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Feast of Souls by C. S. Friedman

Feast of Souls

by C. S. Friedman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Magister Trilogy (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
In the world of Feast of Souls it is thought that women cannot become sorcerers. Women can become witches, draining their own life energy to fuel magic, but not sorcerers. Witches are generally fate to die young, burning through their life energy at a faster rate than normal as they delve and conjure. Most witches use their powers sparingly, selling seconds and minutes of their life at great cost.

By contrast a sorcerer does not burn his own life’s energy; instead he has access to another source, one that has seemingly infinite potential. Their magic is colder, without fear of burning ones own life away. Sorcerers use their abilities for frivolous pursuits, such as conjuring trinkets or warming tea… no sane witch would give up minutes of her life for something as trivial.

Men and women both have the potential to become witches; only men can become sorcerers. Many women have tried to learn the secrets of sorcery, some have been apprenticed to sorcerers in an attempt to make the transition, but all have failed… until, of course, this book. Predominately, Feast of Souls is about a woman named Kamala who discovers how to become a sorcerer.

The story itself is pretty dark, and not gentle reading. Kamala’s early life is fraught with abuse. Her own mother, who loved her children enough to beg for her son’s life in the prologue, sold Kamala’s virginity off to the highest bidder. Though not discussed in detail, it is clear that, until she began apprenticed to a Magister, Kamala spent her young adult life as a sex worker.

Once she attains her first transition and begins stealing life energy from someone else –a stranger, and unknown person, somewhere in the world– Kamala struggles to figure out her place. She is a Magister, but she cannot reveal her true nature to others of her kind just yet. She has to gain experience, get a foothold in the world, before announcing her existence to the other Magisters.

Since Magisters can effectively live forever and they have infinite power, they have almost no rules. The only exception to this is the Law; Magisters may not kill each other. Naturally, one of the first things Kamala does upon leaving her master is accidentally kill another Magister. The only thing that saves her from immediate judgement is that the other Magisters have no idea who or what she is.

Much of the story touches on the moral ambiguity of surviving by slowly, but actively, killing another human. This is a bit disturbing, especially as Kamala not only meets her consort, the person whose life she is draining, they form a friendship and even become lovers. It’s definitely an iffy situation that made me feel a little yucky while at the same time drawing me in to read more. The death of Kamala’s consort was inevitable, and it was handled in a way that let me be a little ok with it, despite still wigging out about how the main character could be such a cold killer.

Of course there is a lot more going on in the background of this story. Monsters that should be held back in the frozen north by a mystical wall, constructed years and years ago by the sacrifice of a thousand witches, have been sighted. The monsters are called beasts called Souleaters and, like Magisters, they steal away the life essence of their victims. There isn’t much information on the exact nature of these creatures but it is clear that there is a connection between them and Magisters.

In the end, the story was so morally ambiguous I’m not sure what to think of it. I remember liking it a lot more when I first read it years ago. But now… well, after reading more about and trying to become more aware of feminist issues, part of me feels like Kamala is an unfortunate poster child for the “Rape Creates Strong Female Characters” trope. On the other hand it seems from the acknowledgements that Friedman did her research and drew extensively on the personal experiences of a sex worker for Kamala’s background and personality. I liked the book, but it definitely left me a bit uncomfortable. And, for this story, maybe that’s a good thing. Either way, I’m looking forward to more information, more answers, and more squickiness from the second book. ( )
  SetsunaMin | Mar 2, 2015 |

Characters: Frankly, I liked them all. Strong females are a big bonus. Somehow keeping everyone in shades of grey is a real treat.

Plot: Damn good actually. Keeps you wanting to see what will happen next without knowing for sure. Plenty of foreshadowing.

