The Coldfire Trilogy (Friedman)

Next up: “Black Sun Rising”, “When True Night Falls”, and “Crown of Shadows” by C.S. Friedman

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These have some pretty awesome cover-art, I gotta say.  I remember picking up the third book at my library when I was younger, thinking ‘oooo this looks cool!’ and then being really upset when I realized it was the last of a trilogy… and the library didn’t have the first two (WHO DOES THAT?!).  This series is in the interesting middle ground between scifi and fantasy.


The setting is the planet Erna, which was colonized by humans centuries before the start of the series.  Erna has an interesting energy field called the Fae, which is similar to Earth’s magnetic field, except that it is what we’d think of as ‘magic.’  To the colonists’ horror (and mine, because holy frick), the Fae reacts to the human psyche, and brings both dreams and nightmares to life.  The Fae-constructs feed on the colonists in both mind and body, making human life just barely scrape by on the planet.  An organization, the Church of Human Unification, arises with the objective of joining humanity on Erna in prayer so that the Fae will manifest their unified desires: for humankind to become an accepted part of Erna, and to create a god/afterlife.

The Coldfire Trilogy follows a priest of the Church of Human Unification, Damien Kilcannon Vryce.  The plot is kickstarted when a woman he is courting, Ciani, is attacked by demons.  Her ability to Work the Fae is stripped from her, along with her memories and her will to live.  Damien vows to help her, and sets off on a journey to kill the demons that are responsible.  Along the way, he encounters Gerald Tarrant, a fallen prophet of the Church.  Ordinarily, he is the sort that Damien would have executed, but circumstances force them to work together, as Damien’s quest to aid Ciani puts them into dangerous situations with far-reaching effects.

My thoughts

Can I just say that the idea of the Fae is creepy?  A force that can pluck your worst fears out of your head and make them real?  Yeah, no thanks.  I’ll stay over here with my no-magic-ness.  It does make for an interesting scifi/fantasy world, though.  The world of Erna is a magnificent one for storytelling, with the Fae creating a whole host of implications that make characters and plot absolutely fascinating.

The plot, when laid bare and stripped of spoilers, seems really simplistic, but when you’re reading it’s anything but.  It’s very involved with the different players– Damien, Gerald, the Church, the Fae, demons… There’s quite a lot going on.  It starts with one small point (Damien and Ciani) and fairly explodes into a mess of politics, magic, and ulterior motives.

The characters are very interesting.  You have the tragic romance of Ciani and Damien, with them only just beginning a romance before Ciani loses her memory and everything.  Then you have the reluctant alliance between Damien and Gerald, who probably would have both preferred to kill the other rather than work together.  The way they all influence each other is really great.  You can see their journey and everything they experience shaping them, changing them from the people they were at the beginning of the series into the people they are at the end.

The world-building, the development of the plot and the characters are all really well done.


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7/7 stars


Non-graphic violence.


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