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4.2 out of 5 stars
Wraeththu
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76 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Years ago I read "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula LeGuin, one of the finest authors in the English language. I enjoyed the book very much, but the hemaphroditic race always struck me as so utterly masculine as to be unbelievable. Storm Constantine takes this theme (amongst others) and blows it sky-high delivering a tale of magic, power, Utopian and Dystopian visions of the future, and the fate of humankind.
This is a tale about a reality that has not happened yet. Humans and Wraeththu both react to a new world, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, sometimes with poetic vision, often from a position of self-interest. Cal, Pel, Cobweb, all the others are real, though eerie; they are utterly compelling, attractive to male and female alike. The sexual aspects of the book sometimes threaten to break loose wildly, only to be brought back under check as Storm shows there is more to life other than sex, even when one is defined by one's gender or sexual preferences.
The world has changed. Individuals attempt to adapt to this world, but many bring their troubles, pettiness, and fear along with them. The paradigm is gone; long live the new paradigm! But what will this be?
Above all, this is a work of linguistic beauty. Unlike so many authors, Storm Constantine really CAN write her way out of a paper bag. She has a way with words that may only be compared to the Romantics of the early 19th century and the Magical Realists of the 20th. Her words are evocative and resonate beyond their simple meanings. Sentences have texture, aroma, and age to them; these are words that move beyond dictionaries. To read her works is a delight, a voluptuous wrapping of cadence and suggestion. If you have no other reason why you would read this book, read it to learn how language may be crafted.
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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 7, 2004
I highly recommend this book! Storm Constantine creates a fully believable world, filled with exotic cultures and even more exotic characters that you will come to love.
Wraeththu is told from first person perspective, which I enjoy, and is broken into three books. Each is told from the perspective of a very different character. First is Pellaz the innocent young man, who introduces us to Wraeththu culture even as he is introduced to it, himself. Next is Swift, a first generation Wraetthu with whom we see the upheaval and maturing of the Wraetthu culture, and learn further secrets of this strange new race. Finally it wraps up with Calanthe, the chaotic har who is the catalyst for most of the action in all three books. He brings the story to a very satisfying close.
A warning though, if you dislike sex in your books, there is a strong sexual element that is integral to the story. It is not graphic nor gratuitous, in my opinion, but it is definitely there and it is non-traditional. You will need an open mind to fully enjoy these books.
All I can say is that if you are looking for something different and good you will find it here!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1999
Other reviews have covered the plot, so I'll concentrate onwho I think would best enjoy (or not enjoy) this book.
First, mythoughts on who won't like it. Those who prefer fact-focused sci-fi (also called "hard" sci-fi)---stay away. This is a character story, at its heart a love story, and the science in it is vague and unspecific, if covered at all. The book is closer to fantasy, if it can be categorized at all. Those who prefer didactic or straightforward themes, action, or adventure---you'll be disappointed. The adventure in these books lies within the minds and
hearts of the protagonists, and while there are some harrowing moments, there aren't enough to satisfy the action fan. Those who prefer their speculative fiction firmly in the realm of "traditional" sci-fi---there are no aliens, no other worlds except in the spiritual sense, no postulations of the future based on anything in existence today. Lastly, those who can't handle the occult/"paganism"/non-Judeo-Christian notions about God and the spirit, and those who can't handle even the appearance of homosexuality or bisexuality, this is not the title for you.
Those who will enjoy it are a) the reverse of all of the above, b) anyone interested in the philosophies underlying the goth subculture, c) anyone interested in the evolution of culture and religion over time, and d) anyone who likes a good new-fangled love story.
Additional note---my experience has been (after sharing this book with many friends) that those who expect this book to be erotica, especially gay erotica, are largely disappointed. The "magic" in the book is based on the concept of tantric sex magic, but although sex is frequently depicted in the story, the author attempts to convey its emotional and spiritual power, not its purely physical sensations. A lesbian friend found it too "hetero" in its outlook---it's a metaphor for "alternative sexuality", and by that I don't simply mean gay sex. The whole traditional notion of sexuality between those of opposing and those of the same sex is played with---everything including power relationships, the concept of beauty, the essence of masculinity/femininity, and the kitchen sink is tossed around.
But never mind all that heavy stuff. Wraeththu is one of those books that reveals more and more layers of meaning as you read it, but on the surface it's just a really good, engrossing story. Even if you have the opportunity to get the 3 books individually, buy the omnibus edition. You won't want to wait to read the rest.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2001
First of all, Wraeththu is no book common. In no regard. By any measure you put on it, it would still be outstanding. In theme, in language, in story and style. Storm Constantine has a way with words, despite a certain lack of action (although there is that, too) it never gets boring.
It also may not be to everybodys taste. Due to its sensual and sexual contents some people may find it hard to read. However, if those things don't bother you, or if you enjoy them, that is your book. I, for one, quite love it.
About the story, well, it is science fiction so far that it is set in future earth, however, it remains unknown in what future. It could be a different planet or entirely fantasy for all its references. Fact is, humankind is crumbling rather rapidly, and a mutation, the race of the Wraeththu, is taking its place. Wraeththu are stronger than men, more beautiful and posses a set of mental powers. They also solved the age-old problem of men and women in evolving into one gender, containing both. Storm has done a fine job with that idea. Since young men can be turned into Wraeththu, it seems obvious that they have a little of a identity problem, since bearing a child is not something they are used to! But it is not overdone, not boring. Despite first person, none ever gets whining about. Storms people are very strong, develloped to finest detail in such a way that the reader just can't resist them.
Those are three books. In the course of those three books, the rising of Wraeththu and the downfall of humankind, is followed as some kind of backdrop to the story. We see it develop from a small movement of some freaks into something that finally spans the whole of the world, leaving the barbarism of their early days slowly behind.
