Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Legacy of Kings - C.S. Friedman


About the book

The young peasant woman Kamala has proven strong and determined enough to claim the most powerful Magister sorcery for herself-but now the Magisters hunt her for killing one of their own. Her only hope of survival lies in the northern Protectorates, where spells are warped by a curse called the Wrath that even the Magisters fear. Originally intended to protect the lands of men from creatures known only as souleaters, the Wrath appears to be weakening-and the threat of this ancient enemy is once more falling across the land.

480 pages (paperback)
Published on: October 6, 2011
Published by: Orbit
Author’s webpage

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C.S. Friedman is one of my favorite authors. I love how she enjoys toying with antiheros, and because of that her work tends to remain fresh and unique compared to other books within the genre. In fact, her Coldfire Trilogy is incredibly widely read and highly rated and is one of my favorite series. T he Coldfire Trilogy really highlights her incredible work with unique settings and magic systems as well as memorable characters and antiheros.

While I haven’t ever thought that the Magister Trilogy is as good as the Coldfire Trilogy, it’s still a highly enjoyable series written by one of my favorite authors. When I realized the last book in the trilogy was published (I’m blaming new motherhood for not realizing this sooner), I bought it on my iPad and started reading it immediately. Legacy of Kings was, perhaps, one of my most anticipated reads this year. The fact that this was one of my most anticipated reads is probably why my reaction to it was so incredibly mixed.

The problem with anticipated books and favorite authors is that expectation is built up so much in the readers mind that it’s easy to not hit that high mark that reader’s desire. That’s the case here. While Legacy of Kings is an incredibly satisfying end to an amazingly enjoyable series, it just didn’t hit the marks I was expecting from Friedman and in the end, this left me rather disappointed.

The wonderful thing about the Magister Trilogy is that it’s such a refreshing, unique spin on traditional sorcery fantasy. In fact, the magisters themselves, while being slightly traditional with their long lived lives and incredible intelligence, have fresh life blown into them with Friedman’s dark, somewhat sinister spin on where their magic comes from. In previous books, Friedman spent plenty of time exploring magisters and their power. In Legacy of Kings, the science behind where their power comes from is exposed, and while I didn’t find this to be a huge surprise, it was still a satisfying and believable reveal which tied nicely into the plot.

Friedman does a wonderful job at including all of her main characters from previous books in Legacy of Kings, and nicely exploring where situations in previous books have brought them. Being a last book in a series, there isn’t an incredible amount of character development that takes place, but there is some. While I did find the actions of the characters in Legacy of Kings are believable in regards to actions and developments in previous books, I did feel almost bored with some of the characters.

Boredome is due to my expectations with Freidman to really toy with the gray area with her characters and this, being the last book in the series, doesn’t leave much room for that. I felt that many of Friedman’s characters lost their “gray” aspects and aligned completely to “good” or “evil.” This disappointed me quite a bit. I love Friedman because of her tendency to lack clear “good” or “evil” boundaries and in Legacy of Kings, I felt that black and white were loud and proud in some of the characters that lacked it in previous books.

Friedman covers a lot of ground plot-wise in Legacy of Kings and because of this, it seems like something is always happening. Where she shines is that, not only are big events happening in the plot, but she keeps it personal, as well. Many of the characters not only take part in things like epic journeys, but also inner struggles. This balance of inner and outer events is truly wonderful and makes the book shine. Friedman keeps events real and believable. However, there is a negative to balance this positive. Many of the events were predictable. Thus, the book lost much of its surprise factor. This wasn’t the only affect predictability had. It also stripped the book of much of the uniqueness I enjoyed so much from previous books in the series. Legacy of Kings read more like traditional fantasy with plenty of traditional elements, rather than Friedman fantasy.

Perhaps this last point is a quibble, but it really highlights, to me, that Friedman really wasn’t in her top form when writing Legacy of Kings. Friedman tends to use repetitive descriptors here. While it’s not that big of a deal, and I doubt many readers will even notice, to me it stuck out like a sore thumb. In one chapter she describes wine as looking like blood at least three times. Like I said, it’s not a big deal, but it really was, perhaps, the most obvious thing that showed that Friedman was writing an enjoyable series ender, but she wasn’t writing her best work and these repetitive descriptors really made portions of the book feel clunky.

The Magister Trilogy was a lot of fun to read. While I do feel that the first two books in the series were much stronger than this third book, Legacy of Kings is still a worthy, and enjoyable read. Though Legacy of Kings lacked the gray characters I enjoy so much, suffered from a rather predictable plot and some clunky writing, it still nicely (perhaps a bit too nicely to be completely believable) ties up plenty of loose ends and answered important questions. This is, by no means, Friedman’s best work, but it’s a must read for any fans of the Magister Trilogy and is an incredibly satisfying end to a wonderful trilogy.

3.5/5 stars

3 comments:

  1. For me this book has been pretty disapointing though I was unsure if that was due to my distancing away from traditional fantasy (whether of the new gritty or old wish fulfillment kind) or due to the author's obvious "by the numbers, something done just to be done" writing in the novel.

    A minor quibble - here in the US I am pretty sure the book has been published by Daw (Penguin) not by Orbit (Hachette) but I have no idea if Orbit has not published it in the UK

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  2. Thanks for the clarification. I got the publishing info from goodreads so it could be wrong.

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  3. I also thought I was in the minority in being disappointed in the conclusion to what I thought was a fairly strong series.

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