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Okay, label me baffled. Thoroughly so. . .

To my uttermost dismay, C. S. Friedman's The Magister trilogy remains one of the genre's best-kept secrets. How the heck a quality series by the bestselling writer who brought us the fan-favorite The Coldfire trilogy could remain so underrated for the last couple of years, I think I'll never know.

And yet, for some reason, both Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath flew so low under the radar that it appears that no one but a selected few have read these novels. Problem is, this is Celia S. Friedman writing at the top of her game. Indeed, the first two installments of series raised the bar to such heights that I felt that, should the final volume live up to my lofty expectations, we might soon refer to The Coldfire trilogy as the author's other fantasy series.

Question was, could Legacy of Kings possibly live up to the promise shown by its two predecessors? Well, let me just tell you that Friedman not only delivered, she hit this one right out of the park. Hands down, Legacy of Kings is definitely one of the best speculative fiction titles of the year! The author brings this series to a close with panache, demonstrating yet again that she deserves her place among the most talented -- and underestimated -- fantasy authors writing today.

Here's the blurb:

What will future minstrels sing of the days leading up to the final battle?

They will sing of the Souleaters with their stained-glass wings, who feasted upon the life-essence of mankind and brought down the First Age of Kings. And of the army of martyrs that gathered to fight them, led by the world's last surviving witches. By fire and faith they herded the great beasts into an arctic prison, where the incessant cold and long winter's darkness would rob them of strength, and hopefully of life. And the gods themselves struck the earth with great Spears, it was said, erecting a barrier born of their Wrath which would hold any surviving Souleaters prisoner until the end of time. For forty generations the Wrath held strong, so that the Second Age of Kings could thrive. But it was not truly a divine creation, merely a construct of witches, and when it finally faltered the Souleaters began their invasion.

They will sing of the Magisters, undying sorcerers who wielded a power that seemed without limit, and of how they were bound by their Law to the fates of mortal men. But no minstrel will sing of the secret that lay at the heart of that dark brotherhood, for no mortal man who learned the truth would be allowed to live. The Magisters fueled their sorcery with the life-essence of human consorts, offering up the death of innocents to assure their own immortality. Perhaps that practice was what corrupted their spirits, so that they became innately hostile to their own kind. . .or perhaps there was another cause. Colivar alone seemed to know the truth, but even his most ancient and determined rival Ramirus had not yet been able to pry that information out of him.

They will sing of Kamala, a red-headed child destined for poverty and abuse in the slums of Gansang, who defied the fates and became the first female to learn the art of true sorcery. But her accidental murder of Magister Raven broke the brotherhood's most sacred Law, and even her reclusive mentor Ethanus dared not give her shelter any longer. Forced to masquerade as a witch, she traveled the world in search of some knowledge or artifact that she might barter for her safety, so that she could bear the title of Magister openly and claim her proper place in the brotherhood of sorcerers.

They will sing of Danton Aurelius, who ruled the High Kingdom with an iron fist until the traitor Kostas brought him down. They will craft lamentations for the two young princes who died alongside their father, even as they celebrate the courage of Queen Gwynofar in avenging her husband's death. Alas, it was not to be the end of her trials. For when prophecy summoned her to Alkali to search for the Throne of Tears, an ancient artifact that would awaken the lyr bloodline to its full mystical potential, the gods demanded her unborn child in sacrifice, and later her beloved half-brother, Rhys.

They will sing of the Witch-Queen Siderea Aminestas, mistress of Magisters and consort to kings, whom the sorcerers abandoned when her usefulness ended. And of the Souleater who saved her life, at the cost of her human soul. Vengeance burned bright in her heart the day she fled Sankara on the back of her jewel-winged consort, seeking a land where she could plant the seeds of a new and terrible empire.

They will sing of Salvator, third son of Danton Aurelius, who set aside the vows of a Penitent monk to inherit his father's throne, rejecting the power and the protection of the Magisters in the name of his faith. Songs will be crafted to tell how he was tested by demons, doubt, and the Witch-Queen herself, even while the leaders of his Church argued over how he might best be manipulated to serve their political interests.

