Book Review: Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist

19039985Title: Shards of a Broken Crown
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1998
Rating: 2,5 stars

The enemy has been routed, yet peace still eludes the Kingdom. Midkemia lies in smouldering ruins following the Demon King’s siege. Many lives have been lost, including that of the brave James, Duke of Krondor.

As the people turn their hands to rebuilding their once great nation, a new threat arises from the ashes of war: the fearsome Fadawah, Former Commanding General of the Army of the Emerald Queen. He has grasped the fallen reins of command and seeks to forge a personal empire out of the wreckage of the Western Realm.

And so it falls to two young men – Jimmy and Dash – grandsons of the late Duke, to gather together the shards of the broken crown and resurrect the Kingdom to its former glory.

Shards of a Broken Crown – the unforgettable finale to the world wide best-selling Serpentwar Saga.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince and Rage of a Demon King.

To be honest, I don’t know what Feist was thinking when he wrote this novel. It’s like he put everything he had into the previous one, Rage of a Demon King, and was now left to tie the knots of storylines that were half-developed, or spin a new beginning and end to plotlines that were already long passed their due time, and had no inspiration whatsoever to do this in the marvellous way he knows how to. It’s very peculiar how Feist portrays his greatness as master of the fantasy genre in Rage of a Demon King, and then totally and utterly fails to even get half-way the standard he set, in the last novel of the series. Maybe I’m getting something wrong here, but I was always convinced that the last novel of a series should be its greatest, as everything finally comes together and it’s time for the final showdown. Unfortunately it seems as if the showdown already happened, and Feist just wrote another novel for the sake of it.

Right from the start, there was something about Shards of a Broken Crown that bothered me endless. It was like I couldn’t get a grip with the characters, although we had been bonding for three novels now, and I knew the attachment was there. I just couldn’t find it. The characters seemed flat, emotion-less, and kept reminiscing about the past and great heroes like Prince Arutha conDoin and Jimmy The Hand, who made it to Duke of Krondor. Yes, I got the message first time around: Feist killed off all his masterly-crafted characters, and is now stuck with a bunch of wannabes of whom none has even the slightest potential to do something extraordinary. However, c’est la vie, and move on already. Unfortunately there aren’t incredibly clever or undoubtably courageous people in every war we end up fighting. I don’t see any reason how continuously whining about it is going to get the Kingdom back. Not only is the total lack of effort of any character in the first hundred pages in the book absolutely annoying, it also made me feel one emotion I have never felt before when reading a Feist book: boredom.

Yes, sorry to admit it, but this book bored me. And not even slightly, but a whole lot. The characters were dancing in front of my eyes doing God-knows-what, fighting off the army of the Empire of Kesh (who found no better time to attack the Kingdom then now, when it’s lying in complete ashes and a trail of devastation right across the land) or the demon army of the now-dead Emerald Queen, and I found myself not caring in the least. I actually flipped through some pages, sighed when once again the heroes were fighting an epic battle without any good cause, and wished they would already do something useful, unexpected or funny. Anything. All I got from this novel was: battle, battle, battle, Patrick does something stupid and acts like a spoiled brat and everyone hates him but he’s the King so no one will tell that to his face, battle, battle. No clever games in the style of Jimmy the Hand or heroic endavours by any of our heroes, no.

The thing is that Feist tried really hard to give the general feel of a kingdom at war here, with the perils and feelings of devastation, the civilians turning on each other, and the hardship of each day. But he took two wrong turns with that, and suddenly all I get from the novel is ‘blah’. First thing he did wrong is that he focused too much on the actual battling, especially when he added the ‘sort of plot twist with the dark energy that I saw coming from the start of the novel’ and we were off again for another heroic showdown between Pug and who-the-hell-cares. Secondly, he tried so hard to make Patrick seem like the worst ruler in history and to be able to think back of old times when the kingdom was still led by Prince Arutha. But newsflash. Patrick isn’t really such a bad ruler. Sure enough, he goes and bosses Pug around which you don’t do towards a magician who could basically made you explode in a matter of seconds. And yes, he doesn’t always make the right decisions, and he’s short-tempered, and sometimes a bit childish. But are Feist’s chosen two, main characters Jimmy and Dash really that much better?

In comes Malar, some fellow whom Jimmy and Dash found along the road. Everything about this fellow screams “SPY” yet the two chose to trust him, a mistake their grandfather would never forgive them for, had he known. Naturally Malar The Spy turns against them at some point, and they end up greatly endangering their Kingdom by trusting The Most Obvious Spy in History. Later on, Dash gets romantic feelings for a young and supposedly really, really hot female thief. Now I don’t want to spoil everything for you guys, but the decisions he makes afterwards are very irrational, and sometimes even downright stupid. Once again, Jimmy the Hand would turn around in his grave, and do everything he possibly can to come back and haunt his most idiotic grandchildren. And the thing about these two? They think they’re all-so-awesome, and everyone likes them, but in fact they’re no more grown up than Patrick is.

That being said, Patrick was the only character in this novel I could remotely relate to, and that’s saying something. Really, I can imagine it can’t be easy being so young and unexperienced and being in charge of the only army standing between the enemy and the total destruction of everything and everyone you’re ever loved, and you are responsible for. Plus, everyone is counting on you to make decisions wiser and greater men would have trouble making. But I can tell you, at some point in this novel, when against all odds Patrick appears on the stonewall facing the enemy, I was cheering for him. I really saw a King in the making, a King who will be able to rule properly one day, once his Kingdom is restored. But nevertheless, when the only character you can actually relate to is the one the writer has desperately tried to portray as being childish and immature, you know something is wrong with the book.

I wouldn’t have shed the tear had Feist just written another fifty pages to Rage of A Demon King, and called it the end. Start another series on how the Kingdom rebuilds itself, or whatever, or just rewrite this novel completely, because it really isn’t good. Flat characters with hardly any personality, a predictable storyline, and just…bad. Not the Feist I’m used to, and definately not a Feist I want to read more books from. Ofcourse you should read it for the sake of the rest of the series, but after seeing what amazing things this author can do in Rage of A Demon King, Shards of A Broken Crown is nothing but a major dissapointment.


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