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Black Sun Rising: The Coldfire Trilogy: Book One Paperback – 5 Oct 2006
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A magnum opus of the imagination (Library Journal)
The first volume of the Coldfire Trilogy - an extraordinary feat of storytelling and imagination on a grand scaleSee all Product description
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With all high technology lost in the birth of a new religion, the colonists of Erna have descended to a Renaissance level of technology, although retaining certain advanced medical, astronomical and scientific knowledge. Damien Kilcannon Vryce, a warrior-priest of the Church and one of the few churchmen able to wield the Fae, arrives in the city of Jaggonath to adopt a new and difficult role in the Church hierarchy. However, when a local Fae-wielder is brutally attacked and her ability to wield the Fae is neutralised, Damien is drawn into a lengthy quest that will lead into the dangerous rakhlands to confront a powerful sorcerer. Along the way Damien is forced into a most uneasy alliance with the cold and arrogant Gerald Tarrant, a powerful wielder of the Fae who has secrets of his own...
Black Sun Rising (1991) is the first novel in Celia Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy. This SF-epic fantasy hybrid was very highly regarded upon its initial release in the United States, but oddly it wasn't until a year or so ago that Orbit finally published the first UK edition.
The novel is a mixture of the familiar and the use of more original tropes, although the familiar does win out in the end. This is a quest story, with an interesting band of 'heroes' setting out to right a great wrong and travel across a vast chunk of countryside in the process. The world of Erna has some interesting facets to it but the travelling makes for the more tedious part of the book, especially the endless mucking around in caves. Page after page of description of rocks and tunnels does not make for entertaining reading.
Fortunately, Friedman's characters are an interesting, if largely unlikeable bunch. She isn't afraid to kill off major characters and paints them in convincing detail. Less impressive is that secondary characters are not very well developed at all. The rakhs' motivations in particular could have been fleshed out more and one key character who hangs around for a good 150-200 or so pages doesn't even get a name.
The plotline is intriguing and there's no denying that the worldbuilding is quite well-thought-out. The cliffhanger ending comes out of nowhere and the enforced humour at the end of the book doesn't really work as well as intended. That said, the book was enjoyable enough to make me look forward to picking up the second volume, When True Night Falls.
The magic system devised by Friedman is deliciously original. The cover art is outstanding. This is one case where you CAN judge a book by its cover; if you like the cover you'll love the book. I have to see if I can get a poster sized copy and possibly frame it. :-) When you finish Crown of Shadows you will be stunned. The ending is like being hit by a train...4 or 5 times in rapid succession. While the body of the series has enough plot twists to utterly enthrall even the most inert reader, the ending puts it to shame as a candle before the rising sun. Without the slightest bit of hyperbole I can state that I had no idea how it would end until the last word of the last page was read. In sum the Coldfire Trilogy is a masterwork, the sort of gem that fantasy aficionados search for but only too rarely are privileged to find.