Quick Review: COLD-FORGED FLAME by Marie Brennan (Tor.com)

BrennanM-ColdForgedFlameAn interesting fantasy novella with room for expansion

The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.

And so, in reply, there is a woman.

At the beginning — no — at the end — she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy.

Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.

This is the story of a woman’s struggle against her very existence, an epic tale of the adventure and emotional upheaval on the way to face an ancient enigmatic foe. This could only spun from the imagination of Marie Brennan, award-winning author and beloved fantasist, beginning a new series about the consequences of war — and of fate.

I enjoyed this novella. The story opens with our protagonist waking in the middle of a ritual — one centred around her. She has no memories, is warned off trying to remember who and what she is. She is given a task, an order she cannot resist. It seems like it could be a straight-forward quest to acquire something. However, when has a Quest ever been easy…? In Cold-Forged Flame, Brennan gives readers a selection of difficulties that can befall a hero. A quick-paced, enjoyable novella.

Overall, I enjoyed this novella a good deal. Brennan’s writing is very good, as can be expected — her prose well-crafted, descriptions evocative without being florid or clunky. Her characters are interesting and all feel real and well-rounded, regardless of how central or peripheral they may be to this story. Brennan does a great job of describing the locations the story takes us to, and their respective atmospheres. There was only one moment that I thought was a little muddled, only… I can’t describe it (it comes quite late in the story, towards the end of the Quest). Regardless, it’s an interesting look at a popular theme in fantasy and mythology: deal-making with mystical beings, and how tricksy they can be.

There’s a lot in this novella that could be expanded upon, I think. The mythology and world itself, not to mention the politics hinted at, could form the basis for future novellas and stories set in this world. This is especially apparent after we learn who (or what) our protagonist actually is. I would certainly be interested in reading more.



Cold-Forged Flame is due to be published by Tor.com on September 13th, 2016.

Also on CR: Interview with Marie Brennan (2013); Guest Post on “The Series Payoff”

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