf mark on his brow is prophesied. The mark is a suitable device for a prophesied deer, as we cannot reasonably expect a deer to pull a sword from a stone. Davies dresses up the Biblical and Arthurian elements by borrowing directly from J.R.R Tolkien's treatment of Aragorn, the prophesied King whose hands were those of a healer. Rannoch, the fawn in question, like his analogue Aragorn, is prophesied to be "born a healer and a King."

    The evil at work in the herd is a combination of historical allegory drawn directly from Nazi Germany, and plot elements taken directly from George Orwell's 1984. In this case Anlach, the ritual combat for supremacy within the herd, rather than parliamentary elections, are suspended by special circumstances. Meanwhile, an odious secret police force replaces the more independent Outriders, and the children are taken off into a deer version of Hitler Youth.

    As with the prophecy element Clement-Davies overlays the traditional and allegorical underpinnings with more  modern plunder, directly employing Orwell's vision of children spying on their parents. "At these ‘schools' the fawns were also taught to show absolute loyalty to the Draila, even above their parents. Indeed, they were even encouraged to spy on their parents...and report suspicious comments."

    The reader, confronted with this hailstorm of uncomfortably familiar plot developments, cannot help but ponder what the author intended by so graphically borrowing narrative elements from different writers and then draping them on top of familiar themes taken from folklore, scripture, and history. We can safely assume that it is founded on the grand idea of the organic unity of all traditions, folklore and history. That such a justification sounds good, but is itself sadly familiar and overused, is a fitting commentary on Davies-Clements' method.