Book Review: Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist

149302Title: Silverthorn
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1985
Rating: 4 stars

Silverthorn is the astonishing sequel to Magician – and an even more stirring tale of the imagination. Once again the magical worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan come alive, peopled with princes, kings, squires – and warriors.
In Silverthorn a new evil power that raises the dead and makes corpses do battle with the living threatens the new king of Midkemia. And a life-or-death quest is undertaken for an antidote to a poison that fells a beautiful princess on her wedding day. Silverthorn is a stirring tale of magic, chivalry and romance. It is a worthy successor to Magician – and an exciting prelude to the final volume in the Riftwar Saga, Darkness at Sethanon.

Although not as magnificent as Magician, neither in volume nor in plotline or character development, Silverthorn does stand its own in fantasy literature, maybe not when considered on its own, but definately when reviewed as part of the Riftwar Saga. By switching his perspective from the previous main characters Thomas and Pug, to former supportive characters Arutha, Laurie and Jimmy the Hand; Feist made an excellent choice that benefits the story massively. Gone are our over-powered leaders (although they do appear occassionally for brief appearance, and Pug even has en entire side-story going on) and welcome our normal, human characters!

WARNING! The following may include spoilers for those who have not read Magician by Raymond E. Feist.

With Magician finishing with end of the Riftwar between the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan, it appeared that finally peace would arise. However, as Silverthorn picks up the tale shortly afterwards, we find that the rifts may have introduced a far greater threat to Midkemia, as a new evil begins gathering Moredhel (dark elves), goblins and vigilantes under his banner – this entity, known as Murmandamus, has the ability to resurrect his dead followers and use destructive magic unlike anything even the most powerful of magicians had ever witnessed. The plotline is way darker than Magician (walking corpses always tend to shed some angsty darkness) and the switch of main cast proves to be beneficial, especially when as a reader you suddenly realise you’ve stopped seeing Arutha as a silent, somewhat cold man, but finally view him as the leader he truely is. On his nearly hopeless quest to find the Silverthorn, Arutha displays all sorts of emotions we can expect from a normal man that carries such a burden: anger, loss of faith, but also an extreme amount of determination and courage, qualities that promptly made him go five spots up on my list of favourite Feist characters.

But the reason this book is impressive, is not because of Arutha or his quest, nor because of the rise of the evil Murmandamus and the walking corpses. There is one single thing that makes this book unlike any other fantasy novel: Jimmy the Hand. Not once, in any other book I have ever read before or after, have I come across a character as intriguing as Jimmy the Hand. The enigmatic fifteen year-old thief is interesting not only because of his remarkable stealth, observational powers and street savviness, but also because he is blessed with some of the wittiest and amusing dialogue you’ll ever come across in a fantasy novel. Just as you think he’s taking a backseat, he’ll drop a remarkable anecdote about his past to remind you that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s effortlessly likable, and there’s a great deal of depth to his persona, meaning whether it’s action, intrigue or back-story you’re reading about, chances are if Jimmy’s involved, it will be good. From all the books written by Feist that I have read so far (all up until the Demon Wars Saga), Jimmy the Hand is my favourite character. The only pity in this novel is that as a reader, you sadly realise one day Jimmy might grow up and become a more relaxed, responsible person, which would be terrible.

Overall, Silverthorn is quite an enjoyable novel. It lacks the epicness of Magician, but it does have its own vibe, an amazing set of characters with their own flaws and strength, an original, fast-paced plot and of course, Jimmy the Hand, thief extraordinaire and just about the best character ever written down on paper.

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