Book Review: The Dragon Within by Cindy Lyle

CoverTitle: The Dragon Within

Author: Cindy Lyle

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Deep within the mortal world of Eiddoril, war rages and the blood of innocents flows freely. Once protected by the four elements—Earth, Fire, Water and Air—Eiddoril was a peaceful, beautiful land. Now, after three hundred years of being ravaged by an evil lord and abandoned by their creators, the people and land are dying.

 In the kingdom of Gareth, an orphan girl is raised as one of the royal family. But when she begins to have vivid nightmares it leads her to question where she really came from. Her questions lead her to Fitch, an old magic user, who helps her discover a shocking truth. Karah is not human, but instead part of a long-forgotten race. Desiring answers, she sets out to uncover the secrets of her past, and defeat the enemy wreaking havoc across the land.

 In this fantasy tale, Karah must somehow find the strength to fulfill a destiny that has been forced upon her and discover the dragon within. She cannot fail. The future of creation depends on her.

The Dragon Within was a pleasant surprise. It was the first book I read by this talented author, Cindy Lyle, but it definitely won’t be the last.

For an indie published book, the interior formatting was amazing. The cover was all right, but I wasn’t too fond of the black borders on the top and bottom – if the cover got rid of those, the book would look more professional, if you ask me. Either way, the saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”, so on to the content.

Our main character, Karah, has been raised by the royal family of Gareth. She was an orphan they took in, and raised as a member of their own family. Karah has no idea where she came from, but she keeps having terrible nightmares about the Dark Lord. The only one she can turn to is Fitch, one of the last remaining users of magic. With her parents being silent about the matter and even arguing about her, her Dad convinced she’s a threat to Elric -the heir to the kingdom, and her brother – it’s up to Karah herself to find out the truth, with Fitch’s help.

What she finds out, twists her entire world to its core. She’s not even human, but she’s a member of a long-forgotten race, an immortal, humanity’s last hope against the Dark Lord. She has powers, magic, even though it’s said magic had disappeared centuries ago.

The story reminded me of Harry Potter, mostly because of the use of the “Dark Lord” title. It also has the same sense of adventure and heroism as the Harry Potter series, and Karah is some sort of chosen one. However, apart from that, it couldn’t be further away from those books, so you don’t have to worry about that at all when starting the book.

The setting is high fantasy, set in a mystical kingdom with kings, queens, sword fights, magic, dragons and more. There’s a lot of background story thrown in, especially at the start, which slows down the pace and didn’t always feel necessary. Action picks up at around chapter four though.

I liked Karah. She was a little passive at first, but managed to quickly adapt to changing situations, and she turned from passive to active over the course of the book. She was very brave and kind as well. The other characters were all right too. Elric was a little too stuck on the beliefs he was raised with, and he came across as quite arrogant at the start.

All in all, an excellent fantasy read. Dragons haven’t had entirely enough time in the picture, as one of the most ignored fantasy races, and any book about dragons, deserves a shot. This one adds great storytelling, an enjoyable plat, and likeable characters into the mix, so it’s definitely worth your time.

Book Review: Cleanse Fire (Kinir Elite Chronicles #1) by Anastasia V. Pergakis

CFEbookCoverTitle: Cleanse Fire (Kinir Elite #1)

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Complete the mission, no matter what…
Captain Derac Vidor has served Kinir for nearly twenty years. It’s his life, his blood. And then his Commander betrays everything Derac holds dear. Now he has to focus on his own life and his team instead of saving the citizens of Kinir.
Treason is only the beginning…
Fueled by rage, the team chases the source to their Commander’s betrayal – a powerful wizard bent on revenge. The wizard seeks to destroy the Kinir Elite, in both mind and body. No place is safe, even among their allies.
The past holds the key…
Derac’s tragic past may be the key to saving the team. But can he face the gruesome nightmare in time?

Cleanse Fire is written from the POV of captain Derac Vidor, a man tormented by a haunting past who is now in charge of one team of the Kinir Elite soldiers and charged with the task to rescue faeries from a dwarven mine. Derac himself is an elf, which I thought was pretty cool. A lot of times we read about elves in fantasy, but hardly ever does an evil play the main role. Derac has a troubled past, and it shows, as the events that transpired years ago still inflict upon his current day decisions. He’s wary of risking his team, of loving anyone in case they may get hurt or even killed.

