When the Lore is bruised and broken,
Shattered like a blasted tree
Then shall Herne be justly woken
Born to set the Herla free.Fire Bringer
is a xenofiction
novel written very much in the vein of Watership Down
, but David Clement-Davies's tale features red deer in Scotland during the Dark Ages.
The story begins with the birth of the fawn Rannoch on the night his father is murdered by the forces of Drail and Sgorr, a tyrannical pair of deer who have forbidden the yearly play of antlers that ensure a change of leadership. A prophecy surrounds Rannoch's birth: he will become the savior of the deer. If he survives the insane dystopian army in pursuit of him...
Dark, beautiful, and rich in Anyone Can Die
, the story's more fantastic elements, namely the epic clash between good and evil, are firmly rooted in the nature of deer.
The spiritual sequels
, The Sight
, feature wolves, but are set in the same world as Rannoch's story (albeit in Transylvania).
Not to be mistaken for the other xenofiction series about bringing fire
Provides Examples Of:
- Actual Pacifist: Rannoch is this for a while, refusing to fight Sgorr. It doesn't last.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Pretty much subverted; the deer are deer. Sgorr's knowledge of sharpening antlers and the like is the one real exception; Rannoch's own advanced aptitude might be justified by his Physical God excuse; see below.
- That said, all the deer do appear to form human-like societies, and to understand the concept of death.
- Animal Talk: At first, this trope appears to be averted, and the deer can only understand other deer. Rannoch is able to converse with any animal, but at first it seems to just be because he's special. Then it turns out that any animal can learn to do this; the art was just lost. That said, humans are still Locked Out of the Loop.
- Anyone Can Die: Based on this book and others, the author seems to be freaking made of this trope. If any character does something remotely kindhearted, expect them to die... soon, horribly, and with much anguish.
- Appeal to Nature: The Aesop appears to be that creatures shouldn't try to use reason to overcome their natural instincts, because this will inevitably lead to violence.
- Arc Villain: Herne's Herd, when the heroes first enter the High Land. For a time, they actually come off as worse than Sgorr though this isn't actually true. However, they are defeated easily.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: As he dies, Rannoch is called up into the clouds by Herne.
- Author Tract: When Rannoch is cared for by the humans, they drop a whole bunch of exposition about the symbolism of deer.
- Badass: Birrmagnur the reindeer, full stop. Arguably Sgorr, whose hornless status makes him a Handicapped Badass among other stags, but Brechin and several of the Outriders also count. Rannoch and his followers have their moments.
- Big Bad: Drail. Then Sgorr kills him, takes his place, and turns out to be much, much worse.
- Beware the Nice Ones: After Bracken is seriously injured, Rannoch viciously attacks the assassin that did it. He actually wounds him badly enough that despite the assassin escaping, he won't make it back to the herd.
- Bittersweet Ending: Could also be interpreted as a Downer Ending. Rannoch defeats Sgorr but loses several of his closest friends in the final battle. At the very end, his bloodline runs strong through the herd but he wanders alone and old before laying down and dying. But Herne talks to him and draws him into the clouds! That's good ... right?
- Cannot Spit It Out: If Bracken would have told Rannoch he was a changeling child about halfway through the book, it might have saved a LOT of lives.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Liam, the token non-evil human in the book. He first appears as a child, caring for an injured Rannoch. He's the one to kill Sgorr, but has no idea of the significance of the act.
- Continuity Nod: In The Sight, Rannoch appears briefly as a vision to one of the main characters.
- Cruel Mercy: Done to Colquhar.
- Decoy Protagonist: For the first chapter, it looks like Brechin is the main character. Then he dies...
- Distinguishing Mark: Rannoch's oak leaf. Willow's twin sister Peppa also has a black mark on her ear that helps tell her apart from Willow.
- Dystopia: Sgorr's building one, all right.
- Empathic Healer: Rannoch.
- Enemy Mine: The wolves save the Outriders in the ending battle.
- Enraged By Idiocy: Sgorr is a very, very dark version.
- Eye Scream: Sgorr engineers the death of an enemy deer by having him get a antler through the eye during a marking ceremony.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Rannoch gets this in spades, because even the deer are after him. Also subverted when Sgorr's forces start killing all the other forest animals en masse via "The Cleansing."
- Fantasy Pantheon: Herne the forest god, and Starbuck the Folk Hero.
- Fictionary: The Herla are deer, the Lera are all other animals, a brailah is a hedgehog (and an insult), and so on.
- Five-Man Band:
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Everyone's got 'em, but Sgorr's is the most pronounced, because his invokes Eyepatch of Power.
