Image

Book Review: A Crown Imperiled by Raymond E. Feist

A Crown Imperiled by Raymon E. Feist

Title: A Crown Imperiled

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Chaoswar Saga #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: War rages in Midkemia but behind the chaos there is disquieting evidence of dark forces at work. Jim Dasher’s usually infallible intelligence network has been cleverly dismantled; nowhere is safe. He feels that the world is coming apart at the seams and is helpless to protect his nation. Quiet palace coups are underway in Roldem and Rillanon; and King Gregory of the Isles has yet to produce an heir. In each kingdom a single petty noble has risen from obscurity to threaten the throne. Lord Hal of Crydee and his great friend Ty Hawkins, champion swordsman of the Masters’ Court, are entrusted with the task of smuggling Princess Stephané and her lady-in-waiting, the lovely but mysterious Lady Gabriella, out of Roldem to a place of greater safety. But is there any safe haven to be found? Meanwhile, Hal’s younger brothers Martin and Brendan are attempting to hold the strategic city of Ylith against an onslaught of Keshian Dog Soldiers, and a mysterious force from beneath the sea. The Kingdom might lose Crydee and recover; but if Ylith falls, all is lost. An unknown player appears to be orchestrating these conflicts. Can Pug and the Conclave of Shadows track down this source before Midkemia is destroyed? -Goodreads

The Review:

Unfortunately, A Crown Imperiled didn’t do much to improve my opinion of these later Riftwar books.

I’ve torn apart the first book in this trilogy (A Kingdom Besieged) for its lack of plot advancement and over-dependency on nostalgia for the original characters. The lack of plot advancement continues in the second book with a vengeance, where all notable events can be counted on one hand (made worse by diction that refuses to use contractions, making every sentence annoyingly drawn out… much like the story (ouch)). If Feist spent the same amount of effort developing these new characters as he did reminding us how great his past ones were, I might have been more forgiving about the pacing. The scenes where he was in the moment, focusing on the here-and-now were the best bits of the book and likely the only parts I’ll choose to remember. Overall, though, I found very little value in most of what was presented in the first 80% of the book.

And then he bomb-dropped a 5-star final chapter.

This pissed me off, frankly, because it’s more evidence towards my theory that he was just phoning it in at this point and the publisher was letting him get away with it. The last chapters prove to me that he still knows how to work his magic when he wants to. In fact, the last chapter was so interesting, I’m crossing my fingers that Magician’s End, the saga-ender, makes me eat crow about every negative thing I’ve said about this trilogy so far.

Please keep in mind that I’ve loved EVERYTHING (except for the Krondor Trilogy) up until these last several books. At this point, I’d advocate stopping after the Conclave of Shadows trilogy… maybe after the Darkwar Saga. However, the jury remains out until I finish the final book. Wish me luck…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist [+ a series assessment]

A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist

Title: A Kingdom Besieged

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Chaoswar Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Midkemia’s fifth and final Riftwar—the devastating Chaoswar—explodes in the opening volume of Raymond E. Feist’s spectacular new epic fantasy trilogy of magic, conflict, and world-shattering peril. A Kingdom Besieged is a breathtaking adventure that brings back Pug—first introduced in Feist’s classic debut novel, Magician, and now Midkemia’s most powerful sorcerer—who faces a major magical cataclysm that forces him to question everything he’s ever held as true and dear…including the loyalty of his beloved son Magnus. -Goodreads

The Review:

The end of the Riftwar world is nigh, and I feel an odd mix of relief and elation. I think the series may be ending with a lot of repeating elements, having been dragged on a little too long… but at the same time, it has been nice to come “home” to the author that sparked my love of fantasy.

I already like the Chaoswar Saga better than the Demonwar Saga. It took a while for things to get going and for all the “players” to be reintroduced, but once it did, it had my interest. Feist included an interesting POV from a creature in one of the demon realms, adding a nice bit of perspective to the overall story, which I’m excited to see develop. Overall, A Kingdom Besieged was enjoyable, containing enough nostalgic elements to keep me interested, but not enough to knock my socks off.