One of his team members, Kierianna, is a beautiful, strong elfa (female elf) and Derac feels attracted to her, but refuses to act on his impulsions. When Derac and Kie get trapped in the dwarven mine, and Kie is forced to relive parts of her past she hoped never to relive again, they form a bond. Derac is forced to face his emotions, let go of the past, and learn to live in the present.

I thought the story was pretty strong, and I enjoyed the plot as well. The world building felt a little incomplete: the main characters travel from place to place, and even though each place is well-described, it feels like something is missing. Maybe we’ll get to see more of this world in the second book, and that’ll solve the problem. It could also be that, while we go from place to place, we don’t really live through the journey. We get a faint idea of how many days our main characters travel, but we don’t really live through those days. Or something. It’s hard to explain. I liked the plot though, because it was something different. The main characters are all well-trained, elite soldiers who face danger not because of some ancient prophecy or magic curse, but something a lot more mundane (and a lot more intriguing): their commander is trying to screw them over.

I liked the team’s interactions, and want to see more of them. Derac and Kie stood in the spotlight here, but I wouldn’t mind reading a book focusing more on some of the other secondary characters, since they all have great potentials as protagonists. I liked Derac, but I only liked Kie so-so. At times she was a valuable, strong, clear-minded member of the team, but whenever she was in danger, she always needed someone to rescue her, which annoyed me. The other elite soldiers seemed a lot more self-relient.

Either way, I enjoyed this book. It’s well-written, the plot is fast-paced and it’s fantasy with a unique twist since it doesn’t feature the end of the world or a “chosen one”. Derac is just an ordinary elf with a troubled past, forced to deal with his commander’s betrayal.

I would love to read the second book in this series when it comes out. A recommended read for fantasy fans.


Enter to win one of two huge prize packs! Signed paperback copy of “Cleanse Fire”, autographed posters of the team, signed bookmarks and more! Learn more how you can enter here: (Open internationally)

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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.

Book Review: Rage of A Demon King by Raymond E. Feist

18856862Title: Rage of A Demon King
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1997
Rating: 5 stars

Midkemia once again lies under the terrible shadow of the Emerald Queen. Her dark forces are ready to launch a devastating invasion against the Kingdom of the Isles. Come the battle’s dawn the magician Pug, along with his life-long warrior friend Tomas, discover that something far worse than the Queen’s mere sorcery is afoot. For elemental, malevolent forces are being unleashed…forces that threaten to tear Midkemia apart unless Pug and his band of supporters can track down the long-missing sorcerer Macros the Black and confront his formidable powers.

A loyal soldier and a wealthy merchant have served bravely in the flames of an enduring war that is ravaging their land. But swords, bows, wits and courage will no longer be enough to defeat the scourge that is descending upon their home. For a foul and terrible thing has escaped from a world already devoured to feed on one consumed by chaos – an insatiable nightmare creature of dark and murderous nature which seeks to own and corrupt the very source of life itself.
The final conflict is joined, pitting serpent against man and magician against demon. For those who battle in the cause of good, there will be victory…or there will be doom for all.

There can be no other outcome.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Shadow of a Dark Queen and Rise of A Merchant Prince!

In Rage Of A Demon King Feist goes above and beyond all expectations, and lifts her writing to a new level alltogether. The brilliance of this novel can only be compared with his debut novel, Magician, and even then Rage of A Demon King is victorious. My favourite Feist novel up to date, definately a must-read and one of the most intriguing, breath-taking and indulging fantasy novels ever written. Just when I thought I couldn’t be amazed anymore, I find such a work of beauty.

The first part of this series, Shadow of A Dark Queen, was mostly written from the viewpoint of young Eric Von Blackmoor, former nobody, who manages to climb up to the rank of sergeant-major by the end of the second novel. The latter, Rise of A Merchant Prince, focuses on Rupert Avery – childhood friend of Eric -‘s personal and financial growth, and his path to become the wealthiest merchant in the Kingdom. Both entertaining, well-written novels, with nice twists and turns around every corner, but nothing compared to Rage of A Demon King, where Feist puts everything together. The story is told from all sorts of different views: we have Pug, the greatest magician the Kingdom has ever known, who is now on a quest to find Macros The Black, Eric who is trying the best he can to keep the enemy army at bay, Rupert Avery who single-handedly supports this war when it comes to money, and the entire royal family – William, Arutha, Prince Patrick and Robert -, most of whom are constantly wondering how they can prevent the war, or atleast make it less bloody. The reappearance of familiar and loved characters like Nakor, and overpowered magician Pug (who now finally discovers the limits of his powers) makes this novel heartwarming at times, but icely cold at others.

