Saturday, June 30, 2007
The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit
I was recently recommended Wraeththu, an omnibus edition of the Wraeththu Chronicles trilogy by Storm Constantine (consisting of The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, and The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire). I'd never heard of these books, which were inspired by Goth culture and written in the late 1980's, but now that I've read the first one, I'm really glad I did - it's now one of my favorite books of all time!
The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit is the testament of a Wraeththu by the name of Pellaz. As a young boy, Pellaz had heard horror stories of this mysterious new race known as the Wraeththu who stole boys away from their families. One day a young man named Cal comes to town and stays with Pellaz's family. Pellaz knows in his heart that Cal is one of the Wraeththu, and finding him to be beautiful and fascinating, he leaves with Cal to become one of them.
The Wraeththu are a race created by the blood of a mutant human, known as the Aghama, who has become a sort of god to them. They are both male and female, are more beautiful than humans, and possess some "magical" abilities such as telepathy. While they always think of themselves as being better than the humans, the Wraeththu are still part human and are not as immune to creating gender barriers and being emotional as they would like to think they are.
Thiede, a very powerful and well-known Wraeththu, takes an interest in Pellaz and it is his genes that are used to make Pellaz into a Wraeththu. Pellaz excels in his studies, and together he and Cal travel to many different Wraeththu tribes, each having its own unique culture, so Pellaz can learn from them. They are happy for a while, but it turns out Thiede has his own plans for Pellaz, which have some rather tragic consequences.
This is a beautifully written book with a very classical Victorian feel to it. It is at times rather poetic and reminiscent of classical literature, but without the hard-to-wade-through wordiness that is often associated with older books.
This is not an action packed story, which is not to say that nothing ever happens, but it does focus a lot on the characters, their relationships with each other, and what it means to be a Wraeththu. The characters all seem real and each has their own unique personality. I loved them all, especially Pellaz, through whose eyes we see the story unfold.
This book had me mesmerized by page 3. I did not want to put The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit down. When I got to the end, I wanted to read it all over again (but there were two more books left, so I went forward instead!). It was one of those books where I did not rush through it but often read the same passage a couple of times. When I finished it, I went back and reread parts of it. I thought about the characters and story for days. It's not a book I'll forget about quickly, and being immersed in the world Constantine created with her well-drawn characters is a pleasure.