If you like sword and sorcery similar to Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion sequence, then you might consider giving Marie Brennan’s Cold-Forged Flame a shot. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this short novella. Cold-Forged Flame on the surface was marketed as an epic fantasy offering, which had me a little confused considering the story takes place in the confines of 104 pages. Turns out, its sword and sorcery, and it has the sort of old school Moorcock vibe that resonates well with my reading tastes.
The premise of this short novella is our protagonist, a rather violent strong female sort, is summoned from another realm to help the elders of a village complete a quest for a drop of magical blood. Under the guise of protecting her, the people who summon her refuse to give any information on who she is and where she came from. She knows very little, not even her own name, and throughout the story surprises herself with the things she is capable of naturally. As the main character traverses a strange shifting environment, she meets a companion on a similar quest. This was the section of the story where things really started to groove. The choices and interactions the main character has with this companion really drive the story forward and amount to a meaningful conclusion that left me feeling fairly satisfied.
Cold-Forged Flame is worth checking out if you’re looking for a quick Grimdark read with a sword and sorcery vibe. The story may have benefited from a somewhat longer novella, but was written well enough and clear enough that I found quite a bit of enjoyment in it. I am interested in continuing the series with the sequel Lightning in the Blood.
About the Author: Marie Brennan is the author of the Doppelganger, Onyx Court, Wilders, and Memoirs of Lady Trent series of fantasy novels. You can find her and he works at the Swan Tower.