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A trilogy of books by CS Friedman that successfully manages to combine the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. The books' titles in order are Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows.

The story takes place on Erna, a planet colonized many centuries ago by humans who soon realized that a mysterious force originating from the planet, the fae, had the power to let their subconscious emotions such as their desires and especially their fear affect their environment and even create embodied creatures out of their nightmares. These creatures, called faeborn or in some cases demons, feed from humans, sometimes literally, sometimes in a more subtle way. They vary greatly in shape and strength. Some are literally gods that humans worship (and thus feed) in exchange for favours and help.

In return, some humans have managed to manipulate the fae to their need by using symbolism and the pattern of sacrifice, practicing Sorcery. Some humans, the Adepts, have even adapted to Erna to the point that they are born with the ability to perceive the fae and manipulate it instinctively.

There exist four different kinds of fae:

  • Earth fae originates from Erna's frequent seismic activity and is the one most often used by humans.
  • Solar fae originates from the sun's light when it touches the atmosphere, it usually cannot be used unless a massive amount of people are concentrating on the same thing.
  • Tidal fae is tied to the gravity of the different moons of Erna and their alignments. No human is known to be able to use this very subtle force.
  • Dark fae originates in true darkness, either from subterranean places that never see light, or during True Night, during those lapse of time when no moon nor star light the sky. As powerful as it is dangerous, it is implied that the demonic Hunter is the only fleshborn who can utilize it directly.

The fae renders technology unreliable because people's fear affect its operation. As a result, the civilization of Erna has fallen down into a medieval level of technology. Some 1,000 years ago, some of the people who yearned for their Earth heritage created the Church. Based upon the writing of the Prophet, they hope that by garnering enough faith and mass symbolism to affect the fae on a macro scale they can manage to join/create the God of Earth and free themselves from the effect of the fae.

The story centers around the characters of Father Damien Kilcannon Vryce, a priest and warrior who also practices Healing sorcery, and Gerald Tarrant, the Neocount of Merentha, a mysterious Adept who allies himself with Damien Vryce for his own reason. Damien is seeking to kill demons to allow Ciani, the woman he's in a relationship with, to recover her memory and Adept abilities, sucked away by demons. Their quest will bring them to a deeper, more complex threat.

Tropes used in Coldfire Trilogy include:

  • Aerith and Bob: Names like Gerald and Damien appear alongside names like Senzei and Ciani.
  • Action Girl: Hesseth.
  • Affably Evil: Tarrant, who has both his cruelty, harsh pragmatism, and impeccable, old world manners.
  • After the End: Subverted since the trilogy takes place years and years after such a period, where humanity is back on its feet but nowhere near its former glory.
  • A God Am I: This is not too difficult to accomplish on Erna. Demons often play gods--Karril is a fairly benign example. Calesta and the Undying Prince both aspire to this, and offer it to Gerald Tarrant in return for his support. They don't know that Tarrant represents a subversion of this trope in that godhood is against his principles. The Mother acts like this to the Iezu.
  • Alien Sky: In a number of ways. Erna has three moons--Prima, Domina, and Casca--and a slightly Weird Sun that is noted to be whiter than Earth's. The planet's position in the Milky Way causes most stars to appear in one of two clusters--the Core, (the center of the galaxy,) and the Rim. True Night occurs after all these bodies have set.
  • All Myths Are True: Creatures like vampires and sirens exist because the fae creates them out of people's subconscious.
  • Exclusively Evil: Averted, even with the demons. While they're all dangerous, they're not all evil, and some can be quite helpful if you know how to work with them.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Evil plots often take multiple centuries to orchestrate, and time is no object to the villains.
  • Anti-Hero / Sociopathic Hero: Gerald Tarrant.
  • Back from the Dead: Happens 3 or 4 times to Tarrant.
  • Background Magic Field: The fae has every hallmark of this trope. The Fae is a natural phenomenon; a sort of energy governed by its own rules. The earth fae, the type used by humans, flows across the planet's surface and collects in places of power. Weak currents limit a sorcerer's capabilities, and tapping into strong currents can fry a sorcerer's brain.