Style: Just the right balance of detail and pace. And all sorts of great moral quandaries. I do love this author. ( )
  Isamoor | Dec 26, 2011 |
Substance: Another of Friedman's explorations of a world where sympathetic characters and protagonists extend their own lives by killing innocent victims. Artificially immortal sorcerers band together reluctantly to fight the animal Souleaters that can destroy mankind, although some are not willing to risk themselves to do so. Some contradictions in the set-up (incredibly powerful men allowing themselves to be dissed by a merely mortal king, for instance). The humans come off better than the sorcerers in both ethics and actions. The conundrum of a sorcerer falling in love with the life she is draining is in the current realm of vampire romances, but with a bit more complexity. Friedman exhibits the usual post-modern misunderstanding of and disdain for traditional Western Christianity while carrying the trappings of resurgent paganism; the socio-theological conflict at the end of the book is understated at the time, but will probably be a major part of the next volume.
Style: The writing is clear and often compelling, aside from a few cryptic asides. Friedman adheres to the rules of Aristotelian drama, which makes a satisfying conclusion to this first book of the series while believably setting up the successors. Characters are well-drawn individuals in the context (it being nearly impossible for any writers to escape the endemic literary stereotypes of their contemporary generation). Dialogue and description are nicely balanced. ( )
1 vote librisissimo | Dec 5, 2009 |
Though I love Friedman's writing and the dark fantasy genre, this is a difficult book to get through. Not because it's bad or poorly written or anything -- it's just a very heavy story that can take a lot out of you. I've had to read it in spurts because I wasn't in the right mind frame for it. Definitely not the book for when you're in the mood for some light reading. Still, the story concept and setting are excellent, the writing is, of course, brilliant, and the characters are very interesting. I would absolutely recommend this book, especially if you've enjoyed some of Friedman's other work. Just make sure you're in the right mood before starting. ( )
1 vote TheBooknerd | Aug 29, 2009 |
This is a magnificent take on the trend : If magic cost us our soul...

I loved every minute of reading this, couldn't put it down ! This is a hard read some times but it shapes the story and it's character to what they are. ( )
  DriderQueen | Jul 11, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
C. S. Friedmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Palencar,John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Paul Hoeffer. For his many labors of love.
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Imnea knew when she awoke that Death was waiting for her.
"You must be willing to leave behind what you are and become something so dark and terrible that men would cringe in horror if they knew it walked among them. And you must choose that course of your own accord, without being shown the way; you must want it so much that everything else is cast aside." - Ethanus (Kamala's mentor)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0756404630, Mass Market Paperback)

A new trilogy of epic adventure from one of the finest writers in modern fantasy

C.S. Friedman, acclaimed author of The Coldfire Trilogy, returns to the epic style which has made her one of the most popular fantasy writers in the genre. In this first book of the trilogy, Friedman introduces readers to a world of high fantasy, replete with vampire-like magical powers, erotic interludes, treachery, war, sorcery, and a draconic creature of horrific power and evil that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next novel in the series.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:22 -0400)

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"At the end of her 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 Feast of Souls, she introduces us to a terrifying world in which the cost of magic is just that: 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 tale of nightmarish 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." "In the court of High King Danton Aurelius, young Prince Andovan lies dying of a mysterious malady known only as the Wasting. Determined to save his son from this incurable disease, the High King summons a council of Magisters to aid him. These solitary, seemingly immortal sorcerers rarely combine forces for any purpose, but in this one case they are willing to unite. For there is a fearsome secret the Magisters guard above all else - the nature of the transformation that sets them apart from all other sorcerers, allowing them to draw on the power of a human soul without dying for it - a secret that might be exposed if the High King learns too much about his son's illness. For the dread disease called the Wasting is in fact a sign that a Magister is stealing the young man's soulfire to fuel his sorcery, and that is a truth that must be hidden from the mortal world at any cost." "Now the Magisters must hunt down one of their own before the High King learns the truth, and find a way to sever the link between Andovan and his killer. But they have not counted on the young prince's determination to control his own fate, nor on the existence of a young woman, schooled in their own arts, who will soon shake their secretive society to its very roots." "Sold into prostitution by her peasant mother while she was still a child, Kamala has learned the hardest lessons life can teach. Her mane of wild red hair and her diamond-hard eyes reflect the wellspring of strength and defiance within her - a hunger to live by her own rules at any cost. Honed by cruelty and poverty, she has become a fierce creature, and with the help of one reclusive Magister may well become the first of her sex to master true sorcery. But at what cost to herself, and to her world?" "Against a backdrop of glittering kingdoms and dark prophecies these two young people will be forced to confront their destinies...while in the shadows of their world an ancient Evil is stirring for the first time in centuries, seeking allies in a cause more terrible than any living man can imagine."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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