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Though Simple & Flawed Feist Tale Continues To Engage
on 10 August 1999
This tale reminds me of individuals I have known that possessed any number of irritating habits, yet continued to retain my affection by nature of their simple and generous character. That's probably overstating the case here, but, despite Feist's tendancy towards stereotyping and simplistic narrative, I nonetheless find myself continuing to read the "Riftwar Saga."
"A Darkness at Sethanon" possesses most of the flaws that have plagued the previous books: An event driven narrative that expends little time on characterization or descriptive detail, players that are stereotypical and more characteristic of cartoons than fiction, as well as a world that to a large degree dwells within the conventional. Further, Feist is starting to show evidence of predictability. Most of this has been noted, though more stridently, by previous detractors.
However, unlike many of those, I felt this book to be the best so far in the series, and were it not for the chapters devoted to Pug and Tomas, as well as the pollyanna quality of the final chapter, I might have felt this tale deserving of a 4 star rating. Much of the story following Arutha and friends appeared to be rising above the level of the earlier tales, both in focus as well as the use of dramatic tension and an embryonic exploration through new characters beyond the often juvenile caricaturization that's dogged Feist from the beginning. Unfortunately these rudimentary advances were greatly undermined by the overblown magic and almost omnipotent powers possessed by Pug and Tomas in their portion of the tale, their bald rehash of the Grecian underworld, and the appearance of the ridiculous and incidental tigermen. What little credibility remained was decidedly discarded in the final chapter.
Yet, after all my complaints, I find myself seduced into attempting the next book. There is a straightforward, uncomplicated element of fun to Feist's writing that is, for all it's faults, rather appealing. Perhaps, as was his implied intention in the first books, he has been successful in reaching a boyish response in me that I thought long put away and forgotten. In any event, these books have provided diversion for unreflected moments. However, all the 5 star ratings are preposterous (See US site)!