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The Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman

Review by Caleyna

I am so glad Jarihn talked me into reading this series! I found it to be a refreshing change from the "young orphan child goes out into the world and defeats the Ultimate Evil" model. Overall the series deserves a four out of five amulets. To break it down even further:

Black Sun Rising=3
When True Night Falls=4
Crown of Shadows=5

The series starts off well enough, and I was immediatly curious about the world. Why were the people locked up at night? What did Working entail? A priest? Where *is* this world? I needed answers to all these questions, so I kept reading.

The plot is fast paced and orginal. I could never predict any of the plot twists, which made me very happy. I like being surprised, and this series is full of them. The ending is the biggest twist of all. I thought I *knew* how the series must end, but I was very very wrong. It did end how I thought it had to, but with such a twist that it was impossible to say I predicted it at all. The whole series is worth reading just for the last 300 pages. I felt like I was riding a runaway train, and it was exciting! Scary, but exciting. I hate series that start with a bang but end with a whimper. This is exactly opposite. The ending is the best I've read in a very long time. I laughed when I saw the cover text say somthing about "a stunning conclusion", but it is very stunning. Amazing actually.

Technically the book could be considered sci-fi, but in all reality it is fantasy. I really liked the touches that showed the people were orginally from earth. Most fantasy novels don't have indoor plumbing or people jogging in the park for excercise. I liked those little touches. This added to the uniqueness of the series, and was a nice change from stinky medival settings--though the setting is medival. Yet they have guns. But the guns don't work. It is impossible to explain.

There is only one major flaw in the series, but the plot overshadows it. The characters are almost all totally flat. The book could have rated much higher of C. S. Friedman would have made her characters seem a tad more real. I also had to laugh at one of the main character's style of dialouge. If I wouldn't have known better, I would have tought one of my students was writing it. Very stilted and full of slang. Ugh. I never could bring myself to like that character, and he is one of the main ones. Poor guy, he just didn't have a clue.

The only character that I really loved was almost pure evil. Normally I hate the bad guys--especially bad guys that survive by killing women. This villian was just so darn likeable though! I couldn't help myself. He was far and away my favorite character, and he made me cry more than once throughout the series.

Friedman's characterizations do get somewhat better in the last book, and she creates a very poignant romantic scene that was beautifully written. It caught me off guard, since I wasn't used to caring about her characters.

Overall, I highly recommend this series. It's very dark, and I wouldn't want to be eating when I'm reading most of it or you'll become ill, but it's worth it. The end totally makes up for any flaws throughout the rest of the books. You know if I read the whole triology it is worthwhile, since I don't make it past the first two chapters on most books I start.

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