San Francisco is on the edge of a blizzard, the first in a hundred years. A cannibal killer stalks the streets. A rash of abductions targets people seemingly at random. A city falling into chaos.
Chris Black sees the connection. On the trail of a missing woman, he uncovers the delicate threads uniting the disparate mysteries. But he is mentally ill and all of it could be the product of his diseased mind. Balancing the fog of medication with his descent into madness, he struggles to remain lucid in the face of horror.
Delving into a mystery that might be of his own making, he discovers a secret world. A world where women become serpents, the very ground can be his deadliest enemy, a world of the blackest magic. He has found the edges of something older than he can imagine, something that can change the fabric of reality.
And the storm itself is his only ally.
The novella Coldheart opens the collection, which is rounded out with five short stories. In “Dante Ascending,” a boy discovers the dangerous secret at the top of an inner city tenement; “Wait” is the story of two soldiers on opposite sides becoming unlikely friends; in “The Menagerie,” a young couple finds an extradimensional zoo; “Dead Drop” chronicles the rise and fall of a spy; and finally, in “Stillwater,” a town is accidentally sent to hell. Coldheart is the first book in the League of Magi series by Justin Robinson.
Much like film noir, Justin Robinson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He splits his time between editing comic books, writing prose and wondering what that disgusting smell is. Degrees in Anthropology and History prepared him for unemployment, but an obsession with horror fiction and a laundry list of phobias provided a more attractive option.
"Coldheart" is a wonderful collection that opens the door to a world I'm very excited to continue exploring. I'm getting a strong sense that it'll be very difficult for this author to disappoint me. :)
"Coldheart", like Robinson's novel "Dollmaker", features a protagonist who's no Mary Sue. He's mentally ill and fairly unstable, but very interesting as he attempts to find the truth in a world that may or may not reflect the reality of what's actually going on around him. A great opener to the anthology.
"Dante Ascending" is a short story filled with tension until the very end. The further you read, the more questions you'll have. Though, honestly, that's basically true of every story in this collection. And I love it. I immediately got the sense that the place the protagonist, Virgil, enters is not at all what he expected, but there's no way to predict how the story ends.
"Wait" is my second favorite story in this collection, and Robinson does a fantastic job of building up the relationship between two guards stationed on opposing sides of a conflict. The end of this one was surprisingly emotional for me.
"The Menagerie" is my absolute favorite of the six stories featured in this collection. The atmosphere, the environment, everything about this story kept me enthralled and left me wanting more. I could get lost here, and would love to see it brought to life on the big screen. I would say that this is the most imaginative of the 6 and will delight people who read a lot of fantasy or science fiction.
"Dead Drop" showcases the hierarchies of this world very well, and although the protagonist is just a cog in the machine, this story shows a lot more of the machine as a whole than the other stories (with exception of "Coldheart"). Another emotionally charged story, where there is no real "good" or "bad". Robinson is great at painting his characters in shades of grey.
"Stillwater" is my least favorite, but that's not at all to say I think it's a bad story. We can't like them all the same, can we? :) This one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but introduces more characters from the Bigger Picture in a very interesting way. It reminds me a bit of the Silent Hill games, though I'll let you read on your own and figure out why.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to people who love science fiction, fantasy, or who've already read Robinson's other books. And if you haven't, you should. What are you waiting for?
I received this book free for review from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.
This book consists of six stories of variable length that center on or are at least related to an ancient otherworldly ... cult? of people? creatures? with extraordinary powers whose goal is to... take over the world? Maybe? Probably?
To the positive, the book is not afraid to dig in and lay the action on thick. Almost immediately you've got antagonists ripping the beating hearts out of people and eating them. The pacing of the novel is fairly fast paced and keeps the reader's interest with the exception of the middle of the first story which tended to put me right sleep. The shorter works in the book were extremely entertaining and fast paced.
To the negative though, I'm not entirely sure what's actually going on. I get that there's an ancient group of beings and they have a hierarchy (as laid out in the appendices) but I fail to see what their real point of existing is except for killing lots and lots of people and performing their ancient rituals. It's apparent that they're trying to summon some even more ancient ... person? thing? ... but it's not entirely clear if they ever accomplish this or don't and each story is so open ended that there's never really any sense of finality or narrative closure.
