Crown of Shadows by C.S. Friedman
Crown of Shadows brings C.S. Friedman’s COLDFIRE trilogy to a close. (This review may contain spoilers for the previous books, which you really must read before beginning Crown of Shadows.)
In the previous book, When True Night Falls, the unlikely allies Reverend Damien Vryce and undead vampire Gerald Tarrant battled their way across hostile foreign countries to combat the evil force that was threatening humanity. Just when they thought they were finished, they were essentially told: “But wait! There’s more!” Now they’re on their way back home where they will — they hope — finally really combat the actual final real ultimate source of evil … which turns out to be Calesta the demon.
Damien and Gerald will once again be called on to travel together to intimidating foreign lands, fight side-by-side, and save each other’s lives. There will again be deadly enemies, powerful illusions, and hostile terrain to overcome. Just when I thought Friedman had put Gerald and Damien through every lethal landscape she could think of, she sends them through a horrible hell inhabited by Gerald’s numerous victims. This part is quite upsetting and makes us question whether or not we really want to see Gerald redeemed.
Meanwhile Calesta has been mustering up his own troops. One of these is the patriarch of Damien’s church. This man has the best of intentions and we even see him calling for unity and tolerance, but he has no idea that his desire to rally his church on a crusade against Gerald is playing right into a demon’s plans. Friedman does a great job with this character, using him to again emphasize the blurriness of the line between good and evil.
Calesta has also dredged up Gerald’s last living descendant, a decadent man named Andrys who is perfectly willing to be Calesta’s pawn. For most of his life he has let hatred and despair drive him, but he also will be changed by his encounters with the other characters in this tale.
Friedman surprised me with this story. With all the emphasis on sacrifice and redemption, I kind of thought I knew how it was going to turn out, but I was wrong. The story is about sacrifice and redemption, but it didn’t go like I expected. Also surprising are the stunning revelations we get about where the demons of Erna came from. I liked this part of the story best.
In audio format Crown of Shadows is only 19 hours long (book 1 was 24 hours and book 2 was 26 hours long) but it is still longer than it needs to be with too much page time spent describing travelling. This is my main complaint about the series. The trilogy could have been condensed to two volumes and it would have been better. Despite the length, though, the COLDFIRE trilogy is an above average epic science fantasy that’s smart and thought-provoking.
Coldfire — (1991-2012) Dominion is a prequel. Publisher: The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life. This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity’s progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known.
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