Review: Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson

Friday, 10 July 2015

Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson
Released: 7th May 2015
Published by: Hot Key Books
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 348
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Bookworld | Booktopia
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 fall in love 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 all their feet, can they face the danger together - or will they be forced to choose where their hearts really lie?
Thank you to the Five Mile Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

This is the story of  a revolution, and a city that rose to claim its rights.

The aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war left Paris in an extremely volatile state, and the formation of The Paris Commune was the result. Liberty's Fire is the story of two revolutionaries falling in love against a backdrop of chaotic yet empowering nationalism. Told through the eyes of four characters who each have their own troubles to bear in this tumultuous time, I found this book to be a captivating historical read.

After the death of her grandmother, Zephyrine was left desperate, and searching for hope. On the cusp of her life taking another bad turn, she meets Anatole - a violinist who is passionate both about his music and a vision for a new society where equality reigns once more and France's dignity is restored. There's no case of insta-love here, but instead an instance of two people who have the same ideals, forming a tentative bond at first before becoming something more. Marie, the talented singer who performs with Anatole, and his photographer friend Jules each have their own roles to play in this story and their perspectives were diverse and unique. There is even the slightest hinting at a possible love triangle, however it is not one you would expect and instead highlights the banes of unrequited love. Though in some parts of the story the pacing lagged, in others the interaction between these four and mounting tensions over the precariousness of the city was truly gripping. Even though the novel is written in third person, each character's own thoughts and opinions on the revolution and those they seek to protect are given clarity and distinction.

Citizens! Citoyens and citoyennes! It is up to us, the workers, to declare ourselves free of the old ways at last! It is up to me, and it is up to you! We must be ready to take this opportunity for self-determination. We must seize the future in both hands!

What stood out to me from the very few pages in this book was the historical detail. I could really appreciate how much research Lydia Syson must have done to write a novel like this. Though the first French Revolution from 1789-1799 is indeed fascinating, this short four-month civil war is equal in intensity, and still holds examples of brutality also. I could really sympathise with the characters and what they were going through - some seeking self-protection, while others were more than willing to take up arms for the cause. Paris was captured in all its vividness at this time, where anticipation was crackling in the air and a storm was brewing which would change these people's lives forever.

There could be little debate now. One by one, the hostile newspapers were suppressed. It had happened before, less than a hundred years earlier. Paris remembered the Reign of Terror after the first revolution, and shuddered.

There's no doubt that this book is an emotional one, conveying that uprisings don't always make the difference their fighters had hoped for. There are some intriguing plot twists which come to pass, though by the end I had hoped for a little more closure on a couple of fronts. However, the epilogue did in some ways feel fitting - a glimpse at hope to come for those who had been through so much in such a short span of time.


Liberty's Fire is a poignant novel centred around a passion for country, and for those people love. Rich with historical detail that truly takes you back to that time, it's a story which is as evocative as it is inspiring.


  1. This definitely reminds me a little like it's a YA version of Les Mis haha — your gifs definitely helped that along! I've been really into the historical fiction lately, and I haven't read many situated in Paris so this sounds like a good place to start! Thanks for the wonderfully in depth review Eugenia! xx

    1. I haven't read Le Miserables myself (it's a "one day when I have time" sorta book for me at the moment), but this is one I can see some parallels with for sure. I love books set in other cities around the world, especially Paris (ping Anna and the French Kiss), so I would definitely recommend this one to you Joy! :)

  2. Oh, goody, this looks and sounds so good :D I haven't found a lot of YA books set in France (which is a shame because that country is a treasure mine for historical stuff), and I am keen to start this one as soon as I get a copy. I've always loved reading about uprisings and standing up against a force even if the odds are almost impossible to comprehend. It doesn't matter if the end is favorable or not - what matters is you tried to fight for something you believe in. Amazing review, Eugenia :D

    Faye at The Social Potato

    1. I'm the same Faye - when it comes to European history, France is such a great place to look at. I hope you get to read this one, it really is inspiring with some poignant messages. Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. Great review Eugenia :) I have been thinking about this one, as I've seen a few good reviews for it. I think it might be time to finally add it to the TBR!

    - Wattle @ Whimsical Nature

    1. Thanks Wattle :) Yay! This book is underrated at the moment I think, and definitely deserves more attention.

  4. I think I've only read one other review for this book, and it was pretty positive as well! Which is great, because this book sounds pretty unique.

    I think it's amazing when authors go to so much trouble to really represent a city or place accurately in the time the book is set. I have so much respect for those authors because reading nonfiction for research, and then turning that into beautiful fictional words is pretty amazing.

    It sounds like this was a great read for you, Eugenia! If I am ever in need of a historical read, I'll definitely be picking this one up ^.^


Feel free to leave a comment below - I love reading them!