The storyline, told from all these different perspectives, doesn’t get boring for one single minute. The intrigue, the double-crossing, the clever plans to reduce the size of the gigantic army coming their way, and the growing tension every minute the army draws closer, turn this novel into something brilliant. Feist manages like no other to describe the anxiety staring into the face of war, the sacrifices of men whose loyalties bind them to a Kingdom, the total despair when you lose everything you ever held dear, and the cold and calm realisation that the end is near. A magician with words, a master of human emotions, Feist surprises everyone with this excellent piece of literature. Even me.

Book Review: Rise of a Merchant Prince by Raymond E. Feist

18858089Title: Rise of a Merchant Prince
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1995
Rating: 4 stars

Roo Avery, recently returned from a harrowing brush with the armies of the Emerald Queen, is now free to choose his own destiny and his ultimate ambition is to become one of the richest and most powerful merchants in Midkemia.

But nothing can prepare him for the dangers of the new life he has chosen where the demand for repayment of a debt can be as deadly as a knife in the shadows. Even those closest to him are suspect and as Roo struggles to build his financial empire, betrayel is forever close at hand. His instinctive cunning will serve him well, but he will soon realise that the road to success is far from smooth.

And while Roo works towards achieving his goal, the memory of the distant forces of darkness are never far away. For the war with the Emerald Queen is far from over and the inevitable confrontation will pose the biggest threat yet to his new found wealth and power.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Shadow of a Dark Queen!

Rise of a Merchant Prince, in all honesty, is somewhat of an “awkward” novel, compared to the other works written by Feist, and in the fantasy genre in general, but as an outcast-book there are actually two ways you can look at it: either you think it is the best thing that ever happened to the genre in terms of leading character and plot development, or you wish you had never even picked it up to begin with. Although the story of Rupert Avery’s rise from a commoner to one of the richest men in the Kingdom hasn’t entirely convinced me, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure either. From what I’ve read people are either entirely in love with this book, or they hate it with a passion. I guess I’m somewhere inbetween, as I do see some remarkable strengths in this book, along with some surprisingly obvious weaknesses. Not Feist’s best, but perhaps one of his most original works up to date.

In this novel, Feist shifts the focus from Erik Von Blackmoor to his best friend, Rupert Avery. Roo’s personality is a welcome change from the flawless Erik, who manages to be so amazing it gets annoying after a while. Rupert may not be the prettiest person alive – which actually works in his advantage, as it turns him into a much more believable character readers can actually relate to – but he has more personality and wit in his one hand than Erik has in his entire, utterly gigantic body. Roo starts out as a virtual nobody in the world of business, with one good idea gone completely wrong when he gets robbed from his well-earned money, but on sheer determination and a clever mind alone, he manages to make a fortune in an amazingly short amount of time. Feist really focuses on the more down-to-earth, business side of Midkemia here, a welcome change from all the warfare, epic battles and high-end magic. There is no better character he could have chosen as protagonist of this story than Rupert Avery: a man with flaws, but with a sparky and entertaining personality.

I really had trouble putting down Rise of a Merchant Prince once I really got into it, which is always a good sign. The intrigue, the drama, really showed how tough the world of business is, even in a fantasy middle-age world like Midkemia. It really portrayed the struggles of ordinary people just trying to get by, and Roo had to use all his intelligence and wit not to drown in that overwhelming ocean of intrigue here. Entertaining, sometimes even fascinating, but I can imagine that this book isn’t for everyone out there. If you’re really into the old fantasy clichés with epic quests, magicians and dragons, then Rise of a Merchant Prince really isn’t your deal. If you’re somewhat like me, and you’ve been eager for a fresh wind in the fantasy realm for a while now, then you will find this book to fulfill that wish.

Also, Feist deserves a thumbs up as in this book he finally steps away from his medieval perspective on women: either they’re unreachable statues of virtue and spoiled brattiness (princess Carlina and princess Anita from The Riftwar Series) or they’re hookers, or sort of hookers, and don’t seem to have even a spark of intelligence or a mind of their own. Luckily, in the midst of this series, Feist introduces interesting female characters who put some of the male characters to shame when it comes to intelligence and personality. Sylvia Easterbrook, a beautiful young woman and love interest of Roo, is the most well-developed female character created by Feist up to date. She is cunning, ambitious, determined, and isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to increase her own fortune and wealth. So perhaps she’s not the most likeable person on this planet, but atleast she has personality. Now I can only hope Feist keeps on introducing female characters who are more than little puppets, and then he’ll score even higher on my list.