- Heel-Face Turn: When Bracken tells Rannoch that he's a changeling, he realizes the Prophecy is true. He gives himself over to fate and starts setting the last parts of the Prophecy in motion.
- Colquhar starts out as one of Les Collaborateurs, offering his herd's freedom in exchange for the continued existence of the Outriders. Once he realizes that Sgorr will not stop until he has conquered every heard, he has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and becomes a Death Seeker.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Bracken.
- Hollywood Atheist: Sgorr, who wants to obliterate the superstition of Herne, and is also a complete and total psychopath. After most of the prophecy has been fulfilled, he edges into Flat Earth Atheist territory. (But see Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.)
- Humans Are Cthulhu: The deer are routinely horrified and baffled by the weird ways of man. Sgorr wants to be just like them, which is what makes him so dangerous.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: A lot of the story and Rannoch's visions parallel real-life Scottish history and warfare, but the Prophecy's most outrageous line claims that Rannoch shall summon man to fight for him. It's right.
- Humans Kill Wantonly: What the animals all but universally believe. Of course, Sgorr kills just as wantonly as even the most sadistic human being.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Just barely qualifies.
- Karmic Death: Sgorr is killed by the human who cared for Rannoch as a fawn, proving the last part of the Prophecy super-right.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Apart from the Amplified Animal Aptitude and Animal Talk typical of the xenofiction genre, it is never made entirely clear if Herne is real or not.
- Mythopoeia: Starbuck's stories abound, but by the end of the book the reindeer have a story about Santa Claus.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Drail and Sgorr, anyone? There's even a youth army for the fawns...
- ...that are encouraged to spy on their parents, no less! Sgorr also embarks on a "cleansing" that involves slaughtering any animal that isn't a deer.
- No Name Given: The assassin sent to kill Rannoch.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions - In Sgorr's herd, if you haven't, you're probably dead.
- Perspective Flip: The reindeer tale of Santa Claus has the real hero be a reindeer, of course, and Santa is just his assistant.
- Physical God: It's heavily implied that Rannoch is the living incarnation of Herne.
- Plot Hole: So, the humans also know of Herne as a pagan figure. How is this possible if humans are completely unable to communicate with animals?
- Poor Communication Kills: So much grief would have been averted if Bracken had just told Rannoch she wasn't really his mother sooner...
- Prophecies Are Always Right: Rannoch himself resists the Prophecy for about 3/4ths of the book, namely because some of the more ambiguous lines like "Sacrifice shall be his meaning" freak him out. Sgorr, on the other hand, dismisses the Prophecy outright because he's dead set on driving all superstition out of his followers.
- Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: When the Lore is bruised and broken, shattered like a blasted tree...
- Rage Against the Heavens: Ostensibly Sgorr wants to eradicate the belief in Herne for this reason, but it's actually just because Herne's Herd kicked him out after he did something so evil even they could not tolerate it. Later on, Rannoch is frustrated by the fact that the deer seem doomed to endless violence, and claims that Herne is even crueler than Sgorr and human beings. But after Bracken is killed and he learns that he really is a changeling and the fulfillment of the prophecy, he comes to believe that Herne is completely right and just after all, for no adequately explained reason.
- Red Shirt: Sometimes it seems like even the characters who get development are this. See Anyone Can Die.
- Scenery Porn: You will live, breathe, and walk ancient Scotland.
- Shout-Out: Richard Adams's review of the book is on the back cover.
- Don't forget Crak the raven, who repeated "Nevermore" several times.
- Shown Their Work: Something fierce. The author lived in a cabin in a park for a couple of winters, watching the red deer and the wolves that populated the park the cabin was in.
- The Starscream: Sgorr.
- Theme Naming: Several characters (Rannoch, Brechin, Tain and Bankfoot, for example) are named after places in Scotland.
- Took a Level in Badass: Bankfoot, the previously weak, stuttering fawn. By the end of the book he's an Outrider.
- Town with a Dark Secret: The Park, and the Slave Herd.
- The Trickster: Starbuck.
- True Companions: Rannoch and his friends.
- Twin Switch: Adult Willow and Peppa use this to great effect to rescue Bankfoot.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: A good bunch of the Sgorrla believe this, but not really Sgorr himself.
- The Voiceless: The Assassin, who never speaks throughout the entire book.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: Subverted; every single one of the groups the heroes encounter proves important by the end.
- Waif Prophet: Rannoch, when he's little.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Willow does this to Rannoch right before his Heel-Face Turn because he won't fight to help stop Sgorr.
- Xenofiction: Eat your heart out, Bambi!
- You Can't Fight Fate: Rannoch really tries, though.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Sgorr does this to Drail.