Wraeththu by Storm Constantine
Chronicles of the Wraeththu
Book 1: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit
Book 2: The Bewitchments of Love and Hate
Book 3: The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire
This work is so... rare. I read the three books of Wraeththu one after the other and it felt like a single work, it really did. I never once found myself disinterested, or bored, or unable to care for the characters. The only difficulty I have is trying to figure out which one of them I love more fiercely.
Storm Constantine's style and abilities are incomparable. She has the most unpretentious way of speaking. It all sounds just like an honest, first-person narrative. Unlike many authors, she makes absolute allowance for the reader's intelligence. That does not mean that she leaves you guessing - in fact, all ends are neatly wrapped up. It's just that she does not preach, does not lecture. She just talks.
The plot, the world, the people are completely surprising. The world is very much a fantasy world, but it also flows out from our own world's not-so-distant future. The beginning of the Wraeththu race heralds the end of the humans. And good riddens. We destroyed our world. We destroyed ourselves. Women are becoming barren. Society is failing. The wraeththu are a human mutation that has the potential to reach far beyond humanity's limits. They are hermaphrodites and not bound by the same strictures of society and emotion that destroyed the old world. They have some new ideas, new ways to go. There are some incredibly interesting philosophical ideas here. The best thing about the wraeththu, though, is that their original theories don't stick. They are forced to change and many of them are not too proud to see their own mistakes, not just those of the humans that preceded them. At first, I was afraid this would turn into a utopian preaching, but it did not. Not at all.
The main characters... Ahh... There are Pellaz and Cal, who are lovers, and friends, and also really interesting, intelligent, imperfect people. There is Swift, who tells the second book and who refused to let me be upset at the shift in the point of view. There is the mysterious and beautiful Cobweb, with his jealousy and protectiveness and passionate attachments. So many wonderful, perfectly-developed characters.
But in the end, it all comes down to Pell and Cal. Pellaz narrates the first book; Cal - the third. Pellaz is, in every way, a good, understandable, charismatic and simply irresistible character. Cal, too, is charisma incarnate, but he is the opposite of Pell - plagued with a violent past, filled with flaws of temper, and of morality, and some pretty off-the-leash tendencies. The world just wouldn't be right without Cal. He is all the sanity and insanity of the world wrapped into one gorgeous person.
These books are strong in characters and strong in the plot. They are flawlessly balanced. All that is interlaced with a deep sheen of eroticism. It is not explicit, mostly, but it is always there. It makes everything richer and more honest. When people don't have to think about their repressed desires, they have so much more time to get on with their lives and let the really interesting things drive their actions. This makes the wraeththu a little less petty than humans were. This allows a truly ingenious plot to blossom.
I can imagine people who might have a hard time getting over the sexual orientation of the wraeththu and their physical differences from the humans. I would feel unimaginably sad for anyone who could not get past this. They would be losing so much.