  • Badass Damsel: Narilka. She starts out a Damsel in Distress Ingenue, but she matures, masters her Shrinking Violet side, and develops a plucky streak that gets her through some serious adversity.
  • Bastard Understudy: Amoril.
  • Blood From the Mouth: Tarrant in Black Sun Rising. See Incurable Cough of Death below.
  • Big Bad: Calesta.
  • Big Badass Bird of Prey: Tarrant often shapeshifts into a large black or--occasionally--white bird.
  • Bigger Bad: The Nameless. The ultimate evil, but he/she/it/they doesn't direct or drive the plot nearly as much as Calesta does.
  • Brought Down to Normal: By the end of the series, everyone. Damien gets some satisfaction out of this when he sees Tarrant's new incarnation get a little dirty and he can't automatically groom himself anymore.
  • Catgirl: The Rakh are basically lion-people in terms of physical appearance. Hesseth is the most prominent example, both of the trope and her species in general.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the first novel, there's an apparent throwaway scene in which The Hunter, traveling in disguise, promises a young woman that she will come to no harm by his hands. She reappears at the end of the novel when Calesta tries to trick the Hunter into killing her. The Hunter rescues her and gives her a safe-passage token; she disappears from the story. Both she and the safe-passage token reappear as major elements of the third novel.
  • Chessmaster: Calesta. The Undying Prince. Tarrant is perfectly capable of this, though normally he prefers manipulating the environment to people.
  • The Church: A big deal. It's recognizably Christianity, except not, but this is acknowledged and justified in that the elimination of the Messiah figure was deliberate. On Erna, Messiahs always lead to counterproductive apotheosis. The Church is sincerely trying to do good, but has gotten into trouble over church militancy.
  • Cold Flames: The eponymous coldfire.
  • Corrupt Church: The Matria-led church in the east, much to Damien's horror. But subverted--the Matria may be the only corruption, and may have complete control over those who follow her, but the faith is kept pure.
  • The Corrupter: Calesta.
  • Cowboy Cop: Damien is this, plus Church Militant and a side of Good Shepherd. He takes his public service (primarily demon slaying) very seriously, but will flout the rules to accomplish demon slaying. Except for harming innocents. It takes him a long time to cross that line. The follow-through on Cowboy Cop, Turn in Your Badge, shows up in the third novel.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe / Psychoactive Powers: A blend of these describe how the fae works. Human emotions inspire changes in laws of probability. The stronger the emotion, the greater the odds it will become real.
  • Crap Saccharine World: Mercia, where the absolute faith of the people have ensured both their safety and a technological superiority over that of the westerners. However, their faith crosses over to extremism--adepts are slaughtered, and some children are raised purely as sacrifices to kill the malevolent faeborn monsters that wait just outside the city boundaries.
  • Creepy Child: The Terata, a tribe of lost children who seem off somehow. Most of them aren't actually children at all--they're physically malformed, psychologically stunted adults made unaware of the effects of time, illness, and injury on their bodies thanks to a veil of illusion.
  • Cult: Many of the Iezu act as gods to their own minor religions, some of which are more cult-like than others.
    • The Terata.
  • Da Chief: The Patriarch, so very much--he is the exacting, intimidating, by-the-book foil to Cowboy Cop Damien.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Gerald Tarrant. Before he makes his Deal with the Devil, he lived most of his life during the brutal end years of Erna's Dark Ages, under the tyranny of both his father and the "sibling cruelty" of his eight older brothers. It was bad enough that their deaths at his hand are among his most pleasing memories.
    • Tarrant theorizes that this is also the reason behind the Master's insane need for power.
  • The Dark Side: The Church disapproves of using fae because it reinforces the pattern of its answering human imagination. Yet Damien still uses it, as long as he believes it's necessary and not a selfish use. Tarrant of course has no such compunction, and they often argue about it. Also how Senzei got convinced of stealing the Fire in hope of becoming an Adept.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Damien and Tarrant have their moments.
