Thursday, June 17, 2010
Feast of Souls - C.S. Friedman
In this imaginative, deftly plotted fantasy from Friedman (The Wilding), the first of a new trilogy, a female witch's magic comes at a terrible cost: her own finite life force, which drains away with each spell. Nearly immortal male Magisters, on the other hand, tap a more murderous fuel for their power. No woman has ever found its source, until young Kamala, hardened by life as a child whore, insists on an apprenticeship and secretly becomes an unheard-of female Magister. Meanwhile, Prince Andovan, third son of the avaricious King Danton, is expiring from the baffling Wasting disease, which can only be caused by a Magister. When the enraged king banishes his right-hand Magister, the mysterious and sinister Kostas takes his place, much to the dismay of Andovan's benevolent mother, Queen Gwenofar. As the kingdom threatens to spiral toward a dark age, Kamala and Andovan find their fates entwined. Readers will eagerly await the next installment.
I'm a huge Friedman fan, so this review is completely bias from the get-go. I think her Coldfire Trilogy is nothing short of genius.
This book is profound. It is the spiritual sequel to the Coldfire Trilogy (though you do not have to have read the Coldfire Trilogy to make sense of this book.) Friedman spends this book toying with the idea of power. How far is humankind willing to go for power, if they have to pay for it with their very souls? Setting this dark stage, Friedman weaves an intricate, emotionally charged tale of kings, princes, sorcerers, secrets and more.
One reason I absolutely love Friedman is her ability to write nothing from a black-and-white perspective. Friedman's worlds are always written from stark shades of gray. She toys with what drives us in our lives that is, perhaps, darker and creates characters out of this. She never has characters that are villans and good guys that are just good. The reader can relate to all her characters on some level and understand where they are coming from and why they are doing what they do. I have called Friedman the master of the anti-hero before, and I will call her that again. What she did for Gerald Terrant in the Coldfire Trilogy, she has done again here with a book full of characters.
I called this book a spiritual sequel above, and it truly is spiritual. Everything about this book centers on the drive, strength and determination of the human spirit. It's incredible and amazingly profound. I love books that leave me gaping, wondering at the hidden meanings, and pondering over what the author was trying to tell me. This book seems almost like Friedman's exploration of the darker (and lighter) aspects of the human soul. She pushes the envelope here, exploring aspects of her characters that many authors would shy away from.
There was one minor flaw to the book, where one of the plot points that came in about half way through reminded me a bit too much of Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, but that is a small (very small) flaw in my eyes. I cannot laud praises enough for this book. Friedman's writing is amazing. She has managed to write an emotionally charged book without letting the emotions control the plot. The characters are relatable, understandable, realistic, full of depth and completely gray in a way only Friedman can accomplish. There are plot twists and plenty of surprises. The plot never seems to slack or lag in pace. The ending is complex and almost Shakespearian in scope. The true art of this work, in my opinion, is the characters. If you have never read Friedman before, you need to. She will open your eyes to the possibilities that many authors seem to be afraid of.
This book left me breathless, on the edge of my seat and begging for more. The only serious flaw is that the trilogy isn't complete yet. I am going to start on the second book today (Wings of Wrath) but when that's over, I have no idea how I'll manage to wait until the last book comes out! This book sank its teeth into me and left me wondering, pondering, theorizing and thinking. That's what a book should do. It should pull you through an amazing journey so, for a brief time you are living the lives of the characters. It should leave you feeling like you just got off the most amazing roller coaster ride when it's over. That's what this book did to me. I'll be thinking about it for days. It's incredibly rare that books stick with me that long after they are finished, but this one will. Pure art.
I will recommend this book to fans of dark fantasy, Friedman fans, anyone who enjoyed the Coldfire Trilogy and anyone who enjoys deeper messages in their books.