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Review of Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman

Posted on April 14, 2010 by Monica Valentinelli

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    Years ago, I had read the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman and had really enjoyed it, so when the opportunity came up to review a book in her new series, I was pretty intrigued.

    WINGS OF WRATH is the second book in the Magister trilogy. I hadn’t read the first book, so that is something to keep in mind when you’re reading my review. Often, series are either structured in a way that you can pick up a book at any point and get into the story pretty quickly, or you have to read the series from the beginning. For many reasons, I felt that I really needed to go back and read the first book…primarily to appreciate a particular character named Kamala.

    In the world of the High Kingdom, the society is structured around two things: the “cost” of performing magic and an ancient mechanism called “The Wrath of the Gods.” Here, a simple spell requires sacrificing a piece of your soul (or someone else’s). Power is directly linked to “how much” of the human soul you draw from, but the most powerful magic wielders, called The Magisters are respected, complicated and political. They don’t hide in the shadows like an evil sorcerer, even though they do operate in them. Often, they are akin to a puppet master pulling different strings in order to have things go their way.

    Kamala is definitely a sorceress — a Magister — that did not end up how they had hoped. In the first book, you learn about how she began her days as a peasant woman and evolved into a Magister. After taking the life of one, she is now hunted by them. Because I hadn’t read the first book, I wasn’t really able to connect with her plight in this one. I had no idea what she went through to get to this point, and I couldn’t really grasp how “evil” she was. However, even though she is a somewhat major character in this book, I felt she wasn’t the primary focus so I didn’t really hone in on what she was doing.

    This book focuses on the arrival of an ancient enemy. If I go into too much detail here I will spoil it for you and that is something that I don’t want to do. There are “surprises” in the book that you really need to discover for yourself, in part because when you learn what those are — the High Kingdom that you thought you knew comes crashing down. I’m going to skip discussing a few parts, because I really think there are some elements you need to read for yourself without knowing what is going to happen.

    There were a lot of class, religious and gender clashes in WINGS OF WRATH that I appreciated being able to read, because it gave the High Kingdom somewhat of a medieval feel to it. This is “not” a world where everyone has the freedoms of a modern age; this is an age where courtiers have a considerable amount of power, because they have the ability to say many things without saying them. Their subtlety speaks to the lack of change that has affected this world throughout the years. Now that everything is about to change, the stakes are quite a bit higher and some of those highly-skilled political thinkers find themselves in sticky situations.

    I’d also like to point out that this book is definitely a dark fantasy and, at times, even dips its toe into horror. Part of the experience of reading this book is diving into the world; fortunately, C.S. Friedman is masterful when it comes to balancing setting, characters and plot. I never had to re-read a section to figure out what had happened or where I was. WINGS OF WRATH is very much a well-balanced mature read that explores many questions and “what if” scenarios.

    If you enjoy reading stories with a rich, detailed setting, a complex political landscape and a sense of impending doom, then this is definitely the book for you. However, if you haven’t read the first book, I would recommend that you do so.

    Review by Monica Valentinelli

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    One Response to “Review of Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman”

    1. Adam says:

      You might want to recheck the second to last paragraph. I think “Lewis” was accidently transposed for “Friedman”.

      You make it sound tempting, even if you tease us a lot with how much you’re not telling us. I loved the Coldfire Trilogy as well; I’ll have to check this out.

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