01/03/2007. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: Immanion Press. 480 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-8545-0365-1.
check out website: www.immanion-press.com www.immanion-press.com
Once upon a time, a young librarian walked into Andromeda Bookshop and asked how she could get a book published. While the staff shook their heads over the thought of this impossibility, a publisher's rep standing nearby asked to look at it. He said he would take it to his bosses. They liked it and Storm Constantine's career began with the publication of her first three 'Wraeththu' novels. Sounds like a fairy story? It was certainly a dream come true.
Enter the wicked witch in the form of a dastardly computer. It kept telling bookshops that there were no copies of volume three in the warehouse. It lied. When after the publication of dozen or so more novels, Constantine wanted to go back to her original concept, her editor loved it. The financial department said no. The last of that series had not sold, therefore no-one wanted to buy them.
Constantine had enough faith in the books that she started Immanion Press so that she could publish them herself. Since then, Immanion has reprinted books by other authors, taken the risk with several debut novels and produced a line of esoteric books of magic and similar themes.
'The Wraiths Of Will And Pleasure' is the first of a new Wraeththu trilogy. It begins chronologically between the second and third books of the first series and builds on the mythos created in them. Some of the characters will be familiar to readers of the first books, many will be new. The Wraeththu are the hermaphrodite successors to humankind.
No-one is quite sure where they came from, only that their spread has been rapid. Many of the characters are first generation Wraeththu. This means that they were once human but have been changed (incepted) by a blood transfusion. Only male humans are able to undergo the process and sex between human and har (the Wraeththu term for themselves) will result in the death of the human partner.
At the end of 'The Bewitchments Of Love And Hate', one of the principal characters, Pellaz was killed. His Wraeththu lover, Cal, is distraught. He turns up in the town of Saltrock, disrupting lives before murdering a respected member of the community and disappearing into the desert. As a result of the upheavals, Thiede, the charismatic leader of the Wraeththu, persuades Seel, the leader of the Saltrock community, to go to Immanion, his beautifully designed capital city. Flick, Seel's companion, departs of a quest of his own to find Pel's family, if they are still alive. On the way, Flick is side-tracked and spends a year and a day learning mysticism from a strange human shaman.
Thiede, meanwhile, is resurrecting Pel in order to make him Tigron, the Wraeththu equivalent of a king.
The main focus, though, of this novel is Lileem. He is a second generation har born into the Kikkahaar tribe but he is different. His male organs are not properly developed as so is rejected as a throwback and female. Ulaume finds the harling and decides to rear him. They finally make their home in the village where Pel originally came from. Later, Flick joins them. They discover Pel's sister is still alive and Lileem accidentally incepts her, highlighting his difference from normal har and showing that women can become part of the Wraeththu community. Later, they discover that she is not unique.
'The Wraiths Of Will And Pleasure' is Lileem's story and the discovery that there are still surprises to be found in this new future. It is a delightfully told story. The information that we need to know from previous books is neatly dropped into place. It does help, though, to have some familiarity with the situation and some of the characters that are important in the first trilogy but who have influential walk-on parts here. This was a book worth writing as understanding of the Wraeththu continuum continues to be developed.
I am a little sceptical about the short time it has seemed to take between the original appearance of Wraeththu as a race and the almost complete destruction of the human race. However, this is not something that can be remedied as it is built into the structure of the first book, 'The Enchantments Of Flesh And Spirit' and is necessarily perpetuated in any succeeding book. There is an attempt to reconcile this in the short piece at the end of this volume, 'The Legend Of The First', written as from a historical perspective.
There is also a missed opportunity as Flick's mystical training in the desert is not made greater use of. Although some of his ideas are communicated to Lileem and they influence the developing mind of the harling, Flick seems to lose the spirituality he has gained as his relationship with Ulaume develops.
Like many films on DVD there are added extras. As well as the 'historical' document, Constantine has re-written some fairy tales in the Wraeththu universe. This book contains the first part 'Spinning For Gold', which is based on the Rumplestiltskin story. Unfortunately, to find out what happens, the reader will need to buy volume two of this trilogy.
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