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    Review of THE WILDING by C. S. Friedman

    Daw Books, July 2004

    Two vast empires stretch across space--the Braxi and the Azea. Although the two are perpetually at war, both share a common horror--that psychics be allowed to gain power. But there are psychics--somewhere in the unexplored noman's land outside the borders of the two empires, psychics who fled from prosecution are constructing their own system--and waiting for the day when they can strike back against those who oppress them.

    The Braxi culture is filled with remnants of the barbarian tribes that once formed this Empire, but now only the ruling tribe is allowed to maintain its tribal identity. When the leader of another tribe is captured, he is set to be executed--but there is a loophole. If he can leave the empire and return with DNA superior enough to be welcomed into the carefully protected ruling caste, he will be forgiven all of his crimes. At the same time, an Azean woman discovers that she has a twin sister--stolen shortly after birth by the psychics. The paths of the two cross in unclaimed space--as both hunt for the land of the psychics.

    Author C. S. Friedman's powerful world-building and strong characterization set this story apart. Both the Braxi lordling and the Azean Mediator must overcome their long-standing prejudices in order to work together--and survive. In Friedman's universe, good and evil are shades of gray rather than absolute. The Braxi, Azea, and even the psychic societies are ultimately pragmatic, doing what they can to ensure their survival, whatever the morality.

    I felt that Friedman relied excessively on coincidence to move the story forward, and found the ending to leave as many questions as it answered, but her skillful writing and fascinating world-building make THE WILDING a must-read.

    See more reviews of novels by Friedman.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/10/05

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