The Coldfire Trilogy, original epic fantasy with a sci-fi twist
Imagine a world where your nightmares and darkest thoughts take form. Welcome to Erna. Damien Vryce is both a priest and a sorcerer. The Church was formed to focus human thought on the greater good in the hopes that the fae forces of Erna would reflect that belief. But many tap into the earth fae and shape it into sorcery. Damien bridges both concepts. Something of the fae attacks and steals the memory of a Lore Master Adept named Ciani that Damien was flirting with. As Damien is tracking it down he meets a mysterious and sinister adept named Gerald Tarrant who is following the same trail. Gerald wears the oldest symbol of the Church, a disc depicting Earth, but his sorcery consists of something he calls Coldfire, he cannot bear sunlight, and he feeds on fear. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Black Sun Rising follows this unlikely trio, each of whom embodies the worst fears of the others. To save Ciani they travel deep into the forbidden Rakhlands. Along the way they are joined by Hesseth one of the tribal Rakh and able to work with the tidal fae. Damian finds Gerald evil and yet fascinating. How can a man believe in the mission of the Church and yet work with the dark fae it seeks to dispel? Already under suspicion by his superiors because he is one of the first sorcerer priests Damian has no idea how to explain that instead of trying to kill Gerald he asked for his help. Gerald claims he is pursuing the attackers because they fed in his territory but his motives might be more complex.They eventually contfront the demon commanding Ciani's attackers. Demons are actually common on Erna and each feeds on emotion. This one feeds on suffering. They also feel that this demon is somehow connected to the continent on the far side of Erna. Three differnt expeditions set out to colonize those lands but were never heard from again.
When True Night Falls begins with their ocean passage. Gerald must feed on fear so Damian volunteers to be his willing meal to protect the ship's crew. Every night Damian is living his deepest fears and then has to face Gerald. To pass among the humans Hesseth has shaved the fur from her face and goes cloaked. Gerald took control of his destiny centuries ago with a hideous sacrifice and finds himself on a boat where the crew could expose him to sunlight and since he gave his word to Damian about that crew he must feed off a subject that fears very little. By the time they find land all three are paranoid and stressed despite the tentative relationships they built in the first book. At first what they find seems miraculous. One of the settler ships that attempted the crossing centuries ago made it and are now living the dream of the Church. A land where everyone's faith is so strong the fae of Erna holds no sway. They soon suspect that there is something rotten at the core of this Church.
Crown of Shadows: Continuing to follow the path of this evil they return to their homeland and travel into an actively volcanic region seeking answers. Gerald has lived centuries and is not about to let anyone destroy the future he is determined to bring about. In many ways Damian exemplifies what Gerald hoped for the Church. A warrior of faith who uses sword and sorcery to battle the evil manifested by the fae. As for Damian he now questions his faith and his worthiness as a priest. At first he worked with Gerald because he needed the aid of an adept, but now he has come to feel respect and reluctant friendship with Gerald. Despite the means Gerald uses he is essentially on the same side. But the demons have alerted the dark powers with whom Gerald made his pact that he is engaging in acts that are almost benign. Gerald now has to appease those powers while protecting his allies. Following clues they battle their way to a super volcanoe and the final revelations.
Overall its a great series. There relationship between Damian and Gerald is well done and Gerald Tarrant is one of my all time favorite evil good guys. For one of them the end justifies the means, but for the other its all about doing the right thing at that moment despite future difficulty. Its one of the oldest arguments but Friedman gives it new life. The conclusion is completely satisfying, and original, which is one thing I love about Friedman. So far all but one of her books is fantastic (Wilding, don't bother). Coldfire is fantasy with a sci-fi foundation under it.
C.S. Friedman has also written three stand alone sci-fi novels, This Alien Shore (which one the new york times best book of the year), In Conquest Born, and The Madness Season. Okay, she also wrote Wilding which I tend to forget because its utterly forgetable. She also has the epic fantasy Magister Trilogy which is great. She is currently writing a contemporary sci-fi alternate world series that starts with Dreamseeker, I'm reading it but not completely drawn in yet. Like Brandon Sanderson her worlds are original and very well thought out.
The series is available on Audible and narrated by R. C. Bray. They got four stars there. Its a good sign when Audible has a series from 1996.
Michael Whelan is one of my all time favorite cover artists having worked in the industry since the 70's. You've seen his work on the books of Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, Michael Moorcock, C.J. Cherryh, Tad Williams....you get the idea. I have a signed lithograph of To Green Angel Tower. Even my 75 year old mother thinks its cool.