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on 6 October 2005
Fantasy stories tend to rely on stock characters, as well as some pretty standard clichés. Characters such as the naïve but uniquely gifted young boy and his powerful yet mysterious instructor, and clichés such as the seemingly undefeatable foe and journeys across great distances that function as the backdrop to passages into adulthood. Depending on your point of view these can either be negative or positive aspects of the genre. But considering this is my absolute favourite genre of all- obviously these are characters and clichés I just can't get enough of, even if I must occasionally trudge through those plainly unimaginative and painfully formulaic examples.

'Magician' however, whilst containing all these characters and clichés and more common themes besides, is an exceptionally original and absolutely gripping novel. At first Pug is the uninspired hero, who aspires to the service of the Duke of Crydee and in companionship with his boyhood friend Thomas begins his unrelenting pursuit of that goal. But the twists and turns in Pug's story are unlike those in most fantasy stories- his ascendance into adulthood and the form his service to his country takes are completely different from that of his fellow apprentices and indeed his fellow heroes in fantasy.

Concepts of space and time, as well as the mastery of magic are areas terrifically brought to life by Feist and it's in the education of Pug in these arts that this book really comes into its own and where all competition is completely blown away. Clearly Feist has done a lot of research into this area, particularly in regards to some unequivocally harsh teaching techniques that seem to take their inspiration from Eastern philosophies, as do the 'undefeatable' foes and their far-off land. And it's in the culture-clash and the repercussions of such differences between these two peoples that makes this story truly compelling and makes this finely printed, but effortlessly readable book...totally gripping, ground-breaking fantasy. If you love fantasy, you'll LOVE 'Magician' and to add one more cliché into the mix...it's magic!
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on 9 April 2015
"Winter is coming,” you say. WHO CARES ... WAR IS COMING TO MIDKEMIA!!!!!!

Volume one of the classic and much adored RIFTWAR SAGA by Raymond E Feist is a total joy to read, live, love and experience. It begins as a coming of age story focusing on two young boys - Pug and Thomas - who are each destined for truly great deeds and events in their own individual ways.

The story is a classic fantasy, featuring wizards, and magic, and Elves, and trolls, and dwarves. There are good guys and (obviously) there are bad guys. There is, naturally enough, also time for young love to find itself and blossom into something potentially beautiful, but as time passes, the two young boys in question evolve into two strapping young men. And the prospect of war raises its hideous head - but against an enemy so powerful and alien that even the wizened old veterans of battles long past find themselves terrified of what might eventuate.

The writing may not have the soul enchanting beauty of Tolkien as he describes his love of all things Middle Earth, but early parts of the story and the associated writing may well stun you with its beauty in its own right, as it did me. The reader learns many significant facts about the Elves in this chapter; their relationship with the Dark Brotherhood for one. And then the story moves to chapter seven, and we learn about a certain Princess. Young Pug once more shows his true merit as a man with a wise head on young shoulders, and not only does he win the favour of a certain Princess, but he wins the heart of millions of readers, as well.

The by-now trademarked writing style used by Mr Feist is genius. Each chapter starts with a short, brilliantly descriptive sentence which acts like a magnet as it sucks your eyeballs across your kindle screen, or across the paper pages of your book. The opening sentence to chapter one will go down in history as arguably one of the most famous sentences ever penned. And yet only FOF's (Fans Of Feist) will recognise it for what it is. How cool is that?

So what happens to Pug, and Tomas and Princess Carline? And Kulgan, and the Firedrake, and everyone’s families at Castle Crydee? Friendships are made, life long partnerships are forged from the brutalities of war. People live, love, and die. Betrayals come and go. Magic is learned. Worlds are destoyed. Hopes are crushed and renewed again under the weight of expectation. Don't expect a happy ending here, or even an ending at all. This is not a standalone story, but simply the opening third of one of the greatest fantasies ever crafted. It is essential reading, of course. And the fact that you will love it is a given. Don't compare it to Tolkien. Pretend Middle Earth does not exist, read this tale in its own right and you will love it.

