Raymond E. Feist
Magician: Apprentice
Bantam Spectra 1982/1992

Raymond E. Feist
Magician: Master
Bantam Spectra 1982/1992

Raymond E. Feist
Bantam Spectra 1985

Raymond E. Feist
A Darkness at Sethanon
Bantam Spectra 1986

There are a few fantasy series of the last decades that really stands out when it comes to having a long-lasting impact on the bestseller lists. Robert Jordan, David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist are the first among them.

The Riftwar Saga was how it all started for Raymond Feist. Magician - published in two volumes - was followed by Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon. Later on almost a dozen other titles have followed, developing the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan.

Magician is really the only book about the Riftwar. Pug and Tomas are two boys growing up in the faraway castle of Crydee. Pug is an orphan dreaming about becoming a magician. Tomas is a cook's boy who wants to become a mighty warrior. In due course their wishes will be granted far beyond their expectations. For when the Tsurani arrives through a rift in space and time, everything is changed in their Kingdom. Pug and Tomas takes part in an expedition led by the Duke's youngest son, Arutha, and the Duke himself, to warn the king of the situation. What follows is an enormous adventure containing elves (good and evil), dwarves, goblins, trolls and the future of the entire universe.

It might be argued that Midkemia isn't the most original fantasy world ever created. It consists of a little bit of everything, a chaos of different more or less intelligent species from the heroic/medieval/generic fantasy tradition, not unlike some of the role-playing game worlds I visited as a teenager. You really don't have to explain very much about what a dwarf or elf is, because they are just like dwarves, elves or goblins use to be (at least since Tolkien).

But there are also more positive things to say about Feist's world-creating talent. He certainly has elaborated his cosmological theory, creating an important background for the story - and giving an explanation for how Midkemia could become such a melting pot of different species. He has also created Kelewan, a world dominated by a single culture - the Tsurani.

The Tsurani are a more or less Far East inspired culture, an empire with an Emperor who has become less and less involved in the game of politics. In his place there are more or less stable political parties of aristocratic families, and a military system - plus totally independent magicians who are above and beside the law. My personal favorite part of the series is when young Pug is being captured by Tsurani forces on Midkemia and transported back to Kelewan as a slave, giving us interesting insights in life on Kelewan.

For the most part, these books are action books about nobles and magicians fighting off the ultimate evil. Read as such, they are good enough. But if you want deep characterization of the heroes, you'll look in vain. When the action slows down, I became quite bored, especially when old friends meet and are nice to each other, asking nice questions and having a laugh together. It's all very nice they're having a good time together, but I don't want to read about it. And if you expect kings and princes who do what kings and princes are supposed to do - lead, give orders - you're in for a surprise, because Feist's nobles are always up to secret expeditions, like tracking assassins to whorehouses in Krondor or leading secret, small forces to the home base of the evil enemies. But, hey, who would expect anything else in a fantasy novel? The Brotherhood of the Ring did the same in The Lord of the Rings. No, most of the time you'll get quite what you expected, although Feist is not always following the easiest course. It's a bit refreshing when the orphan doesn't marry the princess, don't you think?

So - is it a good series? Well, it might be a good starting-point for further explorations into the worlds of fantasy, but it's nothing you'll long for when you've already read hundreds of fantasy novels. It's nice, but it's not very innovative.

Karl Henriksson

Order your copy from Amazon.com now:

Magician: ApprenticePaperback
Magician: MasterPaperback
A Darkness at SethanonPaperback

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1998, Henriksson & Henriksson.