By the end of the second book we kind of figured that the real main character of that whole things is actually not Pellaz (first person in the first book) or Swift (second book), but a Wraeththu named Cal. He drops in and out of the first two books as he pleases and isn't in the front of the story much, but he is there, throwing a longer shadow than the rest. It is hard to know when it happens, but from a certain point, the reader finds himself in love with Cal, where he is in rather good company, everybody loves Cal, despite his lack of loveable attributes.
Anyway, thrid book, is first person Cal. It was delightful. Storm has adopted his way of speech for the book and keeps it up throughout most of it. Cal speaks cynical, passing judgement over human and wraeththu (and everybody els for that matter) alike with cool indifference. It should be impossible to write that character in first-person. Luckily, no-one told that to Storm and she just did it. Wonderful!
Gods, have I really written all that?
Finally, if you want an excepional read, wonderful written and not-so-common. Here is the book for you!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2001
Constantine starts with the premise that, during and after a vaguely described decline of modern society, a mutation appears among humans. The mutants call themselves Wraeththu, and they are androgynes, resistant to disease and injury, long-lived, beautiful and psychically gifted. The Wraeththu are an attractive literary creation, well described and vivid.
The first book follows one Pellaz from his inception (mutation to Wraeththu) to his ascension to the throne of a powerful kingdom. The second picks up the story of Swift, one of the first generation born Wraeththu, and the third returns to Cal, Pellaz' lover in the first book, and brings the whole trilogy to a climax.
This is light, easy to read, soap-opera stuff. Constantine does not avoid 20th-century slang and colloquialism, which provides a nice counterpart to the sometimes overly lofty metaphysical themes. Since Wraeththu are very sexual creatures, there's a lot of sex, though it isn't graphically described. I generally found the characters appealing and the plots, though not very complex, interesting (though the very end of the third book gets silly). The novels overall do have a shallow quality: we meet characters and never see them again, the obvious gender issues are skipped over rather lightly, and the most interesting aspects of the world are never explored. But they're an easy, fast-moving read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2004
Many other people have reviewed this book saga with depictions of Pell and Cal and Seal and everyone else along with some nicely vague descriptions of the story itself. I just felt like I had to put my two cents in as to why one should buy it.
I first read Wreaththu as a 'completed trilogy' in high school, borrowed it from my girlfriend and freaked when not 2 months later she gave me my own copy for my 'inception'. *chuckles* (Guess she wanted her copy back.) It has to be oe of my most prized possessions. I loved it and could not put it down from the moment she put it in my hands, and our 'clique' of fantasy lovers talked about it non-stop for weeks after I finished it.
I swear, if you like fantasy, the creation of a new race from humans, homosexual literature and characters you love and hate all at the same time, then this saga is DEFINATELY for you. You'll want to beat them sometimes, comfort them others, and generally shove a stick up their collective bumps from time to time. A dark, yet magical future? Sex, how only Storm Constantine can write it? She remade my world with this story, I only wish I could live in that world instead.
If you do not own this book: give it a try! Buy it, borrow it, but some how, get this book and read it! It's well worth your time and even if the story itself doesn't suck you in (and I almost guarentee if you are a fantasy fan who enjoys a slightly darker look at what our future may hold then it should), the way it's written will blow your mind. Storm Constantine, like Francesca Lia Block, has a writing style all her own (so far as I've read).
Also, if it's not enough that it's a great book and is just utterly amazing, Storm loves her readers and has a Yahoo!Group where she frequents and talks to her fans. She even enjoys reading fanfictions based off her world and characters! How many other authors can say that???
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 1998
Other reviews have touched on the plot; I won't repeat that. The story relayed in the Wraeththu novels is simple -- love and growth. The backdrop is the decayed shell of human civilization, from which a new strain is rising; a mutation, a change. The trappings are the black tatters and filigree and kohl and chain born from the 80's goth scene -- androgynous but entirely sexual, lines between genders and skins blurred, distinctions made elsewhere. Sex is holy and an integral part of the culture; it is food, it fuels magic, and it is made cheap only when performed without desire.
Like Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Adams (Watership Down), and Williams (Tailchaser's Song) before her, Constantine has created not just a story but a culture with its own mythos, its own language, its own prejudices and castes. Breathing life into a new kind of culture is a task often attempted but rarely achieved; Constantine does more than succeed in these books, she succeeds without the reader noticing. Once the story begins, it unfolds so naturally that the only places where the reader has to stop and wonder what the heck is going on are in situations in which the narrator doesn't know. We grow to admire these characters despite (because of?) their flaws, their petty snits, their weaknesses; moments of shallowness lend depth and make the characters -real-, and we come to care about them.
These books are not for those who require the familiar limits of traditional gender, race, and orientation in their love stories. These books are not for those who are singlemindedly homoerotic. These books are not for anyone who requires certain boundaries not be crossed, certain preconceived ideas not be altered. It's an adventure. Take the step.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 1997
I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a well-written fantasy tale with many trappings of SF -- a post-apocalyptic world, etc. -- and a depth of feeling so often lacking in the genre. Storm's prose style is so unique that it alone can make these books enthralling.
A reminder: the subject material of these books can cause some consternation for those with provincial outlooks on transgenderal relationships and hermaphrodism -- but it can also forge quite an affinity for these books for those who, through lifestyle or open-mindedness, don't mind a bit of fun with gender and sexual crossovers.
As the series unfolds, you'll discover these books are an exploration of human feelings using Wraeththu as a sort of foil: supposedly, hara (plural of "har") are above petty human emotions like love and hate that, they say, helped bring about Man's downfall. In reality, Wraeththu are no more immune from emotions than we ourselves, and the (forbidden?) love that develops between Cal and Pellaz becomes a driving force throughout the series. Of course, complications arise: Other characters fall in love with Pell and Cal and they develop (mostly fleeting) outside interests in turn....but at heart, this is a tale about love that knows no bounds, not even death.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A friend gave me a copy of "Wraeththu" for an early Christmas gift three years ago. I started reading it on my way home. Six hours later, I finished the last page. I would love to find another writer of fantasy and sci-fi who exhiliarates me as much as Storm Constantine.

