Review: Cold Iron by Miles Cameron
Series: Masters and Mages #1
Also by this author: The Red Knight
Published by Orbit on October 23, 2018
A young mage-in-training is unwittingly pulled into a violent political upheaval, in the first book of this new epic fantasy trilogy by Miles Cameron, author of the Traitor Son Cycle.Aranthur is a promising young mage. His talents compel him to attend University to develop his abilities further. But the world is not safe for a mage, and after a confrontation leaves him no choice but to display his skill with a blade, Aranthur is instructed to train under a renowned Master of Swords.During his intensive training he begins to question the bloody life he's chosen. And while studying under the Master, Aranthur is conscripted to the City Militia. Soon after, he finds himself thrown into the middle of a political revolt that will impact everyone he's come to know.To protect his friends, Arnathur will be forced to decide if he can truly follow the Master of Swords into a life of violence and cold-hearted commitment to the blade.For more from Miles Cameron, check out:
The Traitor Son CycleThe Red KnightThe Fell SwordThe Dread WyrmThe Plague of SwordsThe Fall of Dragons
So, I want to lead with that I really enjoyed Cameron’s The Red Knight, However, while there were parts of it that I loved, there were also areas where it seemed to lag and there were so many characters that even for an epic fantasy, it felt hard to keep up with all of them at times. So even though I wound up loving the story over all, the pacing issues in Red Knight caused the sequels to fall down my priority enough that I never managed to make the time to read them. Cold Iron is a completely different read from The Red Knight. It had absolutely none of those pacing issues I experienced in Red Knight and is a simpler story structure since there is just a single POV, which always helps quite a bit. I by no means mean that this is a simple story. Just that with a smaller cast and with the single perspective, there are not breaks in the flow as you switch from one character’s story line to another’s. It was straight and to the point, we met and learned about our protagonist, Aranthur, and experienced his journey through the book.
This is a classic and fun coming of age story where the farm boy ventures off to school to study magic, and for extra fun, also learns the sword. Aranthur is very much a “Mary Sue” character, he excels at just about everything he tries, but you know what? I don’t really care, because its fun to read about a farm boy that goes to school as an outsider, a racial minority as well as lower class than his peers, but manages to find his place and succeed. He’s not infallible and has much to learn on the social side of things, especially when it comes to women, but he tries to learn from his mistakes. I think the area I enjoyed the least with this book were all things that revolved around his relationships with women, or how they were presented. Getting just his perspective can sort of slant the presentation a bit, and made me question at times the reliability of the narrator. I actually think this can make things more interesting. Getting just one perspective always enables a bit more mystery with everyone else.
The story beyond just Aranthur is also quite good. While in the city, we learn about different factions and groups that are at odds with one another. On top of House affiliations, there are also something like secret (or not so secret) societies that each have their own political or religious agenda. It creates an atmosphere that is headed towards open House wars. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda and by the end of the first book, I’m not sure who I can trust from the City. Top this off with larger threats from neighboring lands as well as a bit of a coup, things stay interesting and the pieces keep moving.
And really, another really positive I can say for this book is that I couldn’t put it down. Considering I’ve had quite the reading slump lately, I loved that this book hit all the right buttons for me. It had so many of the traits that I love in my fantasy books, and I can’t wait to read the next one.