Black Sun Rising - C.S. Friedman Black Sun Rising; Or, How Ciani Got Her Groove Back.

two major things to note in this sometimes absorbing, sometimes ridiculous science fantasy novel: a fascinatingly developed magic system and a head-smackingly stupid quest.

regarding the stupidity, let's first clear the air with some extended ranting, so we can later speak on more pleasant things and end on an agreeably positive note. C.S. Friedman seems like an endearing author; her writing style can be lazy but it can also be interestingly quirky. so i feel we should spare the rod and spoil the child, a little bit at least. but only after a firm discussion!

SLIGHT SPOILER: in the very beginning of the book, some creatures attack the lovely and saucy sorceress supreme Ciani and mind-suck her powers away. various characters assemble to journey into a sinister, uncharted land in order to find the nasty & subhuman culprits, deliver some payback, and so release Ciani's powers. okay, let's just get it out there: it is absolutely unacceptable that a bunch of random non-characters (including a father and his 2 daughters) and 1 major character have to die pretty horrific deaths, all so that some sexy enchantress can get her powers back. for chrissakes, her life was no longer in jeopardy! and PTSD that changes sex appeal into mousy forgetfulness just isn't a problem worthy of a body count. even worse, apparently the primary members of the party are automatically willing to just toss everything to the wayside and go on a deadly quest. things like a fiancée, religious orders, and a magical Forest... all because:

(1) an Awesome Sorceress should never be parted from her Awesome Powers.

(2) a couple evenings of flirty banter can really impress a warrior-priest. oh come on! it was just some nights of convo and fine dining. they didn't even bone. he just "has a feeling about her... could this feeling turn to love?" UGH! hey asshole, is your spiritual calling so fragile that you'd give up everything so some wizard you barely know can continue to remain extra-powerful? who cares? both the egalitarian and the God-lover in me freaked out about this whole rationale.

(3) apparently some piddly promise to protect said sorceress, made by an immortal vampire-sorcerer to a pleasure demon (best 2 characters), is enough to just up and change your entire life and go on a dangerous quest and maybe die. this is a guy who mainly spends his time hunting down various virgins stranded in his magic forest (to feast on their fears etc), which no doubt keeps his hands full. it was just so nonsensical. hey Idiot Vampire! why are you even on this stupid quest? you prey on humans. Ciani barely even likes you pal, she's the warrior-priest's gal! so, anyway: awesome character; absurd character motivation.

(4) as far as Ciani herself goes, apparently "She's Quite a Woman!" - at least that's what multiple character say repeatedly, much to my annoyance.

so that's it for the eye-rolling parts. they are a big part of the novel, even enough to give it 2 stars. but there's a lot of intriguing stuff too. the novel is set on a far-flung world in the far-flung future, a world where some natural energy source called "the fae" literalizes everyone's dreams, fears, desires, etc. so on this world you have to exercise a lot of emotional/mental/spiritual control. supernatural creatures do exist, they gain lives and personalities, and often want your blood and/or booty. simple magical devices work if you really, really believe in them. things like guns are more problematic because if you have any doubts, your gun is just going to explode in your hand. and faith now truly and tangibly works. thousands of people believing in something can actually create something super-powerful - like an impregnable-to-demons church! or... HELL! Hell exists because people believe in it, uh oh. and so do pleasure demons, which isn't so bad. in this world, people have varying levels of ability to work the fae and some folks like The Amazing Chiani are born with natural aptitude. the fae itself is also fascinatingly divided into different sorts of fae, based on which type of natural energy source they derive from, and they each have their own unique properties, abilities, weaknesses. for instance, there is earth fae. and the fae that comes from light. or the absence of light. or even from tidal forces - my personal fave. it was all so interesting and carefully developed and new to me that - complaints aside - it all still sorta worked.