Review: Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan

Posted by DarkChaplain at 9/15/2016
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've been meaning to get to this one for a while, and sadly didn't make it in time for launch this week. I've enjoyed Marie Brennan's Lady Trent Memoirs greatly (and still wish to talk about the series in the future), so I was excited to see what else Miss Brennan had up her sleeve.

The Story:
"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."


Disclaimer
I received an ARC of this novella from the publisher. Keep that in mind while reading the review.

The Review:
Cold-Forged Flame is a very different story from Marie Brennan's Lady Trent Memoirs, which I adore (and eagerly await the final book of!). What the story does have in common with the series is that it is about a girl/woman on the journey to self-discovery - although in a different manner than the Lady Trent's.

The originally unnamed protagonist is summoned and bound to a task set for her: To retrieve a vial of blood from a cauldron in a cave, on an island that defies logic. She knows nothing about herself, or how she knows even things such as language. Forced to obey against her will, with the doubtful promise of freedom upon completion, she sets out to the mysterious island.

At first, I felt it difficult to connect with the story. It is very different from what I've come to expect from Marie Brennan (which doesn't say much, since I have only read one of her series, I admit). Having a blank slate character with a rebellious attitude worked against the story at first, in my eyes. Confronted with a new, unknown fantasy world, I find it easiest to use characters and their roles within their world to anchor myself while discovering the setting. This was difficult at first, as the protagonist was learning along with me, herself a stranger.
Once the adventure really began, and the plot kept rolling, and even introduced a supporting character to drip-feed answers as more questions opened up and the protagonist's identity seemed to return bit by bit, I fully settled into the tale. I got invested in the two's trials, and the woman's dilemma. By the final steps of their quest, I wanted more and was comfortable with the way Brennan constructed this novella.

The book plunges the reader into an unfamiliar situation, mirroring the protagonist's own position. We follow her, discovering things at a steady pace with her, ask the same questions about her summoners' motives and the task at hand, and as a result, fear for her when things get dicey. The story grows stronger along with the central characters, raising the stakes along with her knowledge of self, and ends on a note where I'd undoubtedly want to read more about them.
With growing knowledge of the setting and characters, I grew fond of the concepts Brennan presented. Granted, the adventure itself was fairly straightforward (if you can even say that about a mysterious island that tries to trick your mind!), but that allowed for more introspection and growth, discovering what kind of person the protagonist is. It worked, despite the shaky start for me.

I am curious to see where all of this is headed, and what magical aspects will come up in following works in the series. Cold-Forged Flame provides a solid foundation for hopefully many more adventures to come.

Cold-Forged Flame on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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