THE WRAITHS OF WILL AND PLEASURE: The First Book of the Wraeththu Histories
British author Constantine (The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit) expands on her vision of a hermaphroditic human future in this somewhat unwieldy start to a new fantasy trilogy, which falls chronologically between the second and third books of the original Wraeththu series. The outcast Ulaume, vilified in the previous trilogy, serves as the focus for a number of loosely connected "histories" that explore the many consequences of the death and rebirth of the ruler Pellaz. Told in third person from the perspective of such relatively minor characters as Cal, Flick and Orien, these disparate histories will make most sense to readers familiar with the preexisting animosities and power struggles. A new race of post-humans, the parazha, who are born (or "incepted") with more developed female than male organs, pose a challenge to the androgynous Wraeththu (or hara). The cultural conflict between the two races gets lost at times, though, amid the nostalgic reminiscences of Ulaume and company, in effect glosses on Pellaz's narrative of his suffering and triumph in the original trilogy. Relying less on the graphic violence and sadomasochism that marked her recent Magravandias Chronicles (The Crown of Silence, etc.), Constantine delivers a complicated and ultimately engaging novel sure to be embraced by existing fans. Agents, Robert Kirby and Howard Morhaim. (July 2)
FYI:In a note, the author directs new readers to the Wraeththu Companion, a Web site that's "an on-line encyclopaedia of events, terms, and characters."