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Cold Iron (The Malorum Gates) Paperback – July 14, 2015
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“This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, with solid, believable characters, absorbing action, and sprawling scope. It's what I think of as '90s Epic Fantasy (mostly because of how many books like this I was devouring at the time) — fantasy that's figuring out its relationship to its own history and lineage in order to unabashedly revel in it. It reminded me, pleasurably, of Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice series.” (, NPR Books)
“In Cold Iron, Leicht has written an approachable, entertaining epic fantasy, peopled with engaging characters and replete with dramatic incidents. Cold Iron rapidly progresses towards very entertaining indeed.” (, Tor.com)
(Epic Best Book of 2015)
“There are quite a few underrated authors out there. These are authors with a disgusting amount of talent, but not nearly the attention for said talent that they deserve. Stina Leicht, in my humble opinion, is at the top of that list. I truly loved this book." (, Bookworm Blues)
“In many ways, the world-building is fascinating. Its protagonists have complex motivations, failings and insecurities. It’s a book with big ideas and an epic storyline.” (, Fantasy-Faction)
“Leicht loads up on all the thrills we love in the genre (Huge battles! Countries in peril! Heroes facing impossible odds! Coming-of-age stories! Banter! So much banter!), she also plays with the formula, twisting expected tropes in unusual ways. I don’t think I have ever come across a fantasy novel that used the advantages of being, you know, fantasy to think around giving martial power an honored, or at least feared, place at the table of power.” (, B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog)
“[Cold Iron] offers a full-scale flintlock fantasy world in which a pair of young scions stretches beyond their royal heritage and into realms both military and magical. Stina Leicht, whose previous books were historical/urban fantasy, makes a promising turn to epic fantasy [with] an excellent trio of central characters.” (, SF Signal)
“The allure of fascinating world building permeates Cold Iron from its foundation. There are distinct races and cultures, a magical system with spirituality and ritual within it, ‘flintlock’ technology, and rumors of mythical ‘Old Ones’ soon to return. But rather than being plot driven as epic series often are, Cold Iron gets its page length from firmly character driven exploration.” (, The Skiffy & Fanty Show)
About the Author
Stina Leicht is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in central Texas. Her second novel, And Blue Skies from Pain, was on the Locus Recommended Reading list for 2012. She was a Campbell Award finalist in 2013 and in 2012. In 2012 she was also shortlisted for the Crawford Award. When she was small Stina wanted to grow up to be like Vincent Price.
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Top Customer Reviews
Nels and Suvi are the fraternal twin children of the King Henrik Ilmari, ruler of Eledore, a land populated by a magic-using Fae race called the Kainen. Eledore is not in the best of states, if not positively rotten. For one thing, the King’s brother, already running much of the country, is plotting his full ascension to the throne, a plan for which the King seems content to allow. For another, there is an ongoing war with the humans, although the magnitude of their power to wage war (especially the provenance of their firearms) is somewhat unclear. There’s also the plight of Ilta, the granddaughter of the Silmaililla (the kingdom’s strongest magic user) and also her apprentice and heir. Ilta, who acts as both healer and magic-worker, is soon is thrust into taking more and more of her Gran’s workload, and also deal with her relationship with the twins, especially with Nels.
Cold Iron is strongest when it considers the issues of power. All three of the point-of-view characters — Nels, Suvi and Ilta — face hard choices, important responsibilities, unexpected roles and the consequences of the paths they take. There is a real sense of contemplating the use of power in the novel. It forces readers to ask: What’s the best use of temporal and magical power? What is ethical and right? For what should the power be used? Or not used? These issues are also combined with themes of free will and autonomy, lending them even more weight. The book is enriched all the more for showing how the characters’ exercise their power and handle the resulting consequences.
The world building around the Kainen and their mind control magic– particularly the names, geography, and culture — seems based on a Finnish Scandinavia society. While there are enough lakes to make a freshwater navy a practical branch of the armed forces of Eledore, there are correspondingly enough jagged mountains that give the terrain a more Norwegian, jagged feel than the flatness that evokes Finland. The Elf-like Kainen feel less like Tolkenian elves and much more like Eldren from that Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion stories. The parallels to that novel continue in that the humans in Cold Iron are engaged in a violent conflict with their non-human neighbors, and have greater technology at their command: their use of firearms. Nels’ experiments and interest notwithstanding, the Kainen are technologically inferior to their human neighbors.
The novel is at its weakest when it comes to that very same world building. Again and again, we get incompleteness, hints, and a thinness of the world as shown. Sometimes the world feels a bit “cardboard”. It isn’t populated enough, for example. I think a perspective from one of the sea-going Waterborne (Dylan, for instance) would have gone a long way to helping flesh out that otherwise fascinating portion of the world. Or perhaps a human perspective would have helped. (The end of the novel contains a hint that the Cold Iron‘s sequel, Blackthorne, will give readers exactly that.) A couple more of the accoutrements of a Tolkienian epic fantasy, a dramatis personae, for example, would have been welcome, especially given the unexplored complexity of the world. I’d love to read an appendix of stuff about this complex world to experience it even more.
Cold Iron is a book I acquired both in physical and ebook formats. The publisher (Saga Press) has provided lavish attention on the physical form; it has a beautiful pair of maps with corner decoration on the pages, which really work well to orient the reader given the complicated geography of this world. Deckled edges on the pages and a hefty weight help reinforce the “proper epic fantasy” feel of the book. Aesthetics aside, it’s the strength of Cold Iron‘s characters, the author’s steady hand in exploring themes of power in this rich world — even given the problems I had with the world building — that have me well-invested in this compelling new world. I strongly look forward to continuing the story.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Boy was I wrong!Read more
This book has some fantastic world building and Leicht manages to really work...Read more