Bewildering Stories

C.S. Friedman's
The Wilding

reviewed by Jerry Wright

The Wilding
Author:C.S Friedman
Hardcover: 440 Pages

The Wilding is a bit of an odd book. If you're not familiar with Friedman (and I'm not) it takes a bit of time to figure out what is going on. As I read, I was reminded of a phrase from a book by F. Paul Wilson: "Wheels within wheels, bendrith, wheels within wheels." The amount of manipulation of our characters by various puppetmasters is astonishing. From the first pages, where one of a set of twin baby girls is kidnapped, then immediately segueing to a time 25 or so years later when the leader of an outlawed warrior clan (and sub-tribe of the conquering race) is captured just after he has defended his leadership by killing his challenger, and then sent out on a quest (the eponymous "Wilding") the reader is confused by the whirlwind.

It seems that this book is set in the same universe as a previous book called In Conquest Born. I've seen the book, but haven't read it as my only other exposure to Friedman was a book called Black Sun Rising which I struggled through with a clear lack of comprehension, and then after trying to read the sequel When True Night Falls I gave up about 10 pages in. No doubt a lack in myself, but there are just too many books to read to bother with something irritating.

This book, The Wilding, caught my attention. Or rather, the beautiful Michael Whelan cover caught my attention. Okay, says I, if DAW liked her enough to commission a cover by Whelan, I'll give her a chance.

And I'm glad I did. It wasn't until I was doing my usual after-read research that I discovered that The Wilding was a sequel of sorts. Only of sorts, however. All the characters from the first book, which evidently was a hit among the fans, are long since dead, but the universe, and the two battle-scarred empires, that of the Azeans (civilized to the point of stupidity, creators of psychic warriors who are now scattered and in hiding) and the Braxin (barbarians with technology and a society based on physical strength and rape (aka unlimited access to unwilling women)) which "ascended" from the final pages of In Conquest Born are herein displayed in all their manifold twistiness.

The book almost overflows with characters, but the two primary characters are Zara, an Azean mediator (and the non-kidnapped twin...) searching for her sister, and Tathas, a Kesserit warrior (but still a Braxana) on a quest to bring back one of the feared and hated psychics to breed with the leader of the Braxin.

Don't worry, though, because from here it gets complicated with hidden players pulling strings and pushing buttons and creating layers of complexity. It all comes together though, and even makes some sense, although the occasionally the string pulling of the author seemed to peep through. I enjoyed it and give it a "B-" on the Sci-Fi scale.


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