I started out my last review of C.S. Friedman’s work (Feast of Souls, the first in this series) by noting that I was insanely jealous and wished that I could write half so well; that note serves as well for this review.
In Feast of Souls, the Magisters are firmly ensconced as the next thing to demigods: mysterious, compelling, powerful, manipulative, and of course more or less immortal. Nothing can hurt them…at least, that’s what they want people to think.
That illusion, along with several others, shatters in Wings of Wrath and Legacy of Kings, the next two books in the series. Sacred cows are not just overturned but barbequed; stone-solid beliefs are tested, proven, disproved, and generally rattled. Lies abound; politics zig through every moment; secrets are exposed; and more often than not lives are on the line.
The Witch-Queen, Siderea Aminestas, rejected by her former Magister lovers, seeks a deadly revenge with the help of her new allies, the evil Soul-Eaters–who turn out to have a surprising connection to the Magisters. The whore-turned-Magister, Kamala, seeks to prove herself–or at least to survive long enough for that to be proof all its own. The Magisters vie for power over humans and over one another. Humans, of course, play their own political games; a queen steps up to become a warrior, a monk steps up to become a king. Battles turn on a seductive smile and a promise; wars are fought in the bedroom as much as on the field.
Friedman’s writing style is rich and layered, her imagery vivid and precise. I was as fascinated by the concepts behind the plot as by the plot itself: the cost of power is explored from multiple angles, including the literal draining of life that fuels the Magisters’ immortality. This trilogy, overall, is a compelling, thought-provoking journey through some very dark places–which, in Friedman’s skilled hands, makes one appreciate sunlight all the more.
(DAW, 2009; DAW, 2011)