The Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan
Published by Tor.com
Publication Date : September 13th, 2016
Available as eBook – 112 Pages
Source : NetGalley (Thank you!) and Purchased
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.
There is always a lot of good things to say about Marie Brennan’s work and I’ll go ahead and say the biggest flaw I had with this was that it was just too short. I love novellas and especially Tor.com’s line of them, some of my favorite books and stories have come from that line for this year. This was another home run for me.
We begin knowing as much about our narrator as she knows about herself. She opens her eyes upon a rock and she’s sent on a quest. Starting out I almost laughed, I didn’t expect to care that much. Because our character knows so little about herself and we know so little about her I didn’t think it’d be interesting. However just like in previous books by Marie Brennan I found myself sucked into the world itself. For a good chunk of the story I was reading for the world. I cared about the main character after a 20 or 30 pages but I ultimately came to care about what was happening around her almost more. The few side characters we meet early on, all men, were interesting hooks into that world. Who are the people who pulled our narrator into the world? Why did they send her on this quest? The big one for me was, what kind of crazy island is this? The quest is to retrieve something from an island off the shore of their very Scottish seeming inspired local. The island is dangerous, and not really in a way I expected. It’s special attributes made it just as much a character in as the actual human ones.
So for me, in that regard, the characters and place were so entwined that they worked together. They held up the story for me till we got more information about our narrator. I won’t give any spoilers about her away besides the accepted ‘she’s a badass lady’. However I’ll add that beside her ‘badass lady’ cutout, she’s incredibly self-aware. To the point where I began reading into what she was saying about her definition in life. She had to find what she wanted, her drive, and what defined her – all why only knowing herself for a few hours? She’s smart about. She thinks more about that voice and definition than some people think about their dinner. Especially considering all her human interaction was coming from men. I loved that, that was what got me in the end. Her insight to herself kind of nudged me to think about my own insights.
As I said, my biggest flaw in this is the shortness. I highly suspect that once the second book arrives and I reread this back to back with it I’ll bump this up the last star it needs. I just was left wanting more now, I didn’t have the complete resolution I wanted no matter how much I loved the people and world. Definitely pick this one up – it’s up there with Binti for me, and I am beyond excited for the next story.