  • Deal with the Devil: A major theme of the trilogy. People who strike these bargains pay with their humanity, identity, and personal agency. The Hunter got his demonic attributes through a very well negotiated one of these. Damien's arrangement with Tarrant is a form of this--he pays with the erosion of his morality. The villains who do a pact with Calesta or the Unnamed always fare badly. Lots of deals for everyone.
    • The entire interaction with the Fae is actually dictated by a Deal with the Devil of sorts. One of the original human colonists, Ian Casca, realized that there was a force on Erna that was interacting with them. He established a means of communicating with the fae through ritual and sacrifice by detonating the mothership that brought them to the planet. His efforts made sorcerers, adepts, and long-term life on Erna possible, but his fellow colonists killed him for it.
  • Death Trap: Tarrant falls into one where he experiences getting burned again and again as soon as he heals himself. Fun times.
  • Death World: Erna, where dark emotions like fear can manifest into malevolent monsters. Each book features at least one particular local with Everything Trying to Kill You. The Forbidden Forest, the valley of the Terrata, the Black Lands, Shaitan...
  • Defrosting Ice King: Tarrant. Damien guesses that spending time with people, instead of brooding in the dark fae-infested Forest, is making him more human. Lampshaded when Damien says that it was easier to deal with him when he was nastier. Does not help the Ho Yay.
  • Determinator: The Hunter allows nothing to stand between him and success--he determines what is most likely to work and makes it work. Amazing feats are routine, and the shadow of his Moral Event Horizon loom behind them all.
  • Damsel in Distress: Ciani.
  • Doing In the Wizard: It's hinted from the first book on, but the third book outright states that the inhabitants of the world are descendants of space travelers and the most powerful gods and demons are advanced aliens.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Nameless.
  • Emotion Eater: The Hunter and the Iezu.
  • The Empath: Jenseny. Taken a step further--she can even hear sunlight. It's because she can control the tidal fae.
  • Enemy Mine: The whole concept of Damien and Tarrant agreeing to work together.
  • Evil Counterpart: the Undying Prince is the evil-er counterpart to the already evil Tarrant.
    • Similarly, the Patriarch is the Good Counterpart to the fallen Prophet.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Tarrant's trademark.
  • Evil Is Stylish: Gerald Tarrant. He makes it a point to always be perfectly groomed. When Calesta appears before him, he insists that it should make itself look presentable to him.
  • Evil Overlord: The Undying Prince.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Tarrant, Amoril, the Undying Prince, the Master of Lema. Heck, in Church doctrine all sorcerers are like this.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Tarrant versus any of the other bad guys.
    • It's also a documented philosophy of the church: Set evil against evil. With a little luck, they'll destroy each other.
  • Fake Defector: Tarrant pretends to accept the Undying Prince's offer to give Damien one good shot at trying to kill the Prince. Too bad it didn't work.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Tarrant is chained in an eternal fire constantly burning and regenerating, with no way to free himself.
  • Faux Death: Tarrant erasing his identity as the Hunter and the Prophet and changing his appearance at the end.
    • Subverted somewhat in that since magic now requires self-sacrifice, "Gerald Tarrant" and "The Hunter" both actually need to be destroyed as entities. What's left afterward isn't Tarrant anymore and can't even acknowledge that he once was except in the most oblique fashion or his sacrifice is lost.
  • The Fettered: Damien and Tarrant are both bound to strict codes of conduct. Damien has his priestly vows. Tarrant has terms of his demonic pact (and the personal code that lets him maintain his human psyche on top of that). Damien and Tarrant's interactions with each other degrade their ability to hold to their codes.
  • First-Name Basis: Supposing you have the standard number of fingers, you have enough to count the total number of times Damien and Tarrant address each other by their first names. Tarrant calls Damien by his first name twice in the course of the trilogy. Don't expect any in the first book.
  • Functional Magic: Sorcery is used in internally consistent ways, described with fairly accessible Magi Babble. Sorcerers use Rule Magic; Adepts and the Erna-native Rakh have an Inherent Gift.
  • Garden of Evil: The Forest, as designed by the Hunter.
  • Gender Neutral Writing: Used to disguise the Master's true gender.
