Black Sun Rising, a Gritty Fantasy by C.S. Friedman

Black Sun Rising cover art by the amazing Michael Whelan. Click the picture for more.

I first heard of Black Sun Rising when I heard a well-known author say that the book was a well-crafted fantasy. At that point, of course, I just had to see for myself.

My first thoughts upon starting the book did indeed focus on how well it was written. The prose was beautiful, backstory salted in oh so carefully and the characters had depth that went far beyond the printed page. The author (C.S. Friedman) has definitely worked hard to build Erna — a complicated world with a storied past, a world that was colonized hundreds of years before by humans from Earth. However, somewhere along the line, catastrophe struck and the colonists lost all their advanced technology, plunging them back into a more medieval-type of society.

Enter the characters:

Damien Vryce: A rebel, a warrior, a priest who is (as the cover jacket states) “one of the few men of his calling who believes that sorcery can, indeed, serve as a potent weapon in the war against evil…”

Ciani of Faraday: An adept, one of the few humans born with the ability to see the native fae (forces of nature native to Erna) and alter it to her will. However, a deadly evil from her mysterious past haunts her, leaving her no choice but to track down the demons who have robbed her of her memories.

Senzei Reese: Ciani’s assistant and friend, who has lived in the shadow of her power for years, always hungering to taste, to hold the power she controls.

Gerald Tarrant: A mysterious and elegant yet deadly sorcerer who draws sustenance from the dark powers of Erna. And yet, the mission these four set out on has little chance of success without his abhorrent power.

Overall, I did indeed find Black Sun Rising to be written very well. My only hesitation comes from finding that as I read, I occasionally felt I had just missed some important detail and had to back up a few paragraphs to see what it was. Nonetheless, the author’s world-building was admirably extensive and the characters well developed.

In terms of ranking, I give Black Sun Rising 4 stars because of the quality of writing. As for my personal preference, I probably won’t read books 2 and 3 of The Coldfire Trilogy, but — I stress here — that is simply because the book is a little darker and grittier than I prefer. If that is your style, you might want to check out this trilogy. The skill with which it is written warrants a look-see.

Black Sun Rising was first released in October 1991 by DAW Books. For more info, here are links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can find the author, C.S. Friedman, at

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