So for most of my adult life I have been rather an avid reader, however last year I hardly read anything, I think I got a couple of bad books, and then sort of got out of the habit of it all really, then life gets busy and suddenly I don’t remember the last time I read a book. I really wanted to change that and try to get back into the habit of reading, so I decided to re-read my favorite series of books, the Magician saga by Raymond E. Feist.
This saga is by far my favorite collection of books I have ever read and it think this is for a few reasons, firstly they are great, secondly they have all the fantasy elements that I love magic, sword fighting, demons, castle sieges, ship battles, and thirdly because without them I’d more than likely be border line illiterate. And I really mean that third point, at school I always struggle with English (this probably still shows through my bad spelling in some blog posts) and never really found it that engaging so struggled to improve. Then my Dad one weekend took me to the local book store and said buy a book we are then going to go home and read it. I came away with “Rage of a Demon King” by Ramon E. Feist, because it had a “cool” picture of a knight on the front of it. This turn out to be the 3rd book of a mini saga so far though the massive saga of Magician, that did not put me off, I read it I loved it and I got the rest, and then just started to love reading.
So I’ve now re-read the first trilogy in the massive saga and these books are: Magician; Silverthorn; A Darkness at Sethanon. And below you will find my attempt of a book review regarding them. Just one point about this review before I start, it will be bias, as I already wrote above I love this entire saga so that is going to show, if you are after a un-bias review on these books then I would look elsewhere.
So Magician starts off being focused around 2 young lads Pug and Thomas who are best of mates and live in a European style medieval coastal town called Crydee that is protected by a keep where they work and live as kitchen boys. This part of the book nicely introduces the reader to the world via the description of the simple things that Pug and Thomas do, and you start to get a real feel for the world. However, what I liked most about this section of the book is that Feist has really managed to capture the spirit of childhood, Pug and Thomas really seem to be interested in the things kids are and behave in the way kids do, and yet you still get an amazing understanding of these two personalities and their inner morals and values.
During this early section of the book a lot of important characters are introduced, again this is done in a cleave way via their interactions with Pug and Thomas. And the nature of the characters is easily shown by how Pug and Thomas feel about them. These characters all differ from each other and all have their own complex personalities that seem to fit well for their respective age and role in their society. All the characters that Feist truly introduces you too end up having a point or playing a role in the books, there are of course lots of extras but Feist does not waste time on these, and simply states what they are doing rather than go into the fully describing their personalizes.
Fairly quickly in Magician some massive world changing events start to happen and Pug and Thomas are right slap bang in the middle of it all. Now this might sound rather silly, why would 2 fairly normal kids from a keep have anything to do with world changing events, but Feist manages to make this completely plausible. By having Pug and Thomas happen across something in a very believable fashion. There is also never a time when you think, “that would just not happen” everything the the characters do fits their personalities.
The first part of the book is all one story line with all characters involved really all the time, however this soon changes with Pug and Thomas become physically separated from each other and hence both having separate story arcs that go off away from each other but come back and cross over multiple times. This sort of style is common to all three books, with the reader shifting from one group of characters to another. Its also at this point that a third character Aurtha the second son of the local Duke starts to become a main characters with larges sections of all three books dedicated to him and I think is actually the character that Feist preferred over all the others he introduces.
Mentioning Aurtha reminds me that Feist manages to do something that other fantasy writes sometimes fail to do and that is introduce flaws in his Characters, so Aurtha for example although he is considerably intelligent, a good strategist and sword fighter is also a very brooding character can at time act in very cold and ruthless fashion. As such the different characters end up all being likable and at times “hate-able” and very different from each other. But don’t get too attached to characters as Feist himself can be rather cold-hearted and happily kills of a fair few often when you don’t expect it.
One prominent feature of the books is Magic (suppose the title of the first book gives that away), the universe Feist writes in has its own version of Magic and Feist takes great effort to explain how it works and this is perhaps the only parts of these books I struggled with this time around. At times I found this fascinating and griping as it is introduced via the relevant characters learning these things and this information being critical to their current plight. But at other times these sections seemed to drag on a little bit and I just wanted to get back to the other group of characters and see what they were doing. This was mainly in the final for the 3 books and could be more a reflection of the fact that I really wanted to see how the final part of this trilogy played out.
The other prominent feature to all the books is warfare, there is a lot of fighting in this Saga from kids having a punch up while playing to massive Country shaping battles, with bar fights, small skirmishes and castle sieges all thrown in. These are explained well, I always felt I knew what was going on during these scenes, unlike some battles I’ve read by other author. Also elements that may be less familiar to some readers are explained quickly and efficiently which I really appreciate as I have seen this done badly by others both ways around.
Time is something that I think is really worth mentioning, firstly this story goes on for years, as I stated both Thomas and Pug start out as boys in the first book, but even by the end of the first book both have grown into young men. What I found fascinating about this is how Feist manages to jump years in a few words and somehow its not jarring, its almost like everything gets part resolved to the point were you can almost fill in the missing years my your self and you would not be far wrong. On top of this Feist links back to ancient times, world creation sort of times and this like the magic element normally very relevant to the present situations and hence does not normally feel like reading “boring history books”
The final point I want to very briefly mention is the overall story arch, as I’m sure you can tell I’ve tried not to give anything away above as I would really recommend anyone who has not read these to give them a go. So all I say is that the story arch is massive in every sense of the word, both geographical and even time wise. But I did not find it complex, as you are always looking through the eyes of the characters and are learning as they learn.
So really that what I wanted to say about these 3 book, and now I intend to go and pick up book number 4 “Prince of the Blood” but I would really recommend people to give these 3 a read if you have not read them before. And I’d also recommend people that have read them to give them a re-read just like I have, there were so many bits and even characters that I had forgotten about and yet were so great to re-read about.