The narrative of Firebrand by Sarah MacTavish is split between drought-ridden Texas in the summer of 1860 and comfortable suburban Pennsylvania.
In Texas, young Saoirse Callahan is dealing not only with a series of mysterious arson fires but also with the bands of angry vigilantes hunting for the arsonists. In Pennsylvania, young idealist Westleigh Kavanagh, fond of calling himself an abolitionist, suddenly has his convictions put to the test when the new boarder at his family’s home is revealed as a runaway slave. Westleigh’s father, the town sheriff, is obliged to capture the fugitive, which puts Westleigh into an elemental conflict.
These two narrative halves are a bit too imbalanced to ever feel quite like one whole, but MacTavish’s writing, particularly in the Pennsylvania sections, is lively enough to keep readers engaged.