Feast of Souls: Book One of The Magister Trilogy
by C. S. Friedman
Review by Karen Burnham
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0756404320
Date: 02 January, 2007 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Feast of Souls kicks off a new trilogy from science fiction/fantasy author C.S. Friedman. Returning to some of the themes that she explored so dramatically in her Black Sun Rising trilogy, we are once again immersed in a world of magic, life force and politics. In this world only men can be sorcerers, immortal beings of great power and influence. Only men...until Kamala comes along.
In this first volume, we are introduced to the new world of the Magister trilogy. Here magic is powered by life force. Most men and women who have the (rare) ability to manipulate magic forces are simply witches, and use the power at the cost of shortening their own lives. They live fast and die fairly young. Some men however, are so ruthless and consumed with survival that they have found a way to remotely use other people's life forces after their own have run dry. By wearing out one source after another they become immortal undead, walking around amassing power and influence. They know that if any discover how they fuel their existence they will be hunted down and exterminated, so they guard their secrets well. The understanding has been that only men could be so unfeeling to gain this life, but Kamala, once forced by poverty to a life of prostitution, is obsessed enough with her own survival to seek out a sorcerer to teach her how to be one of them.
Meanwhile, in the kingdom ruled by King Danton, his third son is ailing, struck low by disease. The magister of the kingdom has brought together many sorcerers, including one called Colivar, from all over the land to help cure Prince Andovan. Unfortunately they all know the cause – he has become the life source for some unknown sorcerer. There is no cure. Colivar helps Andovan fake his own death, so that he can ride out and try to find the source of his disease (although the root mechanism remains hidden from him) and at least not die apathetically in bed. So we follow Andovan on his quest, Kamala through her training and entry into the world of magic that is supposed to be forbidden to her, and Colivar as he runs around trying to figure out various things. He is older than most sorcerers, and seems to know many things about the last major time of troubles. Danton's queen is from the far North, where they remain vigilant again soul-sucking demons. Some of these creatures may have returned, and Colivar seems to know quite a bit about it.
Friedman knows how to tell a good story, and her skill is on fine display here. She keeps lots of plots moving briskly forward while showing us the world she has built. Some plots resolve here, while others will extend through the trilogy. The plots that end will probably surprise you, and she has no compunction about killing off characters that you've invested in. Her ability to write empathetic characters is so strong that you really have to keep reminding yourself that all the sorcerers are by any definition evil, leading a selfish, parasitic existence.
If you enjoyed her Black Sun Rising trilogy, it is almost certain that you will enjoy this one. The tone and style of the prose is quite similar. You could say that Colivar is like Gerald Tarrant, and Andovan is like Damon, but their roles in the story are much different. There is more than enough variety to keep you interested, and more than enough adventure to keep the pages turning.