Tor.com publishing schedule has this frequent habit of derailing me from my reading schedule. And they did it yet again – forcing me to pick up Cold Forged Flame by Marie Brennan. Marie Brennan is a name that should be familiar to me, but sadly I haven’t jumped onto the bandwagon of readers, who are enamored by her series, A Natural History of Dragons and the subsequent sequels, detailing the adventures of Lady Trent and co.
So Cold Forged Flame was a book I went in, without any preconceived biases – and damn, it helped. The book is a relatively straightforward, fast-paced scorching tale of self-discovery and also, survival. Written in first person, with an unreliable narrator who suffers from amnesia, thus setting up the intrigue and mystery right from get go. Old trick in the book, executed so well by a writer of master-class. Marie really hooks us into this tricky and dangerous quest of the un-named narrator who wakes up to the clarion call of a war-horn summoned against her will by a tribal chief to do his bidding.
As we proceed, Marie does a bang up job of transporting us into this highly imaginative atmospheric world that the narrator has woken up into, a harsh, treacherous landscape that may not be what it seems at first sight. Despite the length, I was fully absorbed into this mission and had my heart in my mouth for pretty much throughout the story – action and conflict peppers the narrative, the prose is never clunky and the flow is maintained throughout. And yet, even after I read the story, I had tonnes of questions about the world. About the people, the races and everything. Which is always a good thing. While yes, this one does tie up all the conflicts presented from the start, there is definitely room for a lot more flexing, in possibly a series where we will see our amnesiac narrator back in ripping form. There is suppressed violence, juxtaposed with the never-ending search for answers, within her mind. It’s a strange combination that seems to work very well with this form. I absolutely loved it.
The revelations when it comes, are very well timed. I am sorry – but speaking anything further about such, might just give away the essence of the story. So suffice to say that, despite its length, this novella packs a wallop, with its highly imaginative storyline, the conflicted emotions of a narrator you will find mysterious and intriguing enough to follow to the ends of this wonderfully engrossing world. Go ahead. Read it.
It comes out Sept 13th from Tor.com (I received a Netgalley ARC in return for my honest review)