"Wraeththu" is a compilation of Constantine's trilogy: "The Enchantments of Flesh & Spirit," "The Bewitchments of Love & Hate," and "The Fulfillments of Fate & Desire." The titles alone give the hint that this is not your typical fantasy. What they don't hint at is that this is a spin on the post-apocalyptic scenario once favored by sci-fi/fantasy writers--or that Constantine's crew would put a scare into every badass featured in the "Mad Max" films. They are androgynous, hermaphrodites who meld male and female characteristics with enhanced psychic and magical powers, and who have no compunction about those powers or violence to get what they want.

The Wraeththu rise up while humanity is in its final stage, overpowering their parent race and multiplying on their own. The story concerns Pell, a poor boy who follows a Wraeththu named Cal, is Incepted (made Wraeththu himself), and becomes perhaps the most important of his kind on Earth. As humans are slaughtered by vicious Wraeththu tribes, the Wraeththu turn on each other in a struggle for dominance. While the philosophy of each side can be summed up as ultimate good/ultimate evil, the underlying desire is the same: to rule and control all others.

If the story doesn't grab you, the characters and Constantine's writing will. Constantine is a marvel, a writer from the '90s who didn't succumb to the universal disdain for fine language and lush description. Despite the Gothic label, Constantine's work will never be mistaken for gloom and doom. She lavishes attention on her surroundings, and her characters come to life in the mind as they act out on the page; yet her affection for them and her love of life suffuse this trilogy with optimism and hope.

"Nothing of him that doth fade/But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange." This could be a fitting prologue to "Wraeththu," for in it Constantine takes the shambles of society and shapes it into an incredible enchantment.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2006
Storm Constantine started her epic stories of the Wraeththu with this fascinating trilogy--and I still think these books are her best. What starts as a fairly routine post-apocalyptic journey rapidly becomes weirder and weirder! The handsome stranger who takes young Pell away from his dreary homeland is not human--not male and not female. Cal is a member of new race of mutants--the Wraeththu--but the har, as they are called, are some of the most fascinating mutants in science fiction. (They remind me a little of the vampires in Anne Rice's early books. Just a little.)

Romantic, dramatic, vain and at times completely irrational, the har range from brutal, violent warriors to delicate creatures "renowned for their beauty". In lesser hands, a lot of this would have been somewhat ridiculous, but Storm is a fearless and creative writer who treats her characters with dignity. She presents her unique and complex plots in a sincere fashion. (No smirking, no winking, no smart-aleck references or asides.) She also does a better than average job of creating characters who are convincingly androgynous, and even makes it clear that some of the har are masculine, and some are more feminine. In other words, she doesn't attempt to eliminate all sexual characteristics from a race which has only one gender.

I reread this book with delight from time to time, and always enjoy new books about this fascinating world. When the current glut of unoriginal fantasy makes me blue, I can always turn to the Wraeththu trilogy for an enjoyable read!
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