Seeking name of an older (possibly 80s?) fantasy book. Was a fairly thick paperback that I think was part of a series, but my library only had the first one.

Details: the main character is a teen/young adult female, possibly with red hair. Has a male friend with a limp/damaged legs?

Vague plot I remember is there is no visible sunlight due to pollution, so it is always cold and dark. Labourers/slaves are forced to mine coal (that they call by another name which I dont remember) to keep richer people warm.

Female lead is one of the labourers. She somehow discovers that magic can be used to keep warm instead of burning coal, and teaches this skill to others. I think there is a revolt at some point?

A sun symbol is a reccurring theme, but it is mistaken for a lion symbol at the start, because no one has seen the Sun for generations.

At the end of the book, the Sun is visible again, due to reduced coal burning.

  • Since sun symbols rarely do more than symbolize the sun, I can't imagine people forgetting it or mistaking it for a lion symbol.
    – NomadMaker
    Jan 9, 2021 at 22:58
  • Nobody's seen the sun, but they're all familiar with what lions look like?
    – moopet
    Jan 10, 2021 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


This could be "Winter of Fire" by Sherryl Jordan, first published in 1993. In line with the OP's memory this is indeed a fairly thick paperback, but was a standalone story, rather than forming part of a series.

It deals with a future world in which the sun is no longer visible, and warmth and light is provided by burning "firestones" (i.e. coal). The female lead is called Elsha, and is one of the "Quelled" caste, who labor in the mines. She is chosen to be the handmaiden of the Firelord, and eventually leads a rebellion to free her people.

As recalled by the OP, Elsha indeed thinks that the symbol of the sun, a circle surrounded by wavy lines, represents a lion, because she has never seen the Sun.

You can find a summary of the book on Wikipedia.

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