Gerald Tarrant was an antihero before antiheroes were cool … DOMINION by C.S. Friedman

Nowadays, it seems as though you can’t swing a stick in the fantasy section of your local bookstore without hitting three or four antiheroes.

In some ways, to me, they all feel like a pale replica of the neocount of Merentha, Gerald Tarrant. When I first read the Coldfire Trilogy in the ’90s, I’d never encountered a character like Gerald Tarrant. The closest I could think of was Raistlin Majere from The Dragonlance Chronicles, and Gerald Tarrant was a hundred times more frightening than Raistlin Majere on his worst day. Gerald Tarrant was intelligent, refined and brutal as hell — and he immediately became one of my favorite characters in all of fantasy.

In DOMINION, Tarrant comes to the Forest for the first time and quickly bends it to his will. I liked the story, but found myself distracted by the terrible editing job. As best I can tell, DOMINION is only available as an ebook, and it seems as though this story wasn’t edited at all — some of the sentences read awkwardly and it’s easy to see where a simple clean-up could correct the issue. In other places, there are missing, extra or misspelled words. At times, I found myself distracted from the story while thinking about how to fix the text.

As for the story itself — it’s fairly straightforward. Over the course of 56 pages, we see Tarrant’s arrival at the Forest and the origins of the albino. We meet Faith, a hunter for the Church who finds herself trapped in the Forest and soon becomes a target for Tarrant. Whereas The Coldfire Trilogy circled around Tarrant, giving us glimpses of his motivations and his intellect, he seems to be more of a straightforward vampire here. When we meet him, he’s feeding on a family, using his magic to hold them in thrall while he drains the daughter of her blood — there’s none of the subtlety and internal conflict that made the trilogy so entertaining and that’s unfortunate.

I think I would only recommend this story for those who have already read The Coldfire Trilogy and simply want to return to the world of Erna. For those who haven’t read the trilogy, I’d suggest starting there and circling back to this if you’re so inclined. Even though the Coldfire Trilogy’s ending was pretty damn near perfect, reading this reminds me how much I enjoyed my initial encounter with Tarrant, and I can’t help but wish there was another Gerald Tarrant novel in the works.

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