Book Review - NIGHTBORN: COLDFIRE RISING by C.S. Friedman

(Title: Nightborn: Coldfire Rising / Author: C.S. Friedman / Publisher: DAW Books / Publication Date: July 18, 2023 / Total Pages: 288)

Back Cover Blurb
A ship full of colonists arrive on a seemingly hospitable planet, only to discover that it harbors a terrifying secret. Soon the settlers find themselves caught up in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, bringing a person's greatest fears and darkest nightmares to life.

As colony commander Leon Case and Chief Medic Lise Perez struggle to find a way to control the fae before more people die, other settlers have ideas of their own...and they may prove more of a threat to colony than the fae itself.

Nightborn: Coldfire Rising is a tale that blends sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, suspenseful and emotionally intense, as a handful of humans struggle to survive on an alien world that seems determined to kill them. In the end they will have to draw upon both scientific knowledge and mystical traditions to save themselves.

Whether you're just discovering the Coldfire universe through this prequel or returning to it as a classic favorite, Nightborn: Coldfire Rising is the perfect entry point to this unique, genre-blending space fantasy epic.

C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy is included in the 10 of My Fave SFF Series You May Not Have Heard Of list that I put together and posted on this very blog a few years back. It's such an underrated series in my opinion and contains not only some of the most exceptional worldbuilding you will ever read but also writing that is both evocative and flawless in its execution. C.S. Friedman writes stories that truly take the reader on a journey like no other and it's a shame that she doesn't often get the recognition that myself and many others believe that she deserves. When I heard that she had a new book coming out and that it was a prequel to one of my favorite story arcs of all-time, I jumped at the chance to get an early copy. I have been hoping for a backstory to what took place on that distant planet of Erna for a long long time, and now here it was in my hand. Would it live up to my expectations and do justice to what I feel is an unassailable masterwork of sff/horror? Here are my thoughts...

First let me say that you don't need to read the Coldfire Trilogy to enjoy this book. It's a fantastic story in its own right and I can see how any reader would find it a solid self-contained read. That being said, I do think that this prequel will have much more of an emotional impact if you have the knowledge of those first three books going into this one. If you have read the series already I also recommend going back and quickly reading the prologue to the first book, Black Sun Rising. It really sets things up and enhances the prequel to the point where it makes it a much more haunting tale than it would be otherwise. Just my opinion though.

NIGHTBORN: COLDFIRE RISING is the perfect segue into the larger series and answered all of those nagging questions I had with regard to the origins of the colonization of the enigmatic planet of Erna. This was always a trilogy that begged for a prequel in my opinion and Friedman has written one that is about as perfect as you could ask for. This prequel gives the reader a front row seat as the first settlers of Erna begin to realize that the planet they all thought might be ideal for colonization slowly reveals that it is anything but. As they struggle to understand what is going on there is also a realization that there's no going back because they have all committed 100% to this and the ship can no longer be used to escape.

Friedman could have easily made this a book that is filled with a bunch of info dumps and a litany of backstory and that would have probably satisfied some readers. But that's not what she does at all with this prequel, rather, she weaves a wholly action-packed and intriguing story all its own that is in itself an enjoyable read. If you didn't know this was a prequel, you would never be the wiser. That's how good this story is and it's also what makes C.S. Friedman one of the best sff writers to ever grace the genre. There are no cutting corners or skimming over of things. I was fully enamored with the mystery of Erna's past and the secrets of the all powerful glowing blue force called the fae that permeates the planet and appears every time the three moons set and True Night falls.

If you enjoy science-fiction with a good dose of horror and also some fantasy elements sprinkled in, you should pick this book up immediately. But don't stop there, proceed right on to the Coldfire Trilogy and treat yourself to an amazingly written masterpiece that truly stands out from its peers. C.S. Friedman has once again solidified her place in the upper pantheon of sff authors (as if she needed to). I'm so thankful that I got a chance to peel back the curtain on Erna and the first generation of ancestors of those who I am so familiar with from those beloved original books. NIGHTBORN: COLDFIRE RISING is a wonderful gift that will delight C.S. Friedman's already established fans and should introduce a whole new segment of readers to the multi-faceted greatness of her writing. 



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