And last of all they will sing of the confrontation that was still to come, in which fate of the Second Age of Kings -- and all of mankind -- would be decided. And those who hear their songs will wonder whether a prince-turned-monk-turned-king could really save the world, when the god that he worshiped might have been the one who called for its destruction in the first place.

As intriguing and rich in details as its predecessors, the worldbuilding aspect makes Legacy of Kings resound with depth. Hard to believe that Friedman could tie all the loose ends in a single book, but she does it with flair as she reveals how every single thread from the previous two volumes are all part of a grand tapestry of plotlines woven together. Secrets about the Souleaters, the Magisters and their origins, the lyr blood, the Wrath and those who live beyond, Colivar's past, Kamala's true nature, the Penitents, and many other unearthed truths are revealed as the story progresses, raising the bar higher and higher as the plot moves forward toward Friedman's most satisfying and rewarding finale to date.

The characterization is head and shoulders above what currently the norm in the genre these days. Legacy of Kings features a great balance between various POV characters, allowing the readers to follow unfolding events through the eyes and perceptions of a disparate groups of protagonists. I felt that the balance achieved in Wings of Wrath was close to perfection, yet that of Legacy of Kings is even better. Believe me when I say that it doesn't get much better than this! Hence, the narrative shifts through the POVs of Kamala, Colivar, Queen Gwynofar, Ramirus, Salvator, first Penitent king, and the Witch-Queen Siderea. Most of these characters were already well-defined, but Friedman outdid herself while fleshing them out even more in this final installment. The supporting cast is comprised of a number of secondary characters that nevertheless play an important role in the bigger scheme of things. I don't that there is a single scene I would have cut out from this novel.

C. S. Friedman has that damnable tendency to keep you begging for more, making many of her books true page-turners. With all the key elements established in Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath, Legacy of Kings is the culmination of all those various storylines coming together at last. Tightly focused in terms of plot, Friedman's endgame might be her best paced novel yet. Events and revelations keep the story moving at a brisk pace, forcing you to devour chapters after chapters. Still, even though the rhythm is fluid from start to finish, a number of poignant moments manage to get to you when you least expect it.

This is likely C. S. Friedman's best work to date. And considering that this woman wrote the celebrated Coldfire trilogy, that's really saying something. But as far as worldbuilding, plot, characterization, and pace are concerned, The Magister trilogy is superior to the Coldfire trilogy. Indeed, her latest series is more ambitious and features a more tightly plotted overall story arc and an almost flawless execution throughout. I believe that the only thing that will always set The Coldfire trilogy apart from most of its peers is the relationship between Gerald Tarrant and Damien Vryce, two characters that will probably live on in our collective memories for years and years. Most authors will never create protagonists which will somehow manage to capture the imagination the way these two have. So it would be unfair to expect Friedman to somehow find a way to do it again. Hence, though there are many memorable characters populating The Magister trilogy, none of them will live on the way Gerald Tarrant has in the two decades since Black Sun Rising was published. Having said that, in every other facet, even the characterization taken as a whole, The Magister trilogy is everything The Coldfire trilogy was, and then some!

While everyone is taking about Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and many others, C. S. Friedman wrote one of the very best -- and perhaps the best -- fantasy series of the new millennium. Maybe it's time more people give it a shot. . . Just saying. . .

Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear will by far be the most popular Daw title of 2011. But believe you me: it won't be the best. Legacy of Kings and its two predecessors deserve the highest possible recommendation.

Legacy of Kings delivers on basically all levels. It will definitely be one of the fantasy novels to read this year.
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The concluding novel in the Magister Trilogy and whilst what has gone before has set this one up quite nicely, there were quite a few problems that more than made me pause. The writing felt a little lacklustre, the characters sadly flat and as a reader I was expecting quite a lot more than I received.

Don't get me wrong are some solid action sequences and the author does takes the reader on a journey but it feels that this could have been cut more to a novella length and retained its integrity rather than overextended with what felt like padding with no real explanation as to some of the characters actions that didn't feel right within me as a reader.

All in it was OK but having had such a huge build up, I felt that this ending was more of a damp squib than a real bang for me.
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on 22 February 2015
Three years is a long time to wait between parts of a trilogy, especially one as good as Celia Friedman's Magister Trilogy. I'm not someone blessed with great patience, which has made the wait interminable, but finally I get to find out what happened to Kamala and the other Magisters and to see how Salvator Aurelius is coping with being the first Penitent King.