Book Review: Shadow of a Dark Queen by Raymond E. Feist

1017106Title: Shadow of a Dark Queen
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1994
Rating: 4,5 stars

Something dark is moving in distant nations, and ancient powers ready themselves for a final confrontation. A Dark Queen has raised a standard in remote lands and is gathering armies of unmatched might.

Into this battleground of good and evil come a band of ‘desperate men’ who will embark on a quest that is at best dangerous and at worst suicidal. Among them is Nakor the Isalani, a gambler who knows more magic than most magicians, yet who claims magic doesn’t exist. He alone knows the true nature of the Dark Queen whose shadow threatens to engulf their world.

Also travelling with the group is the mysterious Miranda upon whom all must wager their lives. She appears to be an ally but knows much more than she is willing to tell. Does she have a hidden agenda of her own? And will she prove to be an ally or an even more deadly foe when the final confrontation is at hand?

In this new and equally enthralling series, fantasy-bestselling-author Feist returns to the enchanted world of Midkemia. But rather than reintroduce us to the characters we’ve come to love, or reinvite us to the beautiful city of Krondor, he starts his story practically at the other side of the Kingdom of the Isles, namely the small town of Ravensburg. There we find an enigmatic blacksmith’s apprentice called Erik von Darkmoor who is to face his most pressing problem: how to endure his mother’s annual public confrontation with his father, the Baron, and her insistence that the Baron recognize Erik as his legitimate heir. But like he doesn’t suffer enough by this yearly unnerving event, lfe becomes considerably more complex when Erik and his best friend Roo avenge the rape of a friend by killing Erik’s half-brother, the Baron’s chosen heir. An unexpected storyline with strong, well-developed characters. Seems like Feist is back, and he’s here to impress his readers even more.

Newly claimed fugitives, Erik and Roo manage to escape to the city of Krondor, only to get captured and sentenced to death by no other than Nicholas, Arutha’s youngest son and now regent for his throne. Because of some unlikely circumstances and a plan to save the Kingdoms that is nothing less than suicidal, Erik and Roo are spared at the last minute and impressed into an elite fighting corps composed of equally desperate men. Their mission is to move against the conquering army of the Emerald Queen, an army of mercenaries led by the Pantathians, reptilian creatures with magical powers. Erik’s company of 60 men is to infiltrate the Emerald Queen’s seemingly invincible army, ascertain any weaknesses, and report back to the King of the Western Lands. You know, the sort of mission you do every day. The company is aided in their task by the intervention of magicians – none other than the amazing, funny Nakor, the leadership of elves – Calis, son of Tomas, half-Valheru, half-human, half-elf (well that’s one half too much, but you get my point), the ingenuity of various members of the company, and a fair amount of luck. But they will need it.

Based on storyline alone, Shadow of a Dark Queen is easily the most original and innovative story by Feist. Not only does he turn the ‘farmer-boy-turns-into-hero’ perspective all the way around, but he does this with a style and grace that totally makes you forget the storyline is actually based on one of the oldest and most annoying fantasy-clichés. By hard work, going through hell and crawling out of it again, farmer boy Erik proves his qualities as a swordsman and fighter for the Kingdom. But if it wasn’t for the support of his team mates, and some of the extraordinary members on their little expedition, their mission wouldn’t have stood a chance. The greatest strength of this novel is that it shows how you can turn a plot-cliché around and turn it into a believable, original story with great characters who display both strengths and weaknesses as individuals, but turn out to be so much more when battling as a team. It shows the things you can accomplish with the help of others, and how common goals can turn great people into even greater people.

In this novel, Feist reconnects with something he seems to have lost ever since A Darkness at Sethanon: a touch of magic that turns his stories from great into absolutely magnificent. A Shadow of a Dark Queen has his best storyline so far, with some of the most amazing characters ever born from Feist’s imagination, is well-written and an absolute pleasure to read.

Book Review: The King’s Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist

169959Title: The King’s Buccaneer
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1992
Rating: 4 stars

Set ten years after the events recounted in Prince of the Blood, The King’s Buccaneer is a new and exciting epic adventure from one of the world’s most popular fantasy writers.

Long recovered from the ravages of the Riftwar, the people in the Kingdom of the Isles enjoy peace and prosperity. Nicholas, third son of Prince Arutha of Krondor, is a bright and gifted youngster, but sheltered by the restrictive life of his father’s court. To learn more of the world outside the palace walls, Nicholas and his squire, Harry, set sail for pastoral Crydee.

