The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams, and indiscriminately giving them life. This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity's progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known.
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Prelude: A lot of people seem to enjoy this book, so you might as well.
I almost always finish the audiobooks I purchase, and I finished this one. But it was a chore, not a pleasure. The book failed for me on so many levels, but many devolve to a set of unlikable, boring characters with inexplicable motivations.
Why does Damien, a warrior priest, instigate the quest to recover Ciani's stolen memories and adept skills? The author tells us it is because Damien is in love with Ciani, but it isn't believable. He hardly knows her at the start of the journey, and once the journey begins, he mostly avoids speaking with her. Sure, he obsesses over her in countless internal monologues, but it's an illustration of puppy love, not the type of love that would motivate a long journey by a mature man to confront a dangerous foe.
Why does Damien hate Tarrant, the powerful dark adept that joins them on the journey? It could be because Tarrant lacks basic human values, but the author roots the conflict in Damien's religious beliefs. This is emphasized in countless internal monologues, and through some of their interactions. The problem is that the tenets of the religion are never presented. So the conflict, which represents a major plot thread, has no understandable basis. In fact, Tarrant is by far the more interesting and likable of the two characters, which makes Damien's hatred seem churlish.
Did I mention the countless internal monologues, which go nowhere and reveal little? Half way through the book, my greatest wish was to see Damien die a horrible, horrible death. By the end, I was just happy to be finished with him and the rest.
There are things to like about the book, such as an interesting and novel world. Unfortunately, I found it to be populated by tedious characters, a poorly explained magic system, and contradictions that made my jaw drop.
The story took me by surprise in that I was not expecting a 'new' spin on such a controversial subject: Religion. You have a group of colonists effectively stranded at the outer edge of the universe on a planet that literally takes their hopes and fears and make them real. The struggle to control the human psyche and the 'monsters' that can be created from it comes down to creating and sustaining a belief system so that they can survive and thrive. However, just like in our own society, there are those that buy into the belief system and those that oppose it. The introduction of an unknown but increasingly powerful villain that requires an equally powerful but somewhat equally distasteful "hero" just makes the story that much more interesting. Imagine the creator of your most cherished and beloved philosophy turning into the very thing you're fighting against. A "creature" that embodies the things you hate and despise the most but, at the same time needing that self same individual to help you save the human race.
The first book took a little long to get around to the actual story and character development seemed somewhat slow; but, as I listened I became more interested in the underlying story. The narrator, R.C Bray did an excellent job, and I look forward to listening to other books he has done.