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.