DNF Q&A: King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

Title: King of Ashes

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: Firemane #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: DNF

The Overview: For centuries, the five greatest kingdoms of North and South Tembria, twin continents on the world of Garn, have coexisted in peace. But the balance of power is destroyed when four of the kingdoms violate an ancient covenant and betray the fifth: Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, ruled by Steveren Langene, known as “the Firemane” for his brilliant red hair. As war engulfs the world, Ithrace is destroyed and the Greater Realms of Tembria are thrust into a dangerous struggle for supremacy.
As a Free Lord, Baron Daylon Dumarch owes allegiance to no king. When an abandoned infant is found hidden in Daylon’s pavilion, he realizes that the child must be the missing heir of the slain Steveren. The boy is valuable—and vulnerable. A cunning and patient man, Daylon decides to keep the baby’s existence secret, and sends him to be raised on the Island of Coaltachin, home of the so-called Kingdom of Night, where the powerful and lethal Nocusara, the “Hidden Warriors,” legendary assassins and spies, are trained… (It goes on forever…)

The Review:

When trying to make a decision on whether or not to read something, it can often be much more helpful to look at the low star ratings than the high ones. To that end I’m going to be including more DNF reviews in my lineup. I have a Q&A format here that I adapted from Nikki at (with permission…although it might be moot because she’s not blogging anymore), and I think it’s a great way to discuss the book constructively. Here goes:

Did you really give King of Ashes a chance?

Admittedly, I didn’t give it as much as I could have. I did make it to about 30% before tossing it aside, while acknowledging that this is one of those rare cases where it could actually have gotten better. It didn’t, according to what I gleaned from my book club meeting, but I was so fed up, it was a risk I was willing to take.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre?

Yes. I’m considering this a more modern fantasy even though it’s written by a classic author, and most of my favorite works come from this genre.

It’s perfect in line with what I’d like to read.

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Surprisingly, I went in with low expectations even though I’ve loved a few early works from this author (he’s a family favorite). But his later Riftwar books proved very unsatisfying, so I was wary of starting this one. Truth be told, had it not been a book club selection, I’m not sure I would’ve have ever made time to pick it up.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

Omg. The execution of the story. The basic idea behind the book was actually super interesting. Something I would’ve wanted to read in any other context. The prologue even had me giddy with anticipation, thinking, “this is going to be good.”

The first thing that threw me off was how the writing was very much at an arm’s distance from the story. Take a conversation between two characters as an example: instead of immersing you in the scene with back and forth dialogue, Feist would take you one step back and describe the conversation happening. Using each point brought up to launch into a couple page description of whatever info needing to be dumped at that point before closing the conversation with one or two lines. I noticed this also with setting. He went off on a ten page diatribe about this market setting instead of having his characters interact with it and dropping in details that way. I’ve no idea if this is a habit he had in his early works because it has been some time since I read them, but now I’m afraid to reread because I know I’m going to notice it now and it will irritate me. I highly doubt it was this passive, though.

The thing that ultimately made me put it down was the book’s very odd fixation on sex. I think it’s important to clarify that I don’t care one way or another if there’s sexual content in fantasy novels. Some authors can even use it to enhance character and provide comic relief (Abercrombie). But the very least I ask is that reading it doesn’t feel like I’m reading the sexual fantasies of a 16 year old, and that those fantasies are completely dominating the story. It was so bad. The characters were constantly thinking about and talking about sex, and when they weren’t, the narration picked it up describing why sex wasn’t allowed in the school or why so and so slept with so and so and it wasn’t until I got to the training brothel (because when you have a guild of spies, that’s the only thing women are good for, right?) I finally threw it down in frustration. This is not what I signed up for. And if you’re going to include sexual content in your books ad nausium, at least make it good sex! Holy shit.

Is there anything you liked about the King of Ashes?

The prologue. And the idea behind the story. He lost me completely on the execution.

Would you read anything else by the author?

I’ve read literally everything he has published (20+ novels) minus one co-written trilogy and a random stand-alone. I think the buck stops here though. I may read that outstanding trilogy eventually, but I’m in no hurry.

So you DNFed the book. Would you still recommend it?

No. Normally my constructive analysis allows me to figure out who might be a more appropriate audience for a given title. Or at the very least, I concede that it might be just me who didn’t like it. In this case, I know it bothered me more than most, but I still wouldn’t hand it to anyone and would actively discourage someone from reading it. It was that bad.

by Niki Hawkes


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…

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by Niki Hawkes


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. ;)

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by Niki Hawkes


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

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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

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