The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams, and indiscriminately giving them life.
This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity's progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known.
©1991 C.S. Friedman (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
The story took me by surprise in that I was not expecting a 'new' spin on such a controversial subject: Religion. You have a group of colonists effectively stranded at the outer edge of the universe on a planet that literally takes their hopes and fears and make them real. The struggle to control the human psyche and the 'monsters' that can be created from it comes down to creating and sustaining a belief system so that they can survive and thrive. However, just like in our own society, there are those that buy into the belief system and those that oppose it. The introduction of an unknown but increasingly powerful villain that requires an equally powerful but somewhat equally distasteful "hero" just makes the story that much more interesting. Imagine the creator of your most cherished and beloved philosophy turning into the very thing you're fighting against. A "creature" that embodies the things you hate and despise the most but, at the same time needing that self same individual to help you save the human race.
The first book took a little long to get around to the actual story and character development seemed somewhat slow; but, as I listened I became more interested in the underlying story. The narrator, R.C Bray did an excellent job, and I look forward to listening to other books he has done.
Prelude: A lot of people seem to enjoy this book, so you might as well.
I almost always finish the audiobooks I purchase, and I finished this one. But it was a chore, not a pleasure. The book failed for me on so many levels, but many devolve to a set of unlikable, boring characters with inexplicable motivations.
Why does Damien, a warrior priest, instigate the quest to recover Ciani's stolen memories and adept skills? The author tells us it is because Damien is in love with Ciani, but it isn't believable. He hardly knows her at the start of the journey, and once the journey begins, he mostly avoids speaking with her. Sure, he obsesses over her in countless internal monologues, but it's an illustration of puppy love, not the type of love that would motivate a long journey by a mature man to confront a dangerous foe.
Why does Damien hate Tarrant, the powerful dark adept that joins them on the journey? It could be because Tarrant lacks basic human values, but the author roots the conflict in Damien's religious beliefs. This is emphasized in countless internal monologues, and through some of their interactions. The problem is that the tenets of the religion are never presented. So the conflict, which represents a major plot thread, has no understandable basis. In fact, Tarrant is by far the more interesting and likable of the two characters, which makes Damien's hatred seem churlish.
Did I mention the countless internal monologues, which go nowhere and reveal little? Half way through the book, my greatest wish was to see Damien die a horrible, horrible death. By the end, I was just happy to be finished with him and the rest.
There are things to like about the book, such as an interesting and novel world. Unfortunately, I found it to be populated by tedious characters, a poorly explained magic system, and contradictions that made my jaw drop.
The reviewer "William" said it better than I could--this story became a chore to listen to. The story started off interesting and with a cool premise, but by the middle of the story it was becoming clear that the plot was going to progress at a very slow pace, that the characters weren't going to find sufficiently believable motivations, and that the stakes weren't going to be raised any time soon. I consistently found myself asking why this quest was still happening.
The main character makes decisions that are bewildering, sacrificing his core values--and really, the core values of anyone even trying to be moral, that is, "killing lots of innocent people is bad" for a cause he has all but emotionally abandoned by that point.
The stakes are assumed to be high, and "people will suffer if we don't finish this" is used as a justification for helping an evil person who must kill countless innocents to survive. The trouble is that despite the book's description, the story never really gives us any evidence that this is true. The main character wrestles with the moral problems of whether or not he can justify working with evil to fight some vague evil, but never stops to wonder what it is he's actually doing or why.
It just got frustrating.
R.C. Bray adds energy and fresh enjoyment to one of my favorite novels by giving a unique voice to each character, and breathing life into the book as a whole. By adopting firm yet subtle accents and inflections he helps give the sense that the regions the characters travel through, as well as the people they meet within, each have their own history and background, even when that was never hinted at in the narration itself. It's nice to hear a fantasy novel where not everyone sounds like they're all from the same country.
As well, one of my favorite aspects of Black Sun Rising (and The Coldfire Trilogy as a whole) is its treatment of "magic" within the book. Friedman has spun a rather unique yet understandable take to it, which allows the reader to quickly learn how it works within this world, as well as what its defining laws are. Something I find rare in most fantasy novels, which too often tend to do little more then just say "What? It's magic! It just works!"
Lastly I enjoy that the each of the characters, while most do fall into some kind of fantasy novel archetype, are all fleshed out, distinct, and well written individuals. They all have flaws as well as strengths just like the rest of us, and even though they live in a world far different from our own, it's very easy to understand both them and their motivations, even if you may not necessarily like or agree with all of them. Most importantly I find that they all consistently stay true to themselves, even when forced to compromise, and are never allowed to suddenly break character just to more easily or expediently further some aspect of the plot.
Overall I highly recommend this audiobook and will be listening to the rest of the Coldfire Trilogy as soon as possible!
This book is dark, and it is serious. Book has very interesting settings as well as characters. I always wanted to read a book with a vampire type creature in epic fantasy, and this book does a justice to that specific type of fiction. Vampire discussed in this book, is intelligent, powerful and mysterious. This Vampire has done what an intelligent being with such power would do. As evil as this vampire is described to be, it is still not the main bad guy of the book.
This book is also about conflict, intrigue and pragmatism. A priest that is in conflict within his own church with a lot of intrigue; a conflicted but necessary relationship between a priest and a vampire both of whom cant stand each other, but had to work together to achieve a goal.
This book has a lot of substance, and it brought to light with a very good narrator. Narration is correctly done that it is not overly dramatic, nor it is too passive for the story.
I already am on the second book, and I would recommend this book for folks who are interested in reading a fantasy book with interesting settings and with dark background throughout the book.
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.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
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.
Fantastic, imaginative, and fun!
The Hunter. He is a true Lawful Evil character and C.S. writes him beautifully.
So far I'm liking Damien. R.C. Bray is excellent in his art. All the characters are well read.
I rewound a great deal. The story is so complex and compelling just one word mis-interpreted by the listener (me) can actually change a whole scenario. I laughed out loud a few times.What a great world Friedman has created. I want to find people to role play it some day. It would be a D&D world were everyone was a wild mage to one degree or another. That would be my initial interpretation. D&D 2nd Edition rules.
I read every Friedman book I could ten years ago. I was so happy to find her books on Audible. Life is so busy anymore and not having the time to read, being able to hear the story, remember, and imagine is a great feeling. C.S. Friedman is a favorite and in the upper pantheon of writers in this genre. When Brooks, Martin, Goodkind, and Salvatore play poker Friedman is at the table too.
This trilogy is one of my very favorite reads. Mr. Bray does an amazing job with the voices, especially the unhuman voices. Highly recommended to anyone who already thinks they might want it, and to those who enjoy an intricately plotted, character driven, richly detailed story which explores the natures of good and evil, altruism and self-interest, and unlikely allies. This is a complex series, yet each book comes to a satisfying conclusion, so one is not left hanging should one decide to stop after the first (hard for me to imagine, but tastes do vary). If you enjoy admiring an attractive villain, there are few as attractive as Gerald Tarrant, and Damian Vries makes an excellent hero as well.
I was a HUGE fan of this series in print when I as a youngster....
I was overjoyed to see it finally available in Audio!!
The story remains as great as ever. (just go with it past the grisly start of
The Audible narator is servicable, but I had hopes for something slightly
more "rough-edged" to portray the "Hunter" Character.
Still a great buy that you will not be disappointed with!
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