I do have a few critical thoughts about these later works, especially concerning character development. Some of the text practically screams with Feist’s desperate desire to stay relevant and a live up to all the great characters he’s written in previous books. Unfortunately, I think he’s going about it the wrong way – instead of taking the time to develop strong new characters, he shamelessly name-drops. He’s trying to build them up by emphasizing how similar they are to their predecessors, but only succeeds in paling them by comparison, at least in my mind. Here’s a badly paraphrased example:

“Oh, you’re a son of the Duke of Crydee? And an archer to boot!! Look how amazing you are! Why, I’d say you have all the skill and bearings that your great Grandsire, Martin, had. Do you remember how amazing he was?? Splitting-image, I tell you!”

And he doesn’t do this just once, but with every new prominent character we meet. It doesn’t help matters that many of these characters are actually descendant from original characters. I admit I’m at the point where I no longer remember (or care) which generation we’re on.

So, despite a decided quality drop in these later books, I still think (at this point) the series is worth finishing, but the final verdict will be told with the last two Chaoswar books. If you haven’t started this series yet, here’s my recommended reading order:

Riftwar 1 & 2 [2] Loved #1!
The first 100 pages of #2 is a struggle – keep going!

Empire [3] Loved!
Riftwar 3 & 4 [2] Loved!
Krondor’s Sons [2] Loved!
Serpentwar Saga [4] Loved!
Riftwar Legacy [3] Didn’t like…
Conclave of Shadows [3] Loved!
Darkwar Saga [3] Liked.
Demonwar Saga [2] Hated!
Chaoswar Saga [3] The jury is still out…

The Riftwar Legacy is a side trilogy apparently based off of a video game. It lacked the sophistication of the other series and had no particular relevance to future books (that I can remember, anyway). I’d skip those. If the Chaoswar ends well, it MIGHT be worth suffering through Demonwar… I’ll let you know lol. ;)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Wrath of a Mad God by Raymond E. Feist

1196299Title: Wrath of a Mad God

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Darkwar Saga #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Overview: The Darkwar rages upon Midkemia and Kelewan, bringing bleak days of destruction and despair. To save the future of both worlds, the powerful sorcerer Pug and select members of the secretive Conclave of Shadows must journey deep into the dangerous realm of the bloodthirsty Dasati, there to carry out an audacious mission that has little, if any, chance of succeeding. In Midkemia, young warriors Tad and Zane, and their fellow soldiers, protect the Kingdom from raiders. And Pug’s beloved wife, Miranda, finds herself a prisoner of the Dasati and, even more ominously, of Pug’s nemesis, the evil sorcerer Leso Varen. Salvation may come from a friend thought long dead, an unlikely ally whose remarkable powers will be sorely needed in the momentous battle to come . . . a final, fevered onslaught against the most malevolent agents of evil ever known.

1196299 2

The Review:

Feist’s books have a special place in my heart as they were the novels that introduced me to the world of fantasy. I love his plots, his settings, and his characters. They are all memorable and dynamic and the main reason why I pick up each new book. These later works by Feist contain a great balance of new and old, which I love because it keeps the story both fresh and nostalgic at the same time.

As sad as I am to say it, I think Wrath of a Mad God was my least favorite novel so far in the 20+ list of books from him that I’ve read. I loved the premise for this story, but I had a little trouble with the concepts. They seemed a bit self-indulgent, requiring a great deal of explaining. When you need it fifty or more pages to explain to your audience what’s going on (especially so far in a series where the framework of the world and its realities are already pretty well-established) your concepts might be a bit too convoluted.

Another thing I noticed with this book (which I can’t decided if it’s a good or bad thing) is the fact that the series as a whole has slowly transformed from fantasy to science fiction. There is no space travel, but people from different worlds still find ways to interact through magical rifts and wrinkles in dimensions. While this shift in genre is interesting, part of me misses the epic fantasy feel of his earlier works.

Overall, I am slightly dissatisfied, but only when comparing it to the standard of other Feist novels. Nostalgia aside, I should also mention (without spoilers) that the ending of this book blew my mind and I genuinely can’t wait to see what happens next!

