This is the second fantasy book I have read by Miles Cameron. Coming straight from the Red Knight really highlighted the themes that are evident within these contrasting books. Where The Red Knight was a book of grim mercenary western-knights and gritty epic battles against fantastical creatures, Cold Iron is a book of Eastern life within a city, of academia and subtle details of living, racism and refugees struggle. I loved it.
“It is important to know that you can kill, evenly, ruthlessly, without pause to wrestle your conscience, because the world is full of people who will kill you will you prevaricate.”
Cold Iron is told from the POV of Aranthur Timos, a student at a city academy. He was born on a farm his father owned out of the city but like many young people in the country, was drawn to the life within a great city. Arranthur is a relatively normal young man, who proceeds to encounter rather un-normal events and be at the centre of them. He develops throughout the story, questions himself, learns, makes friends, makes enemies and grows within himself. His arc was written fantastically and I found myself really liking Aranthur, feeling his frustrations and joys. Aranthur learns throughout Cold Iron sword-craft, leather-work, magik and the ways of socialisation with peers, masters and royalty. I adored all of the subtle details of the world, which completely added to the wonderful world building.
“Boasting is a way of saying you are weak”
Through his adventures in and out of the city, Aranthur meets and befriends many characters, some more memorable than others. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Dhalia, a female interest of Aranthur’s who always keeps him on his toes. One thing I really enjoyed within part 1 of Masters & Mages was the wide range of female characters and their roles within it. After recently completing my dissertation, which concentrated on gender roles and representation within literature, it was fascinating to see how Miles Cameron wrote his female characters. There were those that adhered to tropes of love interests, but they all made their mark on the story and moved away from these classic portrayals. There were also female characters who were witty and sharp, in the duelling ring as well as out of it. Females in positions of power and those that are peers too Aranthur. The wide range of characters Aranthur meets enhanced the enjoyment, and their various portrayals gave the story life.
The plot was very fresh. There was political intrigue and plots and twists in levels of the story from all characters. Aranthur seemed to float from one event to another, always caught up in trouble, all whilst working and learning. There is action, duels, sword-skills, magic use and horse-riding. There is also opera, markets, transcribing ancient texts and farm work. I loved the mix up and the contrast of city life and country life. Aranthur’s city lifestyle in involvement in certain events turning him gradually into a well-known man with high-placed friends and a role to play in the intrigue of the county was fleshed out and built steadily to a crescendo.
“Whats a daesia?”
“A man who lives to… I don’t know. For pleasure. To lie with others. And gamble, and fight, and raise hell. A person who goes to plays and jeers at the playwright. Goes to temple and mocks the priest’s hypocrisy. Goes to the brothel to find love. Fights duels. Writes poetry.” He laughed. “Bad poetry.”
“Sounds wonderful. Where do I sign up?”
5/5 - Certainly spy-novel-esque, Cold Iron had superb world-building, fun characters and action alongside intrigue. Throughly recommended for any readers of fantasy and anything else really, you won’t regret it.