the Little Red Reviewer

Cold Iron, by Stina Leicht

Posted on: April 17, 2017

Cold Iron, by Stina Leicht

published in 2015

where I got it: purchased new




Cold Iron came out in 2015, and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since.  Stina Leicht? Everything she writes is gold,  so why did I wait so long to read this one?


This is why I was nervous:

  • It is a fat book. It looks like it would take me forever to read, and through all of 2015 and 2016 I had very limited reading time. Did I want to commit to a book that was going to take me a month to read?
  • The cover art screams military fantasy.  Yes, I know I went through my Joe Abercrombie phase, but then I realized I was no longer interested in trails of dead bodies. I was no longer interested in stories that glorified battle and killing. The cover art shows a dude with a pistol, looking over a field of battle.   Was I going to like this book??


Every so often I reread my reviews of Stina Leicht’s Fey and Fallen books, and am reminded of how much I love her writing. Prose sharp as a knife, plotting so tight you’ll never escape, and good god the characters she develops.  I recently did a 5 books 50 pages, where I grabbed 5 books I’d been meaning to read, and only committed to reading the first 50 pages. If I liked what I was reading, I could continue, and if the book just didn’t do it for me, I was under zero obligation to read further.  My comments about Cold Iron after 50 pages were:


“Nels is broody, his personal bodyguard/spy/assassin Viktor is snarky AF, I want to join up with the Waterborne, and Leicht has already written the sequel.  As she always does, Leicht writes characters you immediately become invested in.  Cold Iron is some solid awesome.”


I was hooked in the opening chapter. Nine pages in, and I knew I’d be devouring this novel.  A ritual done after a death, swords that carry the memories of the dead.  I was happily hooked. And the book only got better from there.


Everything about this novel was so wonderful, that I don’t know even where to start.  The characters were fantastic, the pacing is spot on perfect, and I loved that Leicht built a fantasy world that exists in a changing world.


I loved the world of Cold Iron.  Leicht created a magic filled fantasy world, one where blood remembers and swords and knives carry memories, a world where water-weavers can control the weather and speak to creatures of the ocean deep.  And then she had a non-magical culture (humans!)  invade it with muskets and small pox.   Yep, small pox. And that’s not a spoiler, by the way.  The Eledorians are used to fighting with magic,  but how do you magic away a high mortality infectious disease to which no one has immunity?

I’ll be honest, standard high fantasy usually doesn’t do much for me. (Except if you are Robin Hobb, in which case it IS my thing). But this world Leicht created? I wanna go there. And I got to, every time I opened this book.  Even better, I know there’s plenty more that Leicht hasn’t told me yet. There are all these little details mentioned in passing, or mentioned in legend, that the characters don’t yet have a reason to care about.  Everyone has these little bits of info, but because there is a freaking invasion happening, no one has time to connect the dots.  She didn’t just give me a place where stuff happened,  she gave me a world full of people I deeply care about.


And as cool as the worldbuilding was? The characters are even better.  The story follows twin royal heirs Suvi and Nels, and Ilta, who is in training to be a royal seer and advisor.  We meet all three when they are around 15-16 years old. Instead of giving us your typical fantasy heirs who are confident and ready for adventure, Leicht gives us normal teenagers – kids who are insecure, afraid of fucking up, haven’t a clue about diplomacy, have cocky moments, who argue with their parents, and are actually pretty normal teenagers. I loved getting to watch Nels grow from an idiot 16 year old into a more mature 19 year old. I loved watching Suvi learn how diplomacy and flattery works.


I’m used to characters who use blunt force, and throw themselves at problems. Through sheer will power, they’ll succeed! It was so refreshing to spend time with Suvi, Nels, and Ilta, characters who use their brains and learn from their mistakes. I feel like shit they had to come of age during an invasion.


And it’s not just Eledore that is in danger of being invaded. Suvi works tirelessly to gain a defensive alliance with the tribes of the Waterborne, as if they are near the path of the invaders too. Not only are the Waterborne a hella cool culture,  Dylan and Darius steal every scene they are in.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Viktor, who is Nels’ bodyguard.   Viktor also needs his own story.


Is there war and violence in Cold Iron? Oh, buckets of it.  This is a kingdom that is being invaded by outside forces, so of course there is war, military maneuvers, and much chatter of rank, weapons, smuggling in weapons, commanders and captains back-stabbing each other,  blowing bridges, and the like.  But none of it is glorified. None of these people want to go out and kill other people. Everyone in this novel is doing what they feel they need to do to survive. There is a scene near the end regarding how a commander motivates their troops that just destroyed me.  Because it was sick. And he fucking did it anyway.


And then the end. Maybe I should have seen the end coming? Maybe the story going this direction was inevitable? I want to talk about how this book ended, but saying even the slightest thing will wreck the ending.  Let’s just say it wasn’t at all what I expected, and now the really hard work begins for Suvi and Nels.  I’ll save all those spoilers for my review of the second book in the series, Blackthorne, which comes out this summer.  And hey, if you don’t want the end of the first book completely spoiled for you, do NOT go to Amazon and read the description of the 2nd book. It wrecks EVERYTHING.


Once you do get to the shocker of an ending of Cold Iron (ok, maybe not a shocker? but it was for me!!), make sure you read Leicht’s acknowledgements.  She gives all this cool information about where her idea for this novel came from. I love it when authors include info like that!

9 Responses to "Cold Iron, by Stina Leicht"

Like you, I’m reluctant to commit to a Big Fat Book (500+ pages or more) unless I’m confident the book is worth the Time it will take to read it. I’ll track down a copy of COLD IRON based on your fine review.


I have more time on my hands now, but still, 500+ pages is a huge commitment! Cold Iron reads like a 400 page thriller.


I wanted to read this sooooo bad when it first came out, but like you, the size was too great for me to commit to at the time. I’d actually almost forgot about it – I’m just so used to series have a book come out every single year XD

I love that cover too. Not sure why, but I’m always drawn towards snow/cold-looking covers?


In the last couple years I’ve seen a huge increase in series that the books come out every 12 months, or even every 8 months – the author had the entire thing written and ready to publish before the first book saw print. That’s gotta put some crazy pressure on authors who don’t write as fast, or as much.


My reading list is at point burst, but yeah, I’m gonna go to the world of Cold Iron and take the ride.


Oh, forgot — finished Six Wakes and liked it a lot. Now reading Allen Steele’s Avengers of the Moon, which is fun.


Oh Good! I’m happy you liked Six Wakes, now I want to give it a try!

I’ve heard good things about the Avengers of the Moon, that it’s really fun. Arkwright wasn’t awesome for me, but I want to try some other titles he’s written.


I’ve actually had this on my wishlist for quite a while – it is quite a long list unfortunately but I’m hoping to get to this one soon. Sounds like you loved it. I’ll look out for that No2 tip – or more to the point I won’t look at it at all. I had a similar experience with a Sanderson book when I looked at the blurb for book 2 (before I’d finished book 1) and it blurted out the death of a main character – I was a bit naffed off to say the least.
Lynn 😀


isn’t that the most annoying thing? You’re so excited for the next book in the series that you read the blurb on Amazon, only to have everything spoiled for you. so annoying!!

i do think you’ll really like Cold Iron!


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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