Wraeththu – Storm Constantine

About the Book

In this powerful and elegant story set in a future Earth very different from our own, a new kind of human has evolved to challenge the dominion ofHomo sapiens. This new breed is stronger, smarter, and far more beautiful than their parent race, and are endowed with psychic as well as physical gifts. They are destined to supplant humanity as we know it, but humanity won’t die without a struggle.

Here at last in a single volume are all three of Constantine’s Wraeththu trilogy: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, and The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire. 

800 pages (paperback)
Published on October 15, 1993


Oddly enough, I started reading Wraeththu because I happened upon it randomly in the bookstore and I was absolute entranced by the fact that I didn’t like the cover art at all.  That’s the opposite response I usually have toward cover art. I’m not sure why this is the one book that I looked at and thought, “Wow, that’s pretty terrible cover art. I better read the book.” Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did.

This is my first experience with any of Storm Constantine’s work. Occasionally I come across author’s work that makes me think it would be a criminal offense if said author didn’t write. Storm Constantine is probably in the top of that class. I have, quite honestly, never read such flowing, beautiful and absolutely evocative prose. While the subject matter will be a hit or miss with readers, the writing itself is worth reading the book for. There is something to be said for mastering lyrical, flowing prose, and Constantine has done just that. Her writing makes her world and characters fly off the page. You aren’t reading this book; you are experiencing it.

Along with the beautiful prose, Wraeththu is written in a rather dense way that will require your full attention to fully absorb. This also means that this is the type of book that you can read again and again and get something new out of it each time (Much like Janny Wurt’s Wars of Light and Shadow series).

Wraeththu is the first book in a series that is set in a future time of Earth where societies have risen and fallen and humanity has developed new methods of living (new religions, ruling systems, social rules and more). Introduced into this steaming hotpot of newness is a new evolution of humanity, the androgynous Wraeththu and all sorts of new beliefs, practices and even magic that comes along with them. 

It’s obvious that Constantine is adept at writing dark fantasy, which is a genre I personally love. It’s also a subgenre that seems to be hard to do right. Good dark fantasy is adept at toying with your darkest fears and most avoided imaginings. Constantine is a master of dark fantasy, and her series Wraeththu is obviously a cornerstone and a genre bender in a fantasy niche that is very hard for authors to perfect.

That being said, there is some subject matter that Constantine deals with that might not appeal to all readers. She also calls into light some uncomfortable social beliefs, and uses sex as a pretty direct tool to manipulate the magic system she has created. While all of these matters are just surface level plot points that hint at the much deeper and more intricate workings of Constantine’s mind, I could easily see how the subject matter could be unappetizing to some readers.

Constantine doesn’t drive her narrative in any typical way. Things happen that you wouldn’t expect and characters make decisions that are shockingly human, despite their (at times) obvious inhuman nature. Many of them are prone to mistakes, which often drive the plot. While all of the characters are memorable, it’s Cal and Pel that stuck with me more than the others. They have a complex relationship that can, at times, be hard to understand. However, they seem to be symbolic for much of the issues that face Constantine’s world. It should also be noted that each installment in this omnibus is narrated by a different character, and each has it’s own unique appeal. Some readers will enjoy some perspectives more than others.

In fact, it serves to point out that much of what Constantine writes in this book seems to be symbolic of something deeper and more complex. That’s another reason why you could read this book again and again and always feel like you are reading it for the first time. Constantine uses her characters as perfect tools to hint at the deeper workings of what she is trying to portray. They come across as beautiful, complex, mistake prone, clunky, occasionally offensive individuals that can’t help but shock you with their sheer humanness, despite the fact that many of them are anything but.

Constantine started her Wraeththu books in the 1980’s, and unless I’m mistaken, she’s still publishing short stories and histories for her numerous fans. What’s even more impressive is that, no matter if you read this in the 1980’s or now, much of what she’s written is still very before her time and her numerous and impressive number of fans no doubt thank her for that.

That’s probably the thing that’s most incredible about Wraeththu; it’s genre bending and forward thinking. The writing is, simply put, absolutely stunning. The world is rich and complex and the characters are so believable you can’t help but feel like they are alive – living, breathing parts of you. Storm Constantine and her Wraeththu books are probably some of my most exciting finds in my recent reading history and are easily ranked among my favorite dark fantasy books of all time.


5/5 stars


2 Responses

  • Ooh, color me intrigued. The premise sounds kind of like it starts from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and extrapolates from there. I didn’t enjoy that one, but this sounds quite interesting. I’ve never read any of Constantine’s stuff before–I never even realized she was a ‘she’–but I see her stuff on the rack all the time next to Glen Cook. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one.

  • Ooh, color me intrigued! The premise sounds a little like it picks up from the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and extrapolates from there. I didn’t enjoy Clarke’s book, but this one sounds interesting. I’ve never read anything by Storm Constantine before–in fact, I didn’t know until now that she was a ‘she’–but I see her books all the time on the rack next to Glen Cook’s. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one.

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