Book Review: Magician by Raymond E. Feist

43916Title: Magician
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1982 – edited version published in 1992
Rating: 5 stars

At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician – and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever. Suddenly the peace of the Kingdom is destroyed as mysterious alien invaders swarm through the land. Pug is swept up into conflict but for him and his warrior friend, Tomas, an Odyssey into the unknown has only just begun. Pug’s destiny is to lead him through a rift in the fabric of space and time to the mastery of the unimaginable powers of a strange new magic …

Note: This is a review of the novel Magician, combining both prereleased novels Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master.

There is not much that can be said about Magician. It is, in all fairness, a masterpiece, a work of high-standing literature that casts a new light on fantasy novels in general. If there was ever a worthy successor of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, than it is without a doubt Feist’s Riftwar Series. Magician was the very first adult fantasy novel I ever bought, approximately eight years ago, and I was hooked right away. No matter how many times I reread this amazing adventure, it can still keep me glued to my seat. The characters have bright, sparkling personalities; the plot is imaginative, fresh and innovating; the battles are epic both in proportions (so we have the normal country fights country stuff, but this book has planet fights planet!) as in outcome. For anyone who wants to start reading fantasy novels, this book is your best bet. If you don’t love the genre after this, you will never love it.

Feist provides us with a large cast of characters, each with their own personality treats and issues. Pug, one of the two main characters, starts of by being a real “nobody” until he earns a spot as apprentice for the local magician, Kulgan, and even then he’s not much of a somebody yet. The other main character, Tomas, who happens to be Pug’s best friend, is nothing more than a swordsman apprentice either. The growth of these characters, from young boys with girl troubles who occasionally get into a fight, to young adults with the future of the world on their shoulders, is amazing. But not only are the main characters well-developed, you can really see how much an author loves his novels, when he also has nicely developed supporting characters, in this case, the beautiful but egocentric and stubborn princess Carlina, the silent but intelligent and trustworthy prince Arutha, the mysterious but friendly and courageous hunter Martin, and many, many more. When you find yourself suddenly not only liking Pug and Tomas, but actually feeling for all these supporting characters too, you know Feist has got you hooked and coming back from more.

Although the plot has enough twists and turns to keep you occupied for a while, it comes clear throughout the novel that Feist is setting up the stage for something more. He is continuously introducing his readers to new places, ranging from the marvellous Elven city, to the greatness that is the empire of Kelewan, places that return occasisionally in the other novels in these series, as is he introducing new characters, who will often return later on too. Once you no longer see Magician as a stand-alone novel, but as a part in a larger series, you can truelly appreciate it for the masterpiece it is. When reading it though, keep in mind that Magician was originally written more than twenty years ago, and some things that may seem unoriginal now (like, for instance, Feist uses the generic fantasy races dwarves, elves, gnomes, etc.) were actually quite innovative in the day. And even if it has already been done about a hundred times by now, take it from me: there is something about Feist’s dwarves and elves that makes them very appealing, and makes you come back for more.

The only small critique I have on what is still one of my favourite fantasy novels up to date, is the lack of female characters. We have princess Carlina, and a brief appearance of princess Anita later on the novel, but that’s it. It’s like Midkemia’s population exists out of 90% males and only 10% females. That, or a more logical interpretation is that Feist simply does not like to write about women, or develop fitting personalities for them, or that he just finds it easier writing about male characters. Whatever the reason may be, it does get a bit annoying, not especially in this book, but more so in the later parts of the series. Also, the few women characters that Feist does include, tend to have largely the same personality, which is even more annoying. That aside, Magician is still one of the best fantasy novels ever written, and if you haven’t read this novel, you simply cannot call yourself a true fantasy fan. Personally, it wasn’t Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that hooked me to the genre, but it was Feist’s well-crafted, imaginative, enthralling novel Magician.

Comments

  1. The characterization of females in this book makes me wanna peel the skin off my face. It is insulting to me as a woman to see an entire world where every woman is a useless airhead, capable of absolutely nothing. I don’t even know why Feist bothered to have women in his book. Probably to make things more explicitly heterosexual. Yes, that’s probably the only reason.

    but anyway, if this was a book where every black character was useless, never saved the day, never offered any words of wisdom or at least anything that wasn’t completely generic and retarded, then I imagine this book would not be praised solely on the merit of “yeah but the rest of the book is so nice”. There is no rest of the book. It’s all a part of one whole. Everything contributes to the overall impression.

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