There is only one way to do magic, and that is to expend life force to power it. Witches spend their own life force, and die young. Magisters have discovered how to spend the life force of another, and are nearly immortal, burning through consort after consort, while keeping the source of their magic a tightly guarded secret. No woman has ever become a Magister because they are unwilling to sacrifice others. No woman until Kamala, steeled by a life of child prostitution, secretly becomes a Magister.
In Feast of Souls, C.S. Friedman has created an incredibly interesting system of magic, and logically depicts the consequences of using power. She manages to explore this system of magic without sacrificing character development or world building. The plot unfolds slowly, largely because of the number of different stories that are being told, but without unnecessary obfuscation. There are a lot of characters in Feast of Souls, and at times the book suffers from having to weave together so many different plot lines into a coherent whole. However, the action slowly accelerates and comes to a dramatic climax, logically (and sometimes heartbreakingly) resolving the plot of this novel while simultaneously setting up the action for the planned sequel.
Friedman writes dark fantasy, both in tone and content. She doesn’t shy from depicting the logical consequences of the plot line or system of magic she has developed, refusing to rely on clichéd deus ex machina moments to get her out of a tight spot. This impeccably plotted book is an intriguing start to a new trilogy, and one I can recommend.
When I read the review on the cover of C.S. Friedman’s Feast of Souls, it led to me to believe that I was in for a dramatic roller-coaster ride. What I found was something that moved at a slower pace, but was still a very satisfying read.
The basis of Feast of Souls is rooted in magic that is powered by the “athra” — the energy of the soul. When the energy is used up, the person dies. This is made very clear in the first chapter of the book as a “witch” uses the last of her life force to heal a young child. It’s a tragic scene to begin the book with and also introduces us to one of the main characters, Kamala. We will also get to know several Magisters, the High King, his wife, and a sprinkling of others. Some are very detailed, some are not, but on the whole they represent a fairly good cast. I found some of the characters to be a little too obvious, and some of the baggage that Kamala carries around with her would be almost crippling.
The story line moves back and forth between character sets constantly, but it’s not difficult to keep up. There is a nice balance of good characters and bad characters, and there are a few for whom you really can’t decide which side they’re on.
So, to read or not to read? It really depends on what you are interested in and how much action you demand. The story is good and Friedman’s idea for how magic is powered, plus the very logical side-effects of wielding too much magic, is excellent. Character development is decent, at times very good, and the storyline itself is worth following. So one the whole it was a good book — but not a great book.
Magister — (2007-2011) As the name implies, there will be three books. Publisher: At the end of her bestselling Coldfire Trilogy, C.S. Friedman challenged readers to imagine what a world would be like if sorcery required the ultimate sacrifice — that of life itself. Now, in a groundbreaking new fantasy novel, Feast of Souls, she introduces us to a terrifying new world in which the cost of magic is just that — a world in which the fuel for sorcery is the very fire of the human spirit, and those who hunger for magical power must pay for it with their lives. In this epic tale of terrifying shadows and desperate hope, the greatest threat of all may not be that of ancient enemies returned, or ancient wars resumed, but of the darkness that lies within the hearts of men.