I’ve read most of the books Susanna Kearsley has written because the first one I read was not enjoyable and a bunch of people said that one wasn’t as good and I should try something else by her and so I did and really liked the second book I tried. Then I treated this as an unofficial challenge. I needed to read most of her books and gain a better perspective on this writer’s work. So here I am ranking what I read.
Best: The Firebird
This is one of the dual narrative books. We get the present day narrative with two people who have paranormal abilities. She can see the past of an object by holding it. After holding a firebird statue she goes on a quest to find out the whole story. I loved both the past and present narratives. They were both strong stories and worked really well in tandem. The only downside to this book is: you have to read The Winter Sea first because the past narrative of that one is continued in this one. Luckily for me I accidentally read The Winter Sea before The Firebird.
The Winter Sea
This was the second book I read by her and I loved it. I was motivated to read the other books she wrote after I read this one. This is also a dual narrative book and I did slightly prefer the past narrative but I did still strongly relate to the writer in the present narrative who was inspired by the ruins of a castle. This is also my most recommended book because people tend to grab The Firebird off the shelf and I feel compelled to tell them that they should read this one first or they won’t get the full emotional impact (or they’ll just be confused).
A Desperate Fortune
This is also a dual narrative. There were aspects of the past and present that I liked but other elements that weren’t quite working for me; however, they were not enough to upset me. I was a big fan of the fairy tales in the past narrative and I also really liked the two romantic leads in both narratives. And we get a glimpse of the past leads in The Firebird in this past narrative and it made me happy.
The Rose Garden
This is the only book I’ve read by her where the main character physically time travels rather than reading a journal (A Desperate Fortune), reliving an ancestor’s memories (The Winter Sea), or sensing the past via paranormal ability (The Firebird). The leading man in the past was a pretty fabulous romantic lead. His conversations with the leading time travelling lady were my favorite bits. I also liked a modern woman learning how to do basic things in the past. I appreciated that detail. But this plot dragged. It wasn’t compelling until the very end. I could put this down for weeks and not pick it up. It wasn’t a chore to read but it still took me forever to get through it.
The Shadowy Horses
The leading man in the present narrative of The Firebird is in this one but he’s a kid. You don’t have to read this one before The Firebird but the events in this one do come first. The Shadowy Horses doesn’t have a dual past and present narrative. We have the kid seeing a Roman sentinel and an old rich man convinced that this ghost is guarding a huge potential archaeological breakthrough. So he hires a team. There is a slow burn romance in this one that I really enjoyed. But there was a lot here that felt a little anticlimactic.
The Splendour Falls
This one is also not a dual narrative. It is more of a murder mystery with historical elements and a little bit of romance. I really liked the setting and the characters and I liked the plot more than a lot of other reviewers but it isn’t as strong as the previous books on this list.
Season of Storms
This is mostly about a production of a play that has never been performed before. The romance was a little lackluster and the ending was a little awkward but the familial relationships were compelling and I really liked the leading lady. This one is also not really a dual narrative but there are a couple snippets of what the playwright was thinking while he wrote this play for Celia, the woman he loved who mysteriously disappears before the play could be performed.
I liked most of this. I massively disliked the ending. There were two big things, one in the past narrative and the other in the present, that I had big issues with but they are massive spoilers so I will leave it at that.
Worst: Named of the Dragon
This was the first book by Susanna Kearsley that I read and my list of issues with it is rather long and does include spoilers. This book angered me on multiple occasions. Highlights: it all felt massively melodramatic and the main romances didn’t feel right.