Shortly after their arrival, Crydee. is brutally attacked by unknown forces. The castle is reduced to ruins, the townspeople slaughtered and two young noblewomen – friends of Nicholas – abducted. Soon the young Prince and his companions discover that the surprise attack was no isolated incident. The invaders have come from the distant Sunset Islands, home to cut-throats from every known land, and have gathered to make war upon Nicholas’s homeland. But it is more than a simple raid for slaves – they serve a dark force which threatens the entire world of Midkemia, a terrifying force that Nicholas must confront.

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers for Magician, Silvethorn, and a Darkness at Sethanon!

The King’s Buccaneer, formerly part two of the mini-series Krondor’s Sons, but now officially the last part of the Riftwar Series – a change of heart I greatly support, because without being part of a larger series, the Krondor’s Sons books are a bit lacking – is a nice closure piece for said series, but also a prelude for what is to come. The problems Nicholas faces when two of his friends are abducted to a far away, foreign country, seem almost like an omen for the next series: The Serpentwar Saga. Even more than with the folks from Kelewan, Midkemia has had trouble with the Panathians, evil snake-like magicians who worship a goddess of death and would gladly die to be reuinited with said goddess. They could care less about the life of others, and would even gladly kill their own soldiers as to strengthen their mistress. These evil creatures already made their appearance in Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon, but the plan they have come up with this time strikes all imagination.

As if burning Crydee to the ground, killing half the population there, and kidnapping two noblewomen wasn’t enough, all this bloodshed is just a minor part of the grand sheme to destroy entire Midkemia. Ofcourse, no one in their right mind would want to destroy an entire world, but we can’t exactly call those Panathians bright and clever fellows, although later on, we have to admit that the way they were going to pull this off – you know, the great mystical ‘kill everyone until no one is left’ plan – is nothing short but brilliant. Unfortunately for them, young prince Nicholas, who has some issues with his misshaped foot, and continues to whine about it for halfway through the book, owns a set of qualities fit for a prince of the kingdom: courage, determination, a heart of gold, and a teenage crush on one of the captured noblewomen. Immediately he takes control – in a rather unbelievable fashion, I might add, as if all of the sudden he gets +100 intellect and finally realises his education might come in handy some day – and sets of to sail to the Sunset Isles, home to all the cut-throat pirates on the entire planet, with the help of none other than former scare of all seas, Amos Task, Nicholas’ very own cousin Marcus, his best friend Harry, the funny and witty Isalani Nakor and the strong warrior Calis. An unlikely alliance that hopes to be successful against all odds.

Nicholas’ personality, although much more developed than the one from his older brothers Borric and Erland – who greatly annoyed me throughout the previous novel, Prince of the Blood – has some downsides, which make him all the more human. About one forth of the book Nicholas is complaining about his misshaped foot, and although I’m not going to argue that this might be a burden, and he does have the right to whine about it if he wants to, I also have a message for the young prince It’s a foot. You can still walk on it, hardly anyone who doesn’t know you will notice, and you’re still prince of the Kingdom of the Isles. Get over it. At least, don’t let it hold you down in every bloody thing you do. But no worries, because halfway throughout the novel, Nicholas all of the sudden ‘gets’ it, and moves on. Gone is the foot-whining, hello to the suddenly decision-making buccaneer. A swift and sudden change, but one for the better. Personally by the end of this book I would have preferred it if Nicolas became successor for the throne of the Isles, rather than either one of his brothers.

There are some things to mention about the supportive characters. The reappearance of Amos Task was wonderful, as is the old menacing pirate. His witty sense of humor, the way he just laughs when Death looks him right in the face, with this captain on my ship I’d sail to the other end of the world, and beyond. Furthermore, there is Nakor, who always manage to surprise even me, as he comes up with new, fun schemes and manages to enter even the most secured of places. Without both of these characters, this novel would certainly not have been this enjoyable. The other characters are somewhat lacking. Marcus is a quiet, but strong and courageous lad, who has had some bad luck as of late, so it’s natural he’s even more quiet than usual. On the other hand, Nicholas’ best friend Harry talks enough for two, maybe three of them, so that makes up for it. The plot is exciting, with some nice plot-twists (some predictable, others unpredictable), and for people like me, who are more interested in the internal struggles in Midkemia rather than the planet-war (or however you would call it) between Midkemia and Kelewan, this novel is definately interesting.