In summary, much of this reads like 50's pulp scifi which I'm intending to use as a compliment. It's well written at a microscopic level but from an overarching narrative it just never quite manages to finish up going anywhere. I'm OK with this idea in general for a story but in this case it seems to churn to get somewhere that when it finally ends up in the middle of nowhere that it's fairly disappointing. All in all a good read but set expectations properly.
PS: I hope my review was helpful. If it was not, then please let me know what I left out that you’d want to know. I always aim to improve.
I won this in a GOODREADS giveaway -- Coldheart by Justin Robinson -- HOLY COW! How did I miss this book?? Released in 2013?!? A collection of stories to gnaw at you, AND an intro into a new series! Get it, Read it!
So every single story in this book is depressing/sad... But also engrossing and addictive... I had to keep reading in order to find out what happened in the next one. The writing is so good and the world that the author has created sucked me in. I had to know what the next book would bring...
Good stuff. Stories of ordinary people caught up in titanic, world-sweeping secret magical conspiracies. Their insect's-eye view of events lets the reader learn the shape of things by inference and implication. I'll definitely be reading further stories set in this world.
'Coldheart:' Book Review by Ben Rhodes, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor
Justin Robinson’s Coldheart is a novella and a series of short stories that are set in the same world and complement each other. The world of these stories is mostly the same as ours, but there are dark fantasy creatures warring with each other. This war is hidden from view, but exists on a massive scale. There are several factions vying for control that are willing to do anything to get it. The stories focus, not on the supernatural forces, but on the regular people caught up in the machinations of uncaring super beings.
We are introduced to this world in the novella Coldheart, where a young man struggles with schizophrenia in a world that may actually be coming unhinged. Chris must face unfathomable creatures and terrifying odds to even survive, much less save the girl. He is caught in the middle of the war with no context and no allies. Perhaps his only hope is the worst choice imaginable. The other stories here keep the same feeling that luck is the best hope anyone has of surviving.
The stories here do an excellent job of selling the world. They build on each other in a really clever way. The protagonist of one story might show up as a supporting character in another, or a minor character might suddenly take a big role in another. This helps to sell the idea of a cohesive world, while also adding a cool layer to the whole thing.
I do have to mention that, while some of the stories are well-plotted, little pieces, one or two are mostly just fantastical and disturbing settings that don’t really have a strong plot. Now, these stories are still very evocative and well done, but I would have liked a little more from them. That’s really the big criticism here. I wanted a little more.
That really sums up my experience with the book. I enjoyed the stories and was satisfied with what I got. I loved the world and want to see more of it. The glimpses into the intrigues and adventure were all compelling and followed the tantalizing example of Lovecraft. Explanations destroy mystery. This is a book that got that balance right. If you are looking for some magical realism or realistic magicalism, you should give this one a shot.
Stay home and take your medicine. Unless the love of your life is in trouble, missing. Unless you need to see the world as it is. Unless there's not time for the comfort of a medicated haze. Unless you're sure it's the world and not you that's finally gone over the edge. Unless you're ready to face the heart of the storm. Unless you're ready to take the beating of your life to save your reason for living. By all means, stay home and take your medicine.
Coldheart introduces the shadow conflict of the League of Magi, a cabal of feuding inhumans possessing incalculable power, forever at war for reasons only they truly understand. Follow the journey of a young schizophrenic as he sinks deeper into the horror at the heart of the worst storm in a century. Catch a glimpse of truths that terrify and stagger the imagination.
In addition to the novella Coldheart, a collection of short stories strike like lightning, flashes of light that illuminate the outlines of the creatures lurking in the shadows and then are gone before the horrified mind can finish putting the pieces of those great beasts together. It is a mercy. In the world of the League of Magi, there's such a thing as seeing too much.
Ask Coldheart. He'll tell you all about it. But pick a time when he's not hungry.
