Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies, was published in 1999 by Dutton Books.
It is a dark time for the deer. A tyrannical new Lord of the Herd has ended the old way, the yearly play of antlers that ensured a change of leadership. At his command is a corps of young stags, antlers sharpened for the kill, whose mission is complete dominion over the animal world. But a prophecy among the deer promises a hero—a fawn with the mark of an oak leaf on his forehead. His unique bond with all creatures, including humans, will bring a new age of freedom. Rannoch is born the night his father is murdered. His mother, Eloin, keeps him hidden from the deadly attention of the Lord of the Herd, but soon Rannoch is forced to flee, beginning a perilous, wondrous journey. Among the mountains and haunted glens of the Great Land, the young stag encounters strange herds, makes unusual allies, and, at last, finds the knowledge and courage to face his extraordinary destiny.
Fire Bringer is one of the books I read multiple times growing up. Even after not having read it for ten or more years, I remembered quite a bit of it—little scenes and moments stayed with me throughout the years (the same goes for Clement-Davies’s The Sight). So I was excited to read it again, to see if it was as good as my multiple rereads as a child warranted.
Fire Bringer is terribly expositional in the beginning; Part One is loaded with information about the world and the culture of the deer and, combined with the agonizingly slow build-up to the main part of the plot, can be a bit of a tedious read at times. Luckily, though, the book gets much better after Part One is over and the more exciting Parts Two and Three begin.
Although Rannoch can be annoying at times, with his denial and angsting, there are moments—mostly after he accepts his role after Bracken’s confession—where he becomes rather awesome. Pretty much the entire final battle is one big awesome moment after another with Rannoch, who doesn’t quite quit angsting but at least steps up his game big time.
I did find there was some cheesy dialogue and scenes mixed in with the better parts of Parts Two and Three, but for the most part the book is well-written and engaging and very unique for the time (and still unique now, although the Warriors series and others do something similar). I liked the inclusion of Scottish/English history mixed in the background of the deer and how that also affects the deer.
Fire Bringer is a fond memory of my childhood reading, and, while it’s not quite as good as I remember, I still enjoyed it. It’s expositional in the beginning and cheesy in places all throughout, but it’s a unique, memorable fantasy and will teach you more about deer than you ever wanted to know.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Warnings: Violence, death
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“Silence!” cried Sgorr suddenly. “Blindweed, tell me what you know of a fawn in the herd with an oaken mark on his forehead.”
Blindweek blinked, but it was clear to him now that Sgorr was only probing and that Rannoch was still safe. How it had been discovered, Blindweed could not guess.
“A leaf?” said the old stag, feigning surprise. “Impossible. I would have heard about it.”