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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
Black Sun Rising is the first novel in C.S. Friedman’s popular COLDFIRE trilogy. I read Dominion, the prequel novella, a couple of years ago after reading (and loving) several of her science fiction novels. I admire Friedman’s worldbuilding and her writing style.
The COLDFIRE trilogy feels like traditional epic fantasy, but it would best be categorized as science fantasy because it takes place in the far future on Erna, a planet colonized by humans looking for a habitable world. When they got to this world, they discovered that natural laws work differently. Some force, which they call the “Fae,” feeds on human fears and uses those “vibes” (my word) to influence evolution. This means, for example, that creatures that aren’t real, but that we fear, such as vampires and other monsters, can quickly evolve on Erna. (This is similar to the magic system in Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood and Lavondyss.) Also, the Fae interfere with human technology so that it’s nearly impossible for humans to control electricity, firearms, or other technological devices.
Some humans, called “adepts,” have learned to “work the Fae.” This works even better if they make some sort of personal sacrifice. Shortly after the humans arrived and began getting killed off by the monsters they dreamed into existence, one of them, on his own, decided to make a sacrifice for the colony by destroying their spaceship and its vast store of knowledge. Thus, the humans have essentially cast themselves back to a medieval culture, which is what makes these novels feel more like fantasy than science fiction. I found Friedman’s explanation for why human beings were living in a medieval society on a new planet to be completely believable.
In Dominion, we met Gerald Tarrant, an undead sorcerer who used to be the most devout and revered prophet of the One True God (essentially the Christian God) on Erna until, seeking power, he made a personal sacrifice that was so evil that it damned him to Hell. Now he is the most powerful human on Erna, but he fears death because he knows he’s damned. In order to stay alive, he had to become a vampire and must feed on human fear and blood. Thus, the man who used to be the holiest and most revered human on the planet has become the most evil and feared monster. This trade-off — the sacrifice Gerald makes in order to gain power and knowledge — is the theme of the trilogy and it produces some fascinating repercussions, ethical dilemmas, and thought exercises.
Not all of that information is laid out in Dominion, but we get enough of it to make us want to read on to find out what motivates Gerald Tarrant. In Black Sun Rising, he is called “The Hunter” and it is known that his minions scour the streets at night looking for pretty girls to bring to their master. We also meet Reverend Damian Vryce, a devout warrior priest of the One True God who wants to rescue his girlfriend, an adept who has been kidnapped by dark forces. Thinking that Gerald is the kidnapper, he enters Gerald’s forest (which we learned about in Dominion) and finds his castle. It turns out that Gerald isn’t the bad guy (this time) and the two join forces, along with a couple of others, and begin a quest to hunt down the real bad guy (or girl).
As you’d expect, Damien is not too happy about working with Gerald — he hates the man — but Gerald is the only person powerful enough to help him. Much of the tension in the story involves Damien’s conflicted feelings about working with and not against Gerald. Other tension stems from the hardships they endure on their quest. These involve several typical epic fantasy quest issues such as being attacked by minions of an evil sorcerer, enduring earthquakes, hiking across precarious cliffs, and tunneling through underground mines. Some of their adventures reminded me a little too much of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. There’s even a Boromir-type character and I kept thinking of the “Eye of Sauron” as they entered X--Mordor--X enemy territory. Yet despite these types of Tolkienesque plot elements, Friedman’s characters and the history of her world are completely unique and what I liked best about Black Sun Rising. I look forward to learning more and exploring more of Friedman’s world in book two, When True Night Falls.
I’m listening to the audio versions of the COLDFIRE trilogy. They’re produced by Audible Studios and are very nicely narrated by R.C. Bray. Black Sun Rising is 24 hours long.
Most definitely. The story is compelling and gripping.
The characters and the plot. The story is beautifully told and the characters are brought to vivid life by the R. C. Bray. The word play is a delight.
His stunning performance brings the story and characters to life such that if they ever make a movie out of the books, they should, at the very least, use his voice for Damien Vryce's character.
The extreme reaction was in not wanting to stop listening to the book.
I have been a Star Wars junkie for a while and after listening to Dominion, I decided to get this book. What a pleasure. After this book, I was hooked to the trilogy. Amazing work. I love it.
I was introduced to Gerald Tarrant and Damian Vryce maybe 2007 or 2008 and have enjoyed the dialog between the two ever since. When I saw that it was in audio form I decided to chance it.