Recommended Reading: I usually hand the first book (Magician: Apprentice) to anybody wanting to try fantasy. It’s an excellent representation of the genre, and one I think fans of Terry Brooks and David Eddings would enjoy. Also, for any Feist fans who haven’t yet made it this point – keep reading, it’s worth it!

by Niki Hawkes

 Other books you might like:

Coming Soon: Magician’s End

may 14, feistTitle: Magician’s End

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: Chaoswar Saga #3

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: May 14, 2013

The OverviewDiscover the fate of the original black Magician, Pug, as prophecy becomes truth in the last book of the Riftwar Cycle. (Yup, that’s the entire overview. Dun dun DUUUUN!)

Nik’s Notes: I’ve long considered Feist my favorite author… at least up until the last year or so, where I’ve discovered a couple I like even more. In any case, he definitely makes my top 5, and I use it as my go-to when recommending books to people. Whether you’re new to fantasy or have been reading it for years, these should be on your must-read list! I am sad that the saga is finally coming to an end, and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every single last book thus far. I guess I’ll just have to go back and reread them (right, like I’m actually going to have time to do that with my colossal TBR pile! One can dream, though….). 

Book Review: Into a Dark Realm by Raymond E. Feist

Title: Into a Dark Realm

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: Darkwar Saga #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewThe Conclave of Shadows has smashed the Nighthawks’ dread plot to destroy the Empire of Great Kesh, but the mad sorcerer Leso Varen hides on the world of Kelewan, and vicious Dasati warriors mass to invade. Sorcerer Pug, Magnus, Nokor, and disturbing Bek, full of bloodlust and uncanny strength, seek the solution in the heart of the Dasati Empire.

The Review:

Feist’s works are always impeccable and I’m hard-pressed to identify anything I don’t like in his stories. “Into a Dark Realm” was no exception, and in fact exceeded my expectations with its creativity and complexity.

What I liked about it was the total transportation into another realm. It provided a culture immersion that I haven’t really seen since his “Daughter of the Empire” trilogy written with Janny Wurts. This time, however, the world we got to explore was of another dimension -that of the Dasati. Following a male warrior from that evil and twisted world, we get to learn the mentality behind their rather brutal lifestyles. I really got caught up in the fascinating culture offered within this book, and found it to be one of my favorites in the entire saga.

As always, the characters are well-rounded with a nice balance between long-time beloved characters and the introduction of new ones. The story bounces back and forth between the multiple plot-lines seamlessly, maintaing my interest with each transition.

Overall, for the middle book in a trilogy, it advanced the plot nicely – revealing just enough to help build the momentum towards what promises to be an amazing conclusion!

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like:

Book Review: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Title: Daughter of the Empire

Author: Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Series: Kelewan Empire #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars! :-)

The Overview: Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan.  Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni.  While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir.  Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival.  But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy.  Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all–in his own impregnable stronghold.  An epic tale of adventure and intrigue.  Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.

The Review:

This is a strong contender as my favorite book of all-time. It has all the elements that make a book great: strong characters, excellent world-building, masterful writing, and a page-turning story. If any of you aren’t familiar with Feist’s Riftwar saga, the arc of the series involves one world (Midkemia) being invaded by another world (Kelewan) from across a magical rift. The invading soldiers are known as the Tsurani, and Feist talks a lot about them in his second book, Magician: Master. What the Kelewan Empire trilogy does is take you deep into the Tsurani’s world, following the life of a young woman within it. I LOVED this trilogy. It was such a gripping story that I literally could not put it down!

The main character is both dynamic and endearing, and I found her completely fascinating as she develops throughout each book. The world-building was outright fantastic, and arguably the best element of this series. It’s been ten years since I read them, and I can still remember Kelewan in vivid detail. New flora and fauna, new architecture, new politial/religious systems – Feist and Wurts obviously  spent a lot of time developing, and really made the world come to life! Because of this trilogy, they are without a doubt my favorite writing duo.

Overall, it was an amazing trilogy that I will forever hold on a pedestal. It definitely tops my Best Fantasy Book Bulletin!

Recommendations: If you’re new to Feist’s works, I recommend you read Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master first before switching over to this trilogy, then continue on with “Silverthorn.” Even though these were my all-time favs, the Riftwar saga also makes the top ten list and are definitely worth reading!!

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like:

  • “The Wayfarer Redemption” by Sara Douglass
  • “Medalon” by Jennifer Fallon
  • “The Aware” by Glenda Larke
  • “Thief’s Gamble” by Juliet E. Mckenna
  • “Heart of Myrial” by Maggie Furey