Book Review: Black Sun Rising
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Though C.S. Friedman’s Black Sun Rising, Book One of her Coldfire Trilogy, isn’t as well known as other fantasy epics, it deserves recognition as a unique and engaging story. Events take place on a fascinating world where vaporous rivers of invisible fae manifest the horrors of the imagination into reality. For those few who can harness the currents, called Adepts, the fae provides formidable psychic powers.
Black Sun Rising introduces us to warrior Reverend Damien Vryce, a sword-wielding man of principle and compassion. After companion Adept Ciani has her powers stripped in a brutal attack, she and Vryce set off on a quest to regain her powers. As they travel, they encounter the immortal Gerald Tarrant, an Adept of the dark fae and nighttime tormentor of the weak and vulnerable. Known as The Hunter, Tarrant has his own concerns about any force that can strip the psychic powers from a person. Striking an uneasy truce, Tarrant joins Vryce and Ciani as they head north, deep into the lands of the mysterious rakh.
As the group travels, they learn of each other and their histories, challenging their own beliefs and understanding. Touching on bias, racism, and acceptance, Friedman shows that nearly everything has shades of grey. These textures make the characters more relatable, including Gerald Tarrant who ultimately plays roles as both antagonist and protagonist.
Both elements of the world and aspects of the main characters are unique and provide a compelling source of tension. Friedman does a good job of keeping everyone’s behavior consistent, even as characters grow throughout the story. The world-building of how different races evolved drives the underlying prejudices current members have toward others.
The originality of the fae as a story element has stayed with me since I first read this story decades ago. In re-reading the novel, I have again found Tarrant to be one of the most engaging characters I’ve come across.
Originally published in 1991, Black Sun Rising is a highly enjoyable book. Score: 76/100.