Written by Lydia Syson
Young Adult, Historical
Published May 2015
Thank you to Five Mile Press and Hot Key Books
Paris 1871. Four Young people will rewrite their destinies.
Paris is in revolt. After months of siege at the hands of the Prussians, a wind of change is blowing through the city, bringing with it murmurs of a new revolution. Alone and poverty stricken, sixteen-year old Zephyrine is quickly lured in by the ideals of the city's radical new government, and she finds herself swept away by its promises of freedom, hope, equality and rights for women.
But she is about to be seduced for a second time, following a fateful encounter with a young violinist. Anatole's passion for his music is soon swiftly matched only by his passion for this fierce and magnificent girl. He comes to believe in Zephyrine's new politics, but his friends are not so sure. Opera singer Marie and photographer Jules have desires of their own, and the harsh reality of life under the Commune is not quite as enticing for them as it seems to be for Anatole and Zephyrine. And when the violent reality of revolution comes crashing down at their feet, can they face the danger together, or will they be forced to choose where their hearts really lie?
Zephyrine lives within Paris during the era of a new revolution, a new government is in power and women are determined to be treated as equals, ready to stand and fight for their freedom. Living with her sickly grandmother in poverty has allowed Zephyrine to become her own woman at the tender age of sixteen. But now she finds herself unable to make ends meet, her grandmother passing and not enough to cover the cost of her burial. In Paris, there is only one way for a woman to make money and quickly, selling her body and Zephyrine is desperate.
An altercation on the streets catches Anatole's attention, the young violinist on his way to rehearsals and rescues Zephyrine from the two men feuding for her services. There's something about the girl who is little more than skin and bones, skittish, untrusting and leaves with a handful of coins, riffling through Anatole's jacket and stealing what little the musician has.
The city is plunging into a civil war and as Zephyrine and Anatole reunite, she is lured by his passion and free spirit and he by her instincts to fight for the rights for herself and the Parisian people. Together they will fight for a revolution against the tyrannical government trying to take hold of the capital, and against their friends who see the young lovers as nothing but a passing phase. But when war is brought to their doorstep, each will have their own part to play. Do you fight against freedom, or fight for what could possibly be the love of your life?
There's something so incredibly magical about reading a historical romance, set in the midst of a civil war. I was swept up by Zephyrine's story, a girl who's family no longer wanted her and a grandmother who raised her to be a strong and independent young woman. But after her grandmother passes, the streets of Paris are unforgiving to a girl who lives below the poverty line. Zephyrine is tough and determined, not to mention opinionated. She believes in women's rights and it isn't long before she's attending meetings with other like minded women who fight for freedom from oppression, matched only by the furiosity of her best friend Rose.
Anatole is a young and passionate violinist, former soldier and living with an budding American photographer in Jules. Jules is wealthy and although Anatole is only one component of an orchestra, he wants for nothing, his friend paying for their loft style apartment and comfortable lifestyle. Anatole too dreams for a Paris owned by the people, where freedom reigns and citizens are treated with respect and equality. The two young revolutionaries are drawn to one another, their shy and tentative relationship blooming to the annoyance of friends Jules and Anatole's performing partner Marie.
Liberty's Fire takes place on the streets of Paris during the Paris Commune, a revolutionary socialist government who took hold of the capital for a four month period and divided the country. With a political charge, it added to an already intense storyline as the two young lovers strive to protect one another while fighting for a freedom just beyond their grasp. Told in several points of view, each character is well developed with their own sense of self and each represent a section of the community during the era. The freedom fighter, the lover and protector, the foreigner who cares little of that outside his own door and the songbird who fears for the safety of her brother. The character that surprised me most was Marie. Renowned opera singer who seemingly thrived off her own sense of self importance, but took the lowly classed Zephyrine under her wing, clothing, feeding and supporting her while she grieved for her grandmother.
Liberty's Fire can only be described as lovely. Beautifully written, it tells the story of two young lovers united by a sense of freedom and love for their country. The streets of Paris are painted vividly, bringing life to a city under siege from within. Methodical, passionate and hopeful, I really enjoyed it and found myself emotionally invested in their plight. The ending epilogue that takes place nine years later was stunning. I found myself holding my breath, needing a conclusion that would satisfy my aching heart. And Lydia Syson did not disappoint.