Ever since I read a few novels by C.S. Friedman last year (In Conquest Born, The Wilding, The Madness Season and This Alien Shore) I’ve been practically desperate to begin her more famous COLDFIRE SAGA. Friedman’s stories are smart and creative and I can’t wait to see what else she has to offer. The only thing that’s so far kept me from picking up Black Sun Rising, the first COLDFIRE novel, is that I already have a huge stack (I mean hundreds) of audiobooks purchased and ready to read at Audible and on my bookshelves at home. Mostly I collect these when they’re on sale or when publishers send me review copies, so I hoard my precious Audible credits and spend them like a miser.
But I just don’t know how much longer I can hold out on COLDFIRE. I actually have Black Sun Rising in my Audible library (purchased, no doubt, in some awesome sale) but I don’t have books two and three (When True Night Falls and Crown of Shadows) yet. I picked up Dominion, a prequel to the COLDFIRE saga recently when it was cheap at Audible. And that’s what this review is actually about, so I guess I should get to it.
Dominion introduces Friedman’s well-known anti-hero Gerald Tarrant, a powerful undead magician. In this story he enters a legendary sentient forest full of seductive fae spirits because he wants to test his own power against it. But there are other beings in the forest. One is a pack of wolves, one of whom is more than he appears to be. Another is a young female knight who — along with some companions that have since been slain — has been sent to find and kill evil beings (such as Tarrant) who live in the land. Thus there are four powerful forces in the forest — the wolf pack with its great strength and prowess, Gerald with his dark magic, the young knight with her faith and courage, and the sentient forest which encloses all the others. Each of these forces will be changed by their encounters with each other and the result sets the scene for what’s to come in the rest of the COLDFIRE saga.
Dominion is a short novel, but it’s packed with drama, sharp insights, and dark chills. I didn’t know how to feel about Gerald Tarrant. He seems evil, but I can’t help but admire his curious mind and the scientific way he approaches life. I wanted to know more about him and his “transformation” from human (I assume) to vampire (I assume). There are some provocative hints about his past life in Dominion and I want to know what happened (“If I had not loved God so much, there would have been no power in betraying him”). I also want to know about the world he’s on and the forest that he respects (it reminds me of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood). Tarrant says he is eager to take up residence in the forest and use its powers to create and evolve new species. I want to see that!
I listened to the audiobook version narrated by R.C. Bray. His voice and cadence were perfect for this sinister story. After finishing Dominion, I was eager to move on to the rest of the COLDFIRE saga. I may just have to give in and spend a couple of my precious credits… After all, that’s what they’re for.