Book 3 of the Magister Trilogy
Published by DAW
Hardcover, September 2011
Gender roles, secret societies of sorcerers, and the threat of invading monsters come to a head in Legacy of Kings, the conclusion to C.S. Friedman’s Magister Trilogy. The Souleaters (large, vicious, bloodthirsty, beautiful dragonfly like creatures) are threatening to destroy the world and the only hope of defeating them – and ensuring humanity’s survival – is relinquishing preconceived notions. First, the only female magister Kamala in recorded must be trusted, second alliances between lands that had cool relationships in the past must come together, and third, the society of Magisters must put aside nearly all of their preconceived notions and misgivings. Recently crowned King Salvatore is torn between his suspect bloodline, his mother, and his duty. The Magisters themselves are coming to grips with the fact that a female is now amongst their ranks, and one of their own, Colivar, is struggling with his past coming to light. Meanwhile, we do get to see ‘the other side’ of the conflict in the form of Witch Queen Sidera and the queen of the Souleaters. A lot going into this final volume, but Friedman tied it up in impressive fashion.
One thing I’ve always admired about Ms. Friedman’s writing is her ability to lend credence to the plight of all characters in her stories, regardless of which side of the conflict the character(s) is/are positioned. Whether we see the inner conflict King Salvatore is experiencing, or Friedman then switches to his mother and casts the plight he’s experienced against her own struggles. Even Sidera comes across as a character possessing plausible reason for her actions.
Sacrifice and life come across as heavy burdens to bear in order for the Magisters to use their magic. This was evident in the previous volumes of the trilogy and comes to an even more critical head here in the conclusion. Friedman also continues one of the overriding themes of the previous two novels – faith and an individual’s questioning of their long-held faith. King Salvatore is torn between the faith under which he was raised and the bloodline of which he learns he is a part. Some of the stronger and moving elements of this last novel involved Salvatore’s faith-based struggles.
Ms. Friedman has also proven her ability to swerve the reader regarding some of her darker characters. When these characters first come into the story, the characters surrounding them express one set of emotions based on their experience with said character. As the character moves along in the story, we learn more of the truth of the character’s past and his or her motivations. She did this with Gerald Tarrant in The Coldfire Trilogy, and to a similar degree, she’s spun the same type of magic with Colivar. He is at (or very near) the center of controversy within Magister society (along with Kamala). Magisters don’t generally get along with each other, they guard their secrets very closely and will consider others of their kind an enemy with the slightest drop of a hat, or the thought of a drop of a hat. So, what has to happen in order for the world to be saved from the Souleaters? The Magisters must put aside their petty differences and unite. In Friedman’s world, this is a rather unprecedented event. In fictional worlds, it is a fairly common storytelling device – enemies coming together to combat a shared enemy. To Friedman’s credit, she pulls it off with the necessary gravitas and legitimacy as something fresh to the world in which she’s writing – it works well.
Although the storylines wrap up very well and the conclusion was satisfying, I felt the pacing to get there was a bit uneven for my reading sensibilities. Surprisingly, I found the political arguing between regional rulers to draw me into the story more than some of the magical discussions, despite how well I think Friedman built up the magical system in this saga.
In the end, The Magister Trilogy is a fine example of High Fantasy tinged with Dark Fantasy.
© 2011 Rob H. Bedford