So of course, MAGICIAN comes hugely recommended from me. If I could give it four and a half stars, I would. But I can’t, so just to leave room for greatness, book one of THE RIFTWAR SAGA gets four. But it is an awesome four stars.

The Storm Had Broken, indeed. And the world was never to be the same.

BFN Greggorio!
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on 11 June 1999
This was my first Feist book, and what an excellent read it turned out to be. The characters were introduced at timely intervals, so they didn't overlap. The plot of the book was never lost , but in the middle you cover such a lot of ground it becomes hard to follow. It all comes together in the end with quite a bang. The characters develop realistically, and the twists and turns they go through in the cause of fate, adds a real feeling of realism. There is one charachter who is instrumental in the final chapters, and you suddenly realise that you had knowledge of him from the very first part of the book. I've read a lot of fantasy books in my time, but I cannot recall a time when I have had been wrong in guessing what would happen next. This had me on the edge of my seat more times than I can remember. If someone asked my to recommend a good book for a long journey this would be it, If you are a fantasy fan and you haven't read it already it is a must. If you have never read a fantasy book before, I couldn't think of a better one to start with.
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on 14 May 2015
Ok, I'm cheating here slightly but I think this is the best place to mention something useful for anyone like me who, after reading Magician, are tempted to continue reading Mr Feist's works until what I really hope is the last trilogy he'll ever write around the Riftwar. Just to clarify, I have read all the books essential to reading the entire story (which is contained in 20 books), plus the 3 Empire books which are optional.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Magician is Raymond E Feist's finest work, and almost nothing he has written since has come anywhere near as close. I imagine this is due to the fact that he developed the ideas and plot for it over several years, whereas for all the subsequent novels he has written, he has probably spent an average of 1-3 years in writing them. It is a beautifully written book with rich characters and an amazingly intriguing and captivating storyline. Its sequels, Silverthorn and Darkness at Sethanon, are lesser books, but still not bad and are definitely worth a read if you enjoyed Magician.

Taking a slight tangent with the Empire Trilogy, here is a story set in the world of Kelewan on the other side of the rift, and that too is actually worth reading.

Next up we have two stories which are fairly decent and which are sold combined as Krondor's Sons. These are books are also not bad, the first being a standalone story, the second being a sort of sequel but one which leads up to the next trilogy set in Midkemia. This is know as the Serpentwar Saga, and I'll be brutally honest about it: the first three books are about as far as I would go or recommend anyone to read. Again, they are quite interesting, quite well told in some respects, and it ends quite nicely.

And that is where I would recommend anyone and everyone to STOP reading. Because after that point, everything goes downhill and honestly, between there and the end, it doesn't really recover. We go through first the Conclave of Shadows trilogy, followed by the Darkwar Trilogy, then the Demonwar Saga (2 books, and probably the best of the latter works) and finally the Chaoswar Trilogy. Oh, and I forgot to mention book 4 of the Serpentwar Saga, which is such a disappointment after book 3 and so anti-climactical it seems that Feist just wrote it to bridge any gap between the Serpentwar and the subsequent books.

There is a definite lull when it comes to creativity, interesting characters, interesting stories, and general writing of the later books. In fact, some of the stories seem to have been spread out thinly over several books when they could have taken up far fewer pages, by including extremely uninteresting and mostly irrelevant characters and side-plotlines, not to mention some not-too-serious inconsistencies in the history (one character goes from having a sibling to being an only-child, as well as in one story we are told that he has never met a major character, whereas towards the end of the previous story he was clearly seen in the company of said major character, and other such obvious flaws.) Oh, and not to get on the author's case but there are a lot of typos in the subsequent books (at least the Kindle editions) which begs the question did anyone even spellcheck or edit these books before they went to print?