  • Genocide Backfire: Tarrant runs a grizzly sort of heredity experiment on his own descendants. He periodically goes back and murders the whole clan, leaving one survivor--the one who looks most like him. Of course, this bites him in the ass when the current sole survivor plays a key role in the Calesta's scheme to destroy him.
  • The Good, the Bad, and The Evil: Damien is the good, Tarrant is the bad, Calesta and his partners/pawns are the evil, and the Nameless is the off-the-chart evil.
  • Grand Theft Me: The source of the Undying Prince's immortality, though he still has a tenuous link to his original body, which he keeps preserved in an undisclosed location to act somewhat like a Soul Jar.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: the Iezu, although specifically engineered as such by the Mother.
  • Heel Face Turn: Sort of.
  • Heroic BSOD: Ciani, after her memories and Adept talents are taken from her near the start of the trilogy.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sort of.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: What Damien is afraid to become. What Andrys almost becomes.
  • Honor Before Reason: Stated to be the last piece of Tarrant's human identity. Although he'd definitely prefer if reason won out.
  • Hot Scientist: Ciani as a Loremaster.
  • Hot Witch: A Spear Counterpart. Sexy, elegant, mysterious, uses magic to maintain his guessed it, it's Tarrant. See also Vampires Are Sex Gods below.
  • The Hunter: Seems so straightforward, but Damien, staunch slayer of evil, is the one who best fits this trope. The Hunter goes more for The Wild Hunt.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The Hunter's favorite game.
  • Identical Grandson: Andrys looking so much like his grand-grand-grand-and some-father is quite handy to the plot. This isn't accidental. The Hunter has been performing a kind of negative eugenic experiment by periodic slaughter of all his descendants except the one who looks most like him.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Tarrant's justification for some of the things he does, if he bothers giving any. Damien grudgingly learns this reasoning from him.
  • I Gave My Word: Quite a big deal for Gerald Tarrant.
  • The Igor: Gerald Tarrant's albino servant, Amoril.
  • I Have Many Names: Tarrant has a lot of titles, almost all of them spoilers. The Hunter, the Prophet, Premier of the Order of the Golden Flame, Neocount of Merentha name the major ones.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Tarrant, so it doesn't stick. However, the show of weakness is so uncharacteristic it shocks everyone into silence. Also significant: first, following the direction of the wind shows the party where Senzei's corpse is; second, they discover that they've lost the Fire in the flask; and third, the unnaturally generated wind shows them that it's of the Master's making.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Ciani and Senzei, although it doesn't look like it since Ciani looks like she's in her thirties. They first met when Senzei was just a child.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The shadows of the dead in Crown of Shadows are gruesome examples of the "stuck in the moment of death" type. The Gorn is justified in that they're moments of violent death given form by the fae rather than "lost souls".
  • Kill and Replace: The eastern rakh to some leaders of the protectorates, starting with Kierstaad.
  • Killed Off for Real: Hesseth, who dies while holding off attacking beasts on top of a bridge. The bridge collapses into a deep chasm, and nobody could possibly survive the fall. Despite the Sorting Algorithm of Deadness, she's quite dead for the remainder of the series.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Damien Vryce.
    • Andrys gets literal shining armor, but any delusions of shining knighthood are crushed quickly.
  • Lost Colony: Played with somewhat. The setting is low-tech, yes, but the people of Erna all know they're descended from Earth colonists. They know that their ancestors had advanced technology too, but absolutely none of it remains.
  • Mad Scientist: Tarrant. For instance, his accomplishments in genetics/heredity are impressive, yet horrifying.
  • The Magic Goes Away: By the end of the series, humanity loses the ability to manipulate the fae, and can no longer be manipulated by it; the rules have been changed through the actions of Gerald Tarrant and the Patriarch of Vryce's Church so that the fae responds only to self-sacrifice.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Calesta, multiple times.
  • Master of Illusion : Calesta and all Iezu.
  • Mercy Kill: Performed by Tarrant on a comatose demon victim early in Black Sun Rising.
  • Mind Probe / Mind Rape: Your mind is not safe, especially if the Master of Lema and the Dark Ones are involved.
