Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Magician by Raymond E. Feist

Everyone once in a while I feel obligated to read one of the old classics. I'm usually hesitant (unless it is sci-fi) to read older fantasy books because most of them just aren't up to the standard of modern fantasy books. Too often they are about the world that's been built, rather than the story line or characterization which I look for when reading a fantasy book. As I said though, once in a while I dabble to increase my fantasy knowledge.

Magician is a typical fantasy book (Farm boy with a sword) written in the time after Tolkien and before George R.R. Martin. The story begins in the city of Crydee where a boy named Pug, who is nothing more than ordinary is spotted by the Duke's Magician, who detected something 'special' about the boy. When it was time for their time of choosing (apprenticeship), Kulgan the Duke's Magician chooses Pug. While Pug's boyhood friend Tomas gets his chosen path of Swordsmanship. After a few years, Pug is struggling with his magic. He's learnt all the theories but when it comes down to executing them, there is something that is blocking his magic from flowing. Yet, one day when escorting the Princess Carline (the Duke's daughter) they are set upon by trolls. When all looked lost and our protagonist about to die, Pug unleashes some pure magic which caused the trolls to strangle themselves to death. Yet, after this ordeal, Pug is still unable to use his magic naturally.

One day a mysterious ship is beached upon the shores of Crydee. Pug and Tomas are first to the scene and rescue a strange looking man who speaks an alien language. While in the infirmary, using magic, The Duke is informed that this dying man is not of this world. He is from an alien world who used a portal to gain access to Midkemia and are set for an all out invasion. With this distressing news, the Duke and a small band, including Pug and Tomas venture to Krondor, the Capital of Midkemia, to warn King Rodric of the upcoming invasion.

Nothing at the beginning of this book surprised me. I mean, the book is called Magician. So it sets me up for what is to come. However, what I didn't expect was the different perspectives the book was written in. I had assumed that the book would focus mostly on Pug and his adventures, but there are many protagonists in this story. This isn't a critique, just a bit of misdirection from the title is all.
What I liked about the book was the overall world Feist set up. He introduced a lot of history throughout the book without slowing the pace down. Feist sets up new races on top of old ones like goblins, elves and dwarves. He has little twists on what we readers would deem classic fantasy, which kept me interested. A pity that is all I liked.

What I disliked about the book was the little amount of characterization there was. I was exposed to many different characters views which is a good thing, but Feist doesn't spend nearly enough time fleshing out each character. I wanted to know each one a bit more intimately but in the end there was no character I favoured or disfavoured. Plot devices which aren't integrated smoothly really annoy me, and there were plenty in this book. Typical example from this book is stumbling upon a dragon's cave. The dragon decides he likes these intruders and decides to give them some magic weapons and armour, not before dying from natural old age I might add. Perhaps this kind of writing was acceptable in 1982, but modern writing would get lambasted. Another thing I didn't like about the book was that the book spanned too many years. Sometimes this can help the story move along or help sequels, but the book is primarily about a 9 year war and things happen in between which should be explored and not ignored. The worst thing about this book however, is the deus ex machina ending. Never an excuse for me. There was a very tenuous link near the beginning of the book, but to me it is all but a blatant deus ex machina.

"Resolution of a plot must arise internally, following from previous action of the play." - Aristotle 

It wasn't a terrible book by all means. It was well written, it has lots of good elements that could have been much better if this book was say two 600 page books (Yes I know there are sequels, but this was meant to be self containing). It needed more detail and more information for my liking. In this day and age, there are many quality books to satiate your needs. I don't think you are missing out on anything if you don't read this book.

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