March 30 2012

A Path to Coldness of Heart

A Path to Coldness of Heart by Glen Cook is the final volume of Cook’s epic Dread Empire series.
The books in the Dread Empire are:

  • A Shadow of All Night Falling (1979)
  • October’s Baby (1980)
  • All Darkness Met (1980)
  • The Fire in His Hands (1984)
  • With Mercy Toward None (1985)
  • Reap the East Wind (1987)
  • An Ill Fate Marshalling (1988)
  • A Path to Coldness of Heart (2012)

As you can see from the list, the previous volume, An Ill Fate Marshalling was published in 1988 and so, I had a 24 year wait between volumes. An Ill Fate Marshalling has a bit of cliffhanger(s) ending and so I would check with Glen every now and then when I saw him at a convention to see if any progress had been made. The story behind the gap is twofold. First, Glen had written most of what would have been the sequel (tentatively titled “The Wrath of Kings”) when it was stolen from his home by some “fan” at a party. Said “fan” should be slowly roasted if ever found. The second part of the story is that the books hadn’t been terribly commercially successful. I’ve never understood the second part as I think they books are brilliant.
Eventually, Nightshade Books bought up most of Glen’s backlist and has been republishing it. They asked him to provide a final volume for the series. A Path to Coldness of Heart is that volume.
In the summer of 1986, I had just graduated from college and was mostly relaxing while waiting for grad school to start. Part of that relaxation involved a road trip to the US Fencing Nationals in New York with my friend Gary. I had been trying to find a copy of A Shadow of All Night Falling for awhile, but was having no luck in Ames, IA. Surely, I reasoned, there would be one in New York. So, we spent some of our time in NY in an epic book quest through the bookstores of Manhattan. While we found many interesting things, we didn’t find a copy of any Dread Empire books. Later that summer, I managed to find a copy in a small Des Moines book shop and the proprietor managed to get me the rest. Yes, you used to have to (pre Amazon & EBay) have to actually look around for books.
I guess all of this is to say I have some history with these books.
A Path to Coldness of Heart covers the events after An Ill Fate Marshalling and covers the territory that Glen had originally mapped out for four volumes. We get to see what happened to Bragi and Haroun and we get to see quite a bit of Varthlokkur. A fair amount of action takes place in moving the various characters back together and in settling down some political happenings. How to deal with the Star Rider and his constant meddling in the affairs of the world provides the central conflict.
Varthlokkur is probably one of the most interesting characters in epic fantasy (in my opinion). An ancient sorcerer (known as the Empire Destroyer), he is mythic and grounded at the same time. Intriguing and very well done.
The Dread Empire books are easily available now–no need to go on an epic quest to find them. If you haven’t read them, well, you really should.

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Posted March 30, 2012 by user in category "Book review

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