    • Ciani's Mind Rape early on kicks off the plot.
    • Villainous characters appreciate how violating it is to rifle through the minds of captives for information. Exploited when Damien deliberately gets captured to feed false information at the end of Black Sun Rising.
    • Tarrant comes close to this at times when he compels traumatized people to relate the horrible things they've been through in order to learn what the enemy is up to.
  • Monster Misogyny: Justified Trope: The Hunter targets beautiful, young women because it's apparently an effective way to terrorize a population. Of course, aesthete that he is, he just likes it better this way.
  • Mordor: The Waste in When True Night Falls, designed by the Undying Prince to ward off opponents.
  • Non-Action Guy: Senzei. His powerlessness, lust for power, and their dependency on Tarrant are what the Master's demon plays on to make him try to take the Fire.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: The rules that Iezu must obey. The terms of his compact that Tarrant cannot breach. The rules of the Church Damien tries to uphold.
  • Older Than They Look: Ciani, thanks to Wizards Live Longer. Other adepts too, like Tarrant and the Master. Although the Master who isn't naturally an adept shows more signs of aging.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Played straight, but there are implications of inversion too. The Hunter is the main subject of this trope, and he is an Emotion Eater, preferring to feed on fear and other negative emotions rather than blood (though he can make do with blood if necessary). Ordinary vampires are out there as well--fae constructs that the reader may assume conform to the popular conception of vampires. The Hunter claims he started out as one of these, but he's since surpassed "mere" vampirism.
    • It's actually implied in spots that he actually started out as a cannibal; vampirism was a stepping stone to what he is now.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Hesseth and the Rakh. The males of the species are especially described this way. Hesseth still qualifies, despite claiming a greater degree of sensibility and mocking the male Rakh.
  • Psychic Link: Between Gerald Tarrant and Damien Vryce.
  • Pure Energy: The coldfire that Tarrant stocks in his sword is dark fae in solid form.
  • Rapid Aging: Happens to the Terata that worship Calesta. First without their knowledge, but it becomes obvious to all once they get chosen for sacrifice. It is not a pretty sight.
  • The Renaissance: Humans had an equivalent era on Erna called the Revival.
  • Retired Monster: Or semi-retired. The Hunter has a sort of truce with the human settlements of the eastlands. If the humans endure his themed serial killing, he won't slaughter every last one of them. He's 100% okay with resting on his laurels... of course, anyone who makes the slightest move against him winds up messily and conspiciously dead.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: The earth fae currents pick up signatures of the creatures who pass through them, and the Hunter, unsurprisingly, is uncannily good at interpreting them and using them to locate people.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: What Tarrant fears most and eventually suffers as his punishment from breaking his compact with the Nameless Ones.
  • Shape Shifter: The Iezu and Tarrant
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: Gerald Tarrant, much to Damien's annoyance.
  • They Look Like Us Now: The rakh, who started to evolve when the humans came to Erna.
  • To Hell and Back: Literally.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Subverted. Tarrant's incredibly attractive, but his vampirism renders him functionally asexual.
  • Villain Protagonist: Tarrant starts out as this, with Character Development subsequently moving him through Sociopathic Hero and into Anti-Hero territory.
  • Waif Prophet: Jenseny.
  • Weakened by the Light: Tarrant and other creatures of the dark fae.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Undying Prince's offer to Tarrant.
  • Wicked Cultured: Gerald Tarrant.
  • Wizards Live Longer: It's not that difficult for sorcerers to undo the effects of aging. Ciani is seventy, but looks like she's in her thirties. Really determined sorcerers (the Hunter or the Undying Prince for instance) can effect immortality.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The priests of the east continent would, for the sake of keeping their city free from the faeborn. And of course, Tarrant would.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: ...but thankfully Damien won't. And Hesseth, even if she does hate humans.
  • You All Meet in An Inn: Doesn't fully play the trope, but Senzei, Ciani, and Damien do first meet Gerald Tarrant in a tavern. Only this time they're the ones in the dark, shadowy corner, watching him.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: Subverted. Damien actually agreed Tarrant would cause these, in order to feed from them.