When I came across ‘Wraeththu’ in the bookstore, it was the first time I’d ever seen it, or heard of it. I picked it up and I could not make myself put it back down, even though it was massive and expensive and I knew nothing about it. Has this ever happened to anyone else? Sometimes a book just demands you read it? It’s always surprising, and it doesn’t happen that often, but it’s like this thing that can’t be ignored. I didn’t know why I wanted this book so much. The blurb said something short and vague, like ‘This is a book, with weird things and… guys.’ I mean, the cover was pretty. But I’ve never had a cover make me want to drop 20 bucks on a book.
But I did. I bought it and brought it home and I remember starting to read it and feeling like I was falling into… I don’t know. Another world. A place outside of myself that was so much more than just what you get from reading a book. I couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t untangle myself from the characters. It was so different from anything I’d ever read, and it really just struck me right, I guess.
‘Wraeththu’ starts with Pellaz, a teenager in a world that’s probably a post‐apocalyptic version of ours, but so far after the apocalypse that it’s like an alien planet, not much that’s recognizable. Pellaz is a farmer’s son, pretty much, but he’s a little different than everybody else, a little out of place. So when a stranger, Cal, comes to his farm and asks Pellaz to travel with him, he does.
I suppose I could say more about the plot, but the story kind of meanders through Pellaz’s life, and Cal’s, as they come together and fall apart and meet new people and grow, and the world around them changes in weird and wonderful and fantastic and frightening ways.
There are so many reasons I like this book. The first thing that drew me in was just how lush and gorgeous it is. The imagery is so in your face, never purple‐y in wording, but just very, very vivid. I could see Pellaz as a child in the fields and I could picture Cal running wild through the streets, and the amazing settings and scenery, and then right down to the little things, like Pellaz putting kohl around his eyes, just get even more beautiful as the book goes on. It’s all just so stunning, even when what’s happening is terrible, when the characters are in the desert or the grime of a city‐ it’s all so raw and real and believable that it can’t not be beautiful.
I also have a hard time thinking of any books with characters that I love this much. There’s something about Cal and Pellaz and the other myriad characters in this dense, complex book that make me fall in love with them. They’re written so well, they’re so rich… It’s just really stunning. The book is actually three books in one, and the second book isn’t even really about Pellaz and Cal at all, but I just don’t care, because I could fall in love with these characters and the gorgeous writing so quickly.
And what I love the most about ‘Wraeththu’ is that’s a look at humanity and loyalty and gender and sexuality and friendships and life, and that all makes it so unique and complicated and fascinating. And it talks about so many things that I had never considered so much, before I read this, and reading this book was such an eye‐opener. But the best thing, the very best thing, is that at its heart, under and above and in between all of those things, and the long years that the book spans, it’s a love story. A relatively simple one, even. It’s about being in love and how hard that is and how easy it is at the same time.
‘Wraeththu’ is always going to hold a special place for me, I think. I’ve read so, so, so much since I first read this book, but I still haven’t ever come across anything quite like it. It stands apart from all other books for me‐ when I think about it, it’s like it’s in a separate category. But how different it is doesn’t ever make it feel like I can’t get into it, or I have to try harder. Whenever I read this, it’s comfortable, like all those characters have just been waiting for me to get back to being with them. And I like that.
Like I said above, ‘Wraeththu’ is actually three books. They were, I believe, published separately and then in one large volume, which is what I read. The three books are called ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit,’ ‘The Bewitchments of Love and Hate’ and ‘The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire.’ (The second book is actually my favorite‐ it’s one of the loveliest things I think I’ve ever read.) If you don’t read the whole, long version of the series, make sure that you definitely read the three books in order. -SEL