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May 22, 2006

Magician - Raymond E. Feist

Another of the BBC Big Read Top 100 books, and one I have wanted to read for about twenty years anyway, so picking it up at last wasn't a chore. What was a chore however was wading through the almost 700 pages of battles and magic in the worlds of Kelawan and Midkemia in which the characters live. I did enjoy the story, it is a typical sword and scorcery adventure in the "Lord of the Rings" vein. The action scenes are well executed, the mysteries are revealed as slowly but surely the heroes fulfil their unlikely destinies.

The problem I did have however was the immense amount of politics and the seemingly neverending descriptions of the colours of peoples robes. Some of this is of course required to give the story substance, and to add human details to scenes to help us to picture them in our mind's eye. I think perhaps the edition I have read, which is a tenth year anniversary of first publication and contains 15,000 more words than the original, may be the reason for the verbosity. It is always tempting to include scenes you've written I'm sure, but sometimes the editor who cut them out is right. Slowing down the forward narrative to spend time on background details in an adventure yarn should be handled with great care.

It's the tale of a orphan boy called Pug who lives on the outskirts of a large kingdom. As usual, they have only a medieval level of technology; bows and arrows, but no guns; horses and carts, but no internal combustion engine. There are magicians, but there power is a bit difficukt to quantify - most are fairly ineffectual. He has a friend called Tomas, and lives with his family as an adopted son to the cook at a Duke's castle. The boys dream of a future in which Tomas will be a great warrior, and Pug a master magician. Of course, in fantasies such as this, dreams really can come true.

Suddenly the relative peacefulness of the kingdom is shattered by the arrival of a strange army. They appear from nowhere, and start to encroach upon the land, building up a territory of their own and fighting local people to enlarge it. Pug and Tomas are thrown into the middle of this and travel across the whole known world, and even to other worlds. They meet dwarves and elves, goblins and very powerful magicians who seem to predict the future.

There are a host of major and minor characters, and there are even some women, though they are only really standard love interest, and never get to take place in any real position of power.

I didn't really realise that this is the first in a trilogy called "The Riftworld Saga". I'm not sure if I'm sufficiently interested to read any more. There are some unexplained loose ends, but I'm quite satisfied I think with where this first volume closes. In fact, further investigation reveals there are loads more Riftworld books. I think it's best I stop now.

Posted by se71 at May 22, 2006 02:57 PM


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