For me the marker of Justin Robinson's brilliance as a writer is his ability to take a fairly typical and often overdone storyline and do something unexpected and innovative with it. Coldheart starts with a seriously mentally ill protagonist, then explores his ability to process what is and is not real as the world around him changes and turns into something stranger than his delusions could account for. Rather than falling into the trap of using mental illness as a special sensitivity to magic, Robinson focuses on Chris's hard-won battle to stay grounded.
The world itself is a version of the real world but with a number of extremely powerful magic users and their organizations moving around with various goals. Magic is not around every corner, and when it does appear, it's strange and often terrible. And then it offers you a job.
The short stories:
Dante Ascending is a more typical urban fantasy, with a New York teen's fascination with his neighbors changing his life.
The Menagerie is a pleasing take on the standard trip to fairyland, Stillwater its creepy opposite.
Dead Drop and Wait both explore the daily grind of work and everyday struggle behind the scenes in the organizations of the magical superpowers.
In Coldheart, Robinson does a very impressive (and at times, rather remarkable) job of world-building, piling up details and characters so subtly that you don't even notice just how fully realized everything is until you're fairly deep into the volume. The titular novella itself would be enough to recommend the book, but each of the short stories that follow manage to build on it in ways both entertaining and unexpected. Superficially, the stories are only tangentially related to one another (and indeed, each one could be enjoyed as a standalone story - "The Menagerie" and "Dead Drop" were particular favorites of mine), yet they all fit together thematically and serve as important building blocks in understanding Robinson's vision of the legendarium he's creating. I'm glad to know that this is only the first volume of a longer series - these are characters (and this is a world) that I want to spend more time with and I only hope that we don't have to wait too long for volume two. This work is so stunningly assured and confident that I have no doubt that whenever volume two does come out, it won't be a disappointment.
Coldheart is a amazingly fun book to read. It's a darker take of urban fantasy with ancient mythos and magi creating a intricate web of relationships and magic which will eat the mortal who stumbles into it alive.
The first half of the book is Coldheart itself - the story of single man that discovers that other world because someone precious to him is pulled in. Through Chris we learn just the edges of League of Magi and we see the powers they wield. But it is the hunt to save Sarah that is important to Chris and to the reader - everything he sees is just an obstacle to protect that which matters the most.
The second half is a series of short stories that gives us windows into how the League of Magi affect our world. What fantastical things they can do and create, how the normal people who work for them see them, and what they do to our world without even intending it.
This book comes with my highest recommendation: It is GOOD. Of the short stories my favorite is Stillwater and I look forward to finding out which one is yours.
There are so many great things to say about the collection of stories within Coldheart, but I'll keep it short, not giving anything away. The Coldheart novella itself introduces us to a world like our own, but secretly controlled by powerful beings and their arcane organizations that walk among the people unnoticed, unless they wish their presence to be known. (Totally NOT like our world right?). The other short tales comprising the remainder of the book vary in tone, straying from the noir thread wove throughout the main story. This allows Robinson to use genre as a lens, an interesting method to provide further insight into the nature of these mystical beings and the personal effect they have on several disparate individuals who had the (mis)fortune of crossing their paths. My hope is Coldheart truly becomes a "volume one" akin the The Hobbit, leading to a story larger in scope where we can truly see Robinson unleash his Magi on an unsuspecting world.
Justin Robinson pens "Coldheart" a fantastic collection of stories of magick. Each story contains ordinary people, the world of immortals and magick, then builds to where each will somewhat interconnect in meaning while leaving everything open for a future collection. I was totally captivated in this collection and hope the author continues on with it. Highly recommended for all fantasy and magick fans.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author which was provided for an honest review.
First off, I'm not a fan of horror most of time. But Mr. Robinson has a way of writing where the horror is more mind games than gore. And that I enjoy.
I liked this book. The reader is able to get into the mind of the characters before things go wrong (right?) for them. There's a few transitions that made me scratch my head, but not bothersome enough were I stopped reading. If anything, it has me wondering what happens to bring everyone together in the next book.
If you're a fan of horror, but not necessarily gore, you need to give this book a read.
That was really good! I will agree with some reviews that it felt incomplete at the end, but I feel like this entire book was the intro to a really interesting world. It's so complex and intricate. I love that Justin Robinson managed to create these characters so convincingly. Can't wait to go on to the second book.