I've seen other reviews where this trilogy was characterized as tedious, maybe I was spared that because I had already read the trilogy, more than once.
There is a sense, at least to me, of earned respect given by each character. The mix of frontier mentalities with the canonical structure of the Church made for a great backdrop for Tarrant and Vryce.
There is a slower pace to this story that is a wonderful change from my other genres where things are always on the move or blowing up, etc.
Another thing that I enjoyed, is that it the characters where not truly black or white, all had their faults, all had their strengths.
Then there is Tarrant, how could I not love, him... arrogant, powerful, but always, well almost always true to himself...
In the previous statements I wanted to say that all the main characters have a dark side and a side that strives for the goodness of the light; with Tarrant he has his dark side, and then his maybe-no-so-dark side... ;-)
I didn't get to the point where I had to write in the margins of my copy of this book; for that try reading "My House has Two Doors" by Han SuYin, but I can see where one might have to double back a couple times to see if he or she missed something. Really not easy with an audio file..
My two cents for what it is worth..
This book was interesting at the beginning, with an usual magic system. Then it devolved into endless wandering, with little to nothing happening. C.S. Friedman has a tendency to use the same word over and over again. Malevolence was used so often, that I wanted to throw a thesaurus at her. Not recommended, and I willl not be reading the rest of the series.
When I first started listening to this book I was very hopeful. It has an interesting conceit - a world which contains a force that responds to human thoughts and shapes the physical environment accordingly. I found the protagonist, a warrior-priest with a mission, a refreshing change from the usual.
Alas, I got bogged down in the book and found getting to the end difficult. The development of the plot and the characters did not fulfill the original promise. Instead, the story became tedious and repetitive. Motivations were not clear. By the end I didn't care anymore.
Too bad, because it had a great concept.
That being said, others seem to like the book so read the reviews carefully. Perhaps it will be your cuppa tea. Sadly, it was not mine.
This mountain of books isn't going to listen to itself.
FOR REAL you need to pay attention to every word. I would recommend this to a dark friend who had not much too do. You cant miss a few words do to a zone out while driving.
I don't remember
Bray is great. Nothing to complain about. I would say he is a 4 out of 5.
Yes... read a normal fantasy book. I do love my sword, wizard, and king.
The writing style is kind of strange along with the book. Every part of the book seems to show on how dark and wrong it is. It becomes a bore. I understand the authors intent. But it is a tad over done..... Making it dark.Every seen seems to have a description where it explains why every thing will be dark. This is only a skip if you CANT pay attention the whole time. Overalll... its a 3 star.. you can skip this one. But is a Fan-sci book to the extreme.
The opening of this book was hard to get through as the setting at first seems alien enough to be difficult to grasp and familiar enough to be generic (it's a post sci-fi fantasy). We immediately meet a character who is committing a heinous act and, with no appreciation for who he is, it's jarring and unpleasant to read. Eventually, the book comes into its own, with the introduction of some very enjoyable characters (although they seem a little flat at first).
The magic system presented is more detailed than much fantasy but doesn't quite achieve a level of detail where the reader can appreciate the limitations/strengths of the magic characters without being told directly about them by the narration. It doesn't have as much detail as the Mistborn series, but that also means that it doesn't get bogged down by that detail the way that I feel that Mistborn was.
By the epilogue, I realized that I had actually grown attached to the characters, as I was smiling and chuckling at their actions.
This book, in 3 Parts, is almost good.
Part 1 introduces the characters. There’s the hero, a priest, who’s sworn his life to fighting evil. The anti-hero, the Hunter, lives in a deep, dark, evil forest. The maiden, who must be protected. And some others.
Part 2 is entirely about travelling. This little group travels endlessly, to get to the evil they need to fight. They travel over mountains, and they travel over rivers, and they travel and they travel. Yawn.
Part 3 gets interesting again, with a very good ending.
I like that the characters are not stereotyped. Not fully, anyway. The goodies have flaws and find it difficult to resist temptation. The baddies have likeable and redeeming qualities.
I liked the book (Parts 1 & 3), but not enough to rush off and get the sequels.
I could not keep my attention on this book; either the narrator or just boring story did it, I could not pay attention for more than 5 minutes. Author also failed to create any emotional attachment to the characters.