Crown Of Shadows - C. S. Friedman


Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Synopsis: A Iezu has declared war on all of mankind. Master of illusion, devourer of pain, he plans to remake the human species until mankind exists only to sate his unquenchable thirst for suffering, and omens of his triumph are already apparent. Nothing short of the demon's total destruction can save mankind from his unholy influence, but no one on Erna knows where the Iezu came from, and no man has ever succeeded in killing one. Faced with an enemy who may prove invulnerable, Damien Vryce & Gerald Tarrant must risk everything in a war that will take them from the depths of Hell to the birthplace of demons and beyond.


Note: This is an INCREDIBLY spoiler-tastic review, PLEASE do not read it unless you have read the book, because it's too good to spoil for yourself.

Review: I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book, because I had heard so much about it. I knew tidbits of spoilers, I had a gut feeling it wasn't all going to work out, and all in all I hadn't heard it as highly praised as the first two. So I honestly believe I am in a solid minority when I say I LOVED this book. I got through it in a total of three days (the third day covering the last 240 pages). I found it the easiest of the three to read - possibly because there wasn't too much new stuff due to tying all the stories up. I think it had the perfect blend of action, continuity, resolution, and so many twists I couldn't see ANYTHING coming.

Character-wise, I actually liked Andrys Tarrant. For starters, I thought it was genius HAVING Tarrant's decendant in the story, even though towards the end I thought they were never going to meet and their meeting at last did seem a little forced - but more about that when I talk about the ending. I think people are too hard on Andrys (and consequently on Narilka), dismissing them as, at best, unnecessary and lacking credibility, and at worst, annoying and cringe-worthy. I'll agree the love story was a little forced, but A) if your ancestor haunted your world and killed your family, you'd be pretty messed up too and B) people seem to underrate the effect the Hunter had on Narilka in the first book. Andrys provides a link to that mystery she craves. At worst, I think their story is underdeveloped.

As for other parts of the story - I think the Hell bit is well done if not rushed, I liked the Patriarch-storming-the forest thread (though this is very poorly received generally - I just think it fits in with the Patriarch's tendancy to turn to a blind eye on the bigger picture and attack that which offends him directly - for instance the Prophet of his church turning up in his face as a 900 year old evil). Lastly, I love the final dismissals of anything resembling obligatory wariness between Gerald and Damien, and I'll admit, I went 'aww' when Gerald called Damien by his first name for the first time, and when they completed their bond. I kinda just want to hug them both and thereby make them hug each other.

Moving swiftly onto the ending before this review turns into a thesis: I thought the nature of the Iezu was fantastic, and yes I thought the ending was dragged out. Yes I think it should have been either/or (either Gerald died at the volcano, which is what I was expecting, that he went on living as a human (bad choice) or that he was given a whole new life) and not a combination of the latter two. He PROBABLY should have died at the volcano. That said, I think his surviving as Gerald Tarrant was a credible happy ending, but an incomplete one. I don't think it should have been (and am glad it was not) the case that he went on living as the original human Gerald Tarrant - that was still the man who was willing to sell his soul. For him to remain human, I think it was right that that life be entirely destroyed and replaced, and the manner in which it was done (I thought) was perfect. Yeah, so two death scenes is a bit melodramatic. But it totally had you going, didn't it? I broke down after the decapitation, and couldn't read on for about 15 minutes. I thought that was the end and I was heart-broken that Gerald had met such a dismal end. How could I have underestimated him so? That segment, and from there on, I think is perfect. The sacrifice, the change in fae, Gerald's Iezu offspring and his new life. Absolute perfection.

Officially my favourite series of all time, I shamelessly declare this book and it's two predecessors 'masterpieces'.