Book Review: Prince of the Blood by Raymond E. Feist

13878Title: Prince of the Blood
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1989
Rating: 3,5 stars

Set twenty years after the events so brilliantly told in his Riftwar Saga, Prince of the Blood follows the intrigues and adventures that erupt when a group of powerful nobles attempt to overthrow the Empress of Kesh, ending her bloodline and bitterly dividing the court. In the centre of the conflict are two princes of Krondor, Boric and Erlund. When Boric is captured and learns of the plot to kill them both, he escapes and makes a desperate journey back to the court to warn of the traitors’ plans – which, if they were to succeed, would start a war that would tear the Empire apart.

With Prince of the Blood, Feist takes a rather firm step away from epic warfare, elves, wizards and the like, and instead tells a tale of treachery, plots to destroy an empire and the clash of cultures. It’s something new for Feist, and a rather large step away from the fantasy genre, so it’s only the question if he can pull it of. The answer is yes, despite some character flaws and minor plot issues.

The main protagonists in this less-fantasy-like story than the other novels in the Riftwar Series, are Borric and Erland, sons of our dearly beloved Arutha conDoin. Although well-educated and skilled swordsmen, they spend most of their time gambling, chasing after girls and starting unnecessary quarrels. Not exactly what one would expect from princes of the Kingdom. There is nothing charming or even amusing about their conduct either, and to be honest they are not likeabe people; in fact, how anyone could get along with them is still a mystery to me. Needless to say neither of the twins actually conquered my heart, and by the end of chapter two I was sort of hoping they would just die, and that would be the end of it. Spoiled, immature and lacking any leadership qualities – or any qualities whatsoever – I was convinced there was no hope for them left. That is, until they were sent to the Empire of Kesh and soon found themselves in actual peril. A wake-up call much needed, in my opinion.

Another thing that annoyed me endessly was the generic personality of Borric and Erland. Being twins doesn’t exactly mean that you’re 100% alike, although these two definately are. And at the same moment Borric starts his journey of personal growth, encouraged by less than enjoyable circumstances – for example, his descent into slavery, and the numerous assassins chasing him – Erland decides it’s time to grow up a little too, although the circumstances he finds himself in are much more enjoyable, and less likely to actually cause character development. It was quite obvious throughout the story that the supporting characters, especially Baron James (our oldest and most dearest friend Jimmy the Hand) and Baron Locklear had much more interesting personalities, and Borric and Erland still have a lot to learn if they ever want to be King of Rillanon and Prince of Krondor.

Apart from those two hideous figures, the story in itself was quite enjoyable. Drifting away from the original concept of the war between Midkemia and Kelewan, Feist now focuses on the more internal conflicts between the Kingdoms and the Empire of Kesh, which may very well lead to a clash between cultures that could cause an inevitable, but rather devastating war. The large differences between Kesh and the Kingdoms reminded me a lot of the difference between West and East in our modern-day society. However, Feist portrays this culture clash well, and the story of treachery surrounding the Empire of Kesh is well-developed, interesting and original, ibecause it is something else than a great, epic war for once.

Even though his protagonists aren’t my favourite people in the world, and the story relies largely on the supportive characters, this novel does offer everything you can expect from Feist: an exciting adventure, original plotline, schemes and treachery, journeys of self-discovery, and the reappaerence of some of our old friends of the other novels in the Riftwar Series. Definately not my favourite Feist novel, but still a lot better than half of the fantasy books out there. In short, Prince of the Blood is a story about coming-of-age, about young men growing up to be heroes, and everything that could possibly go wrong while trying to achieve that.

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