Coldfire Trilogy Review

Book Review: The Coldfire Trilogy

I know I’m really behind in this one (these were published in the early 1990’s), but I just finished the final book of The Coldfire Trilogy by CS Friedman on my camping trip this last weekend. I originally picked up one of these books ten years ago, when my mom and I were visiting one of her teaching co-workers. He’d just lost his daughter in a car crash and had a bunch of her old books to relocate. This was one of them.

Unfortunately, that book was the third part of the trilogy, and three pages in I realized that and put it down for the better part of a decade.

I finally had the chance to buy all the books right at the beginning of 2012, and because I’m a really non-diligent reader, it took me this long to get through them all. Hey, when you’re writing your own book, you don’t read as much!

Okay, I don’t read as much. I know other authors who are way better at that than I am.

Anywho, let’s move on.

The Coldfire Trilogy is a Science-Fiction/Fantasy, and one of the only book series I’ve ever read that really does incorporate elements of both genres. I actually hate that sci-fi and fantasy are lumped together as one genre because the two are so different, but this books legitimately mixes them.

For one, the world is called Erna, a new planet human beings have travelled to using highly sophisticated space travel technology. They were forced to abandon Earth and Erna was the first, and only, habitable planet they discovered. Unfortunately, Erna is also home to a magic called the Fae, and the Fae is pretty much determined to destroy mankind, seeing it as a parasite (big surprise there).

Mankind eventually “tames” the Fae by sacrificing their own knowledge of their sciences, which makes the Fae accept them more as part of its world. And by “tames,” I mean they die less often, because really, the Fae takes their strongest emotions (like fear, for example) and creates something real out of it (like demonlings, that like to kill people). It’s bad news bears.

Anyway, so there’s science and magic. It works.

The series follows one protagonist, Damien Vryce, who is a priest for the Church of Human Unification on Erna, which is essentially Christianity sans Jesus: one God who is more or less totally uninvolved in human affairs. The Church’s goal is to truly tame the Fae and make human beings immune to its power, a feat they believe can be achieved through a unified population believing wholly in The One God. This is difficult, considering another Ernan race, the Iezu, embody human emotion and act as lesser “gods.” As far as I could tell, most people on Erna followed many of these other Gods, who actually were active and present in their lives instead of a God that was uninvolved.

Anyway, next is Gerald Tarrant, who is pretty much just an evil badass. You’re led to believe Gerald is going to be the primary antagonist, but what you discover is that he is an immortal sorcerer who, back in the day, started the One Church and now works with Damien Vryce to save humankind from the overarching threat overhead. Yeah, the priest has to work with an evil sorcerer. It goes without saying that this was one of the major character conflicts of the novel.

You get to meet a lot of interesting people throughout the book, from Church officials to members of native Ernan species. You get to meet many different Iezu who embody different emotions and take on different forms, as well as get a look at the history of Erna between Gerald Tarrant’s massacre (which made him the evil badass that he is) and the present-day.

I don’t want to give too much about the history away, but let it be known that my second favorite character died in book two, and my favorite character died at least three times through the course of the book. This comes as no surprise, as I always fall in love with the characters whose deaths will make the book more meaningful in the end.

Overall, I loved the series. It’s well written and the plot lines were unpredictable enough to keep me guessing but predictable enough to where, by the end, I didn’t feel cheated out of the opportunity to figure it out for myself. The biggest issue I can address, though, is that the writing is a little long-winded and it didn’t grip me as much as other books I’ve read. If you’re the kind of reader that needs fast-paced, heart-gripping prose to keep yourself involved in a story, this isn’t the one for you.

On the other hand, if you like solid writing, albeit a bit formalized and flowery, and a great story with awesome characters, this trilogy is perfect for you.

Oh, and another thing: don’t get attached to pretty much anyone. It’s not “Joss Whedon” bad, but it’s pretty bad.


Categories: Book Reviews, Series


    1. Hmm. Fair point. Flowery can be bad, but it really depends on the genre and age group you write for. I guess I define flowery as very adjective- and adverb-rich prose, which tends to be lengthy and detailed, which is great, say, for building a believable fantasy world, and less great for a quick-paced novel meant to get your heart racing or in a conversational setting. Additionally, a lot of people do “bad flowery,” where their writing starts to lose focus and is no longer helping lead the story along other than offering filler text.

      I feel like there’s a certain belief that “good” writing uses complicated sentence structure and vocabulary, and I just don’t think that’s true.

      In general, I think flowery writing works really well in short stories and poetry, as well as other works that are typically shorter. It’s actually rare that I fall in love with a novel written with this kind of overly-detailed prose. It just goes to show how vital great characters and an awesome story are!

      I’ll definitely put this on the list for future blog posts. Thanks!


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