After the battle against the ikati, the Witch Queen Sideria Amniesta has vanished and none of the Magisters know where she has gone, with even attempts to find her using sorcery ineffective. Salvator Aurelius, a former penitent monk, is on the throne after the death of his brother, but this monk turned king is being tested as many are unsure of his fitness for the job. Magister Colivar is battling the beast inside him which seems to be growing stronger and both Kamala and Gwynofar are dealing with the grief that war often brings.

Despite their victory, it appears there may be more ikati in the South, well away from where they were supposedly trapped behind the Wrath of the Gods in the North. There is also a strange figure who has appeared in Jezalya to assist the invading forces there. The Magisters come to believe these two events may be related, but no Magister alone can find the answers and co-operation between them is very rare. Indeed, the best chance is thought to be had by Kamala, who has broken the laws of the Magisters twice over and is forced to hide her talents for fear of being sentenced to death.

From the beginning of the trilogy, I've loved the dark ideas behind the story and the way Magisters use sorcery. Here, however, Friedman reveals the secret behind their skills and it's deliciously dark. Add to this some despicable traps and acts of war and whilst the book doesn't quite cross the line into horror, it's about as dark as fantasy writing gets, in my experience. As a fan of horror novels, I love fantasy with this dark edge and Friedman does it better than most.

The darkness in the story centres around the characters emotions and in the hands of a lesser writer, the whole idea could have been rendered ineffective. However, Friedman is able to plumb the depths of the soul in such a way that you can feel the anguish. One scene in particular between Kamala and Lazaroth was brutal in both content and execution and left me feeling rather shaken. By contrast, another moment involving Kamala when she is able to let herself go completely and enjoy the freedom of releasing her inner self left me breathless with the exhilaration that poured from the pages.

There is still a slight weakness in the descriptions of some of the characters and it's not nearly as easy to picture their physical forms as it is to picture their emotional cores. This has improved from the previous books and I feel that my physical picture of the ikati in particular is closer to completion than after ''Wings of Wrath''. That said, the emotional descriptions are frequently sufficient to guide the story and ensure that the absence of more detailed physical descriptions is a minor issue, not a severe handicap.

The lack of a map of the world, common in fantasy novels and present in only the second book of the trilogy is also a minor issue, leading to a lack of scale that had a little more impact on the story, especially when Kamala was using her map in a search I didn't feel I was involved in. There were also a couple of issues caused by the delay between books where I had forgotten who minor characters were and their appearance seemed to come from nowhere.

These concerns were ultimately minor and whilst they did interrupt the flow of the story by distracting me for a little while, they had little long term impact. The entire trilogy has been improving as it goes, but this final book finishes it off wonderfully. My ultimate experience was to enjoy it, but to feel a little guilty for enjoying certain parts where characters were badly treated. However, for anyone who enjoys their fantasy with a dark twist and can handle a little bit of guilt, this is a must read and it's well worth seeing how "The Legacy of Kings" finishes this trilogy off.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 4 January 2012
Before i read this i re-read the previous two books to make sure "i was in the mood". i think in comparison to the first two books "Legacy of Kings" rattled along at a fair pace holding my attention throughout. On reflection, what stopped this getting 5 stars was that there seemed to be too much rattling along and not as much depth as the previous two books. Another 80/100 pages could have fleshed out the ending much better.
But still overall another cracking read from Celia!
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on 20 January 2012
I have long awaited the third book in this series. I can recommend all of this authors works. This is the most fantastic book, best written, most believable read.
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on 20 January 2013
Finally an author whose high standards of weaving threads of story continue past the climax of the tale. AMAZING READ throughout all three books, truly UN-put-down-able.
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on 21 August 2013
This is an inspirational series that certainly requires the reader to sit up, pay attention and think about the message that Friedman is sending. Utterly brilliant!
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on 15 August 2013
This book is very good it keeps you there involved, as it's a trilogy i recommend you read the first two first.
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on 22 October 2015
Brilliant - even better than her Coldfire Trilogy.
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on 18 October 2015
I could not put the book down until I finished it!
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