“Wings of Wrath” by C. S. Friedman

Back in September I reviewed C. S. Friedman’s “Feast of Souls,” the first book of the Magister Trilogy.  I finally read the second book!

“Wings of Wrath” picks up where “Feast of Souls” left off.  The Wrath is a wall/spell separating the civilized world from the wintry north, which is where the Souleaters were banished long ago.  The Souleaters are dragonfly-like creatures who seduce their human prey before consuming it.  If they are left unchecked, they’ll destroy even the remotest possibility of human civilization.  The only hope lies in the hands of a female Magister, a pregnant queen, a monkish king, and a bastard.

One of the things I like about this book is that every act of magic has a price:  life essence.  Everyone has a finite amount of life essence, and once you run out, you’re dead.  As such, all magic operates under certain rules and assumptions, even if the average people don’t know what exactly they are.

Friedman uses her magic system to create a world of astonishing moral ambiguity.  None of the major protagonists can be considered completely good or evil.  Kamala is a Magister, which means that she feeds off of the life essence of innocent people until she bleeds them dry and they perish.  (Fun fact:  After I published my review of “Feast of Souls,” the search term “feeds off of souls of children” has led several people to my blog.  I’m not sure whether to be proud or horrified.)  Every heroic act that Kamala commits is paid for in human life.  The Wrath that protects humanity is likewise made possible by a heinous crime.  Our protagonists are not the white knights that one normally expects to see in fantasy.  Likewise, the Souleaters are portrayed as a civilization seeking their own place in the world, and not the evil monsters that they could be.  All in all, this makes for a complex and balanced tale.

One of Friedman’s strengths is writing strong female characters who are able to rise above the most daunting of circumstances.  Kamala becomes a Magister because she had been abused and taken advantage of earlier in her life.  Her quest for power originates in self-defense, but evolves into much more than as she throws in her lot in the fight against the Souleaters.  Queen Gwynofar likewise has suffered much hardship in her lifetime, but because of the gift of her bloodline she finds herself in a unique position that calls for both strength and sacrifice.  Perhaps the most intriguing character to me thus far though is Siderea, the Witch Queen, although there’s not much I can say about her that wouldn’t be a major spoiler.

“Wings of Wrath” is well-written and doesn’t suffer from middle book syndrome.  One of the things I like about this trilogy is that each book has its own story arc that is a part of the larger whole.  It doesn’t end on a giant cliffhanger, but rather is the close of one chapter within a greater saga.

I’d recommend the Magister Trilogy to anyone who enjoys a good dark fantasy where characters blur the lines between good and evil.

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I read this book as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the Speculative Fiction Challenge.

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Categories: Fantasy, Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on ““Wings of Wrath” by C. S. Friedman

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
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  2. Not read any Friedman – perhaps I’ll check out my library and see what they’ve got and if I like her writing.
    Love that cover!
    Lynn 😀

    • She’s a fun writer. I love the way that she pulls off the whole moral ambiguity thing in this series. I’ve also heard good things about her Coldfire trilogy, although I haven’t read it yet.

  3. It reminded me another series of books, the wall, the evil beyond, bastards and queens… Although it does sound like a good book. I am not sure I am ready for an elaborate system of magic. I began reading the ways of kings and had to put it down after the first two parts. It just seems to me complex magic is not my cup of tea. Thanks for your review!

  4. Love seeing this. C.S. Friedman is one of my favorite authors. I really think this series is one of her best so far. It has a very dark edge to it and the magic system is one of the more intriguing ones I have run into.

    • Even the monsters are awesome. Instead of going with the Tolkeinesque, she introduces giant dragonflies. I love how creative it is. 🙂

  5. Sounds good…I like how you describe the magic system. I’m a big believer in consequences.

    • It’s one of the things that impresses me most about Friedman’s writing. Everything is interconnected and every action has a consequence, which gets even more interesting when you throw in the moral ambiguity. I like that there are some very clear limits on magic and how it can be used so that it isn’t just a get-out-of-jail-free card.

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