Personally, I liked this book more than its predecessor, Prince of the Blood. However, this isn’t Feist in the way of Magician, this isn’t a mind-blowing, brilliant piece of art. It’s a nice novel, interesting story, and fun characters, but that’s about it. Feist does get bonus points for creating the additional content of Novindus, and describing it in such a beautiful, insightful manner. The King’s Buccanneer is obviously another coming-of-age-story, very similar but also very different from Prince of the Blood, a great way to end the Riftwar Series, and an even greater prelude to the upcoming Serpentwar Series. Do me a favor when you’ve read this book: don’t wait too long to start Shadow of a Dark Queen, and you will trully grasp how well this novel fits inbetween. If you liked Prince of the Blood, you will love this novel. If you like Feist’s witty sense of humor that he portrays so well in his characters, you will occasionally find yourself laughing throughout this story. If however, you’re a bit nostalgic for the grandeur that was Magician, you will not find any of that here.

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.

Book Review: A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist

13813Title: A Darkness at Sethanon
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1986
Rating: 4,5 stars

A Darkness at Sethanon is the stunning climax to Raymond E. Feist’s brilliant epic fantasy trilogy, the Riftwar Saga. Here be dragons and sorcery, swordplay, quests, pursuits, intrigues, stratagems, journeys to the darkest realms of the dead and titanic battles between the forces of good and darkest evil. Here is the final dramatic confrontation between Arutha and Murmandamus – and the perilous quest of Pug the magician and Tomas the warrior for Macros the Black. A Darkness at Sethanon is heroic fantasy of the highest excitement and on the grandest scale, a magnificent conclusion to one of the great fantasy sagas of our time.

Wheras Silverthorn, this novel’s predecessor, fails to grasp both the magnificence and originality of the first novel in these series, Magician, A Darkness at Sethanon does manage to meet the expectations. It is a trully wonderful adventure, and not only does it rise up to the challenge, it goes beyond that. Powerful characters, a land on the verge of war, creatures that only appear in your darkest nightmares and the faith of the world resting on the shoulders of a few heroes. It sounds like the classic fantasy formula, but Raymond E. Feist twists it around and turns it into something new, fresh an exciting.

Warning: The content below may contain spoilers for Magician and Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist!

Arutha conDoin, Prince of Krondor, is once again called upon to travel with his unlikely band of followers, who include a couple of bards; a Duke who is also his brother; a thief; a squire and a tribesman, as they learn that the evil demon Murmandamus has been amassing a gigantic army in the North lands. They must try to stop this from happening ofcourse, and upon doing so, they need the help of old allies – which asks for the reappareance of the protagonists of the first book in the series, Tomas and Pug – and new friends, whom they find in the unlikely form of former enemy Guy de Bas-Tyra.

It does take a bit for the book to get back to the level established by Magician, but when it finally does, it is in a most grand fashion, with the defence of fortress-town Armengar making for a frantic and exciting affair in which 7,000 or so town soldiers attempt to keep tens of thousands of Murmandamus’s invaders at bay. The battle for Armengar is one of the best-told, most thrilling battles in fantasy literature, and even those among us who are not exactly jumping up and down in their seats when they imagine an alliance of heroes clashing with a horde of demons, I am certain will still enjoy the way Feist writes this heroic battle, with a focus on human emotions, sacrifices and all those things that turn ordinary people into heroes.

Once again, after his remarkable appereance in Silverthorn, Jimmy the Hand comes back to steal the show. As witty, sarcastic and clever as ever, he thwarts plots to kill Arutha, secudes many and more teenage girls, and provides more wisdom than an entire king’s council. Arutha conDoin, by nature quiet, thoughtful and serious, shows more leadership qualities than you would give him credit for, and Amus Task, the retired pirate with a a rather enjoyable sense of humor, turns out to be valuable sidekick in the war against Murmandamus. Feist’s characters grow into their roles, a growth which is shown especially in this book, as they each stand up to take the part they were supposed to play. Not only does he offer outstanding characters, but Feist also produces believable, well thought through character development, and a plotline with more suspense and originality than any other fantasy novel in the last decade. With A Darkness at Sethanon, Raymond E. Feist proves he is trully a master of the genre.

The story has, except for the great characters which I already mentioned, a fast-paced, thrilling plot that will keep you glued to your seat. As he gathers all the cast members for the final showdown, and ends with an epic fight even Tolkien would be jealous of, Feist delivers the last part of one of the best fantasy series ever, with style and grandeur. It can’t possibly get any better than this.

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.