So in summary, the following are worth a read:

* Magician Trilogy
* Empire Trilogy
* Krondor's Sons
* Books 1-3 of the Serpentwar Saga

Anything after that, I would give it a skip. I just today got to the end of the end, my 23rd Feist book, and I'm very very very disappointed with the book as well as the ending. I'm probably in a minority, but I think in this day and age people demand so much more from their stories, and I think after Serpentwar book 3, Feist fails to deliver any suitable standard.
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on 4 December 2008
Where to go after Tolkien and Lord of the Rings? Here's not a bad place to start.

Epic fantast is overloaded with authors these days, each offering what could be called 'map' fiction. You know the type of book- big map in the front intended to show the epic scope and scale, and depth of the world you're about to enter.

Magician goes one better than most- it has two maps, and two fantasy worlds across which the story unfolds. A neat trick, and one handled quite well in this first book of the riftwar saga (although it stands well enough on its own).

In this, the revised edition, you get 600-odd pages of story with nearly ten years of events (compared to LotR's 1500 pages covering about a year). Loads of things happen, and mostly at a break-neck pace- no bad thing, and for those wanting a bit more action with elves and dwarves and dragons than you get in Tolkien, you get plenty of that.

This is very much an American book though. The characters we begin with are humble enough, but instead of Frodo-like epic heroism resulting in permanent scarring and having to leave the world they've saved, here Pug and Thomas go from young boys to well powerful beings rather rapidly. Nothing wrong with that per se, and here it's very good. In later books , it's a problem for Feist in where he can take the characters (just like in Dungeons and Dragons games from childhoos- if you cheat on your stats nad make yourself super powerful, it's hard to generate any real dramatic tension to what happens). So it's the American dream in fantasy form- anyone can end up the world's most powerful magician (against the melancholic realism of duty in LotR).

Don't look for high quality literature here- the writing at times is clunky ('and a and b were there, along with c and d and e and f and....'), and even potentially interesting female characters end up rather subordinate to the men (just love interests in the end). If you want literate fantasy it has to be George RR Martin BUT this is a lot of fun on its own terms.
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on 13 April 2016
Having been weened on fantasy since a young age through the likes of hobbs and eddings and ofcourse tolkien, I at first scoffed at the seemingly "simple" writing styles in magician, the book seemed to lack much of the depth of description which tolkien and eddings would use to create their detailed worlds where you would see the authors visions to the detail of the number of petals on each flower.

Reading on I discovered that even through my arrogance at the relatively "low" literary style, I began to become enraptured by Magician, Fiest achieves an amazing thing which many of his counterparts fail at, he gives JUST enough detail so that you are never mistaken in your images of his worlds, but he allows each reader to create their own worlds and unvierses through their imagination, something which tolkien does not allow and the reason Eddings' series tend to be 5 books in place of the 3 they can justify.

The apparent lack of detail and depth infact draws the reader far deeper into the book, because you are not only witnessing a world Fiest creates for you, you are creating a world around yourself.

Once you get sucked into Magician, there is no turning back, you fall in love with the characters, you share their emotions, occasionally laughing or grinning with the characters, occasionally feeling your eyes begin to water with their grief, having finished magician after 3 days, I couldn't wait to go to work the next morning so that I could stop into the bookstop and pick up silverthorn, 2 mornings later I had to stop in and pick up a darkness at sethanon on the way to work... now I'm here looking for what more remains of the stories because I am loathe to say goodbye to the characters I have grown to love (terry goodkind is lined up and waiting, but I'm going to miss pug and tomas too much to just switch)

I could not think of a way to more strongly recommend reading this series, save to say that with the riftwar trilogy Fiest has forever secured his place in the canons of fantasy authors, I can't wait to read the extra books in the saga, then no doubt the serpent wars, then I'm sure the follow ups, as I write this I'm busy downloading betrayal at krondor (which is now freeware), 2 weeks ago I hadn't heard of Raymond E. Fiest, today I have read over 1700 pages of his work and can't help but wish I had more, I'm actually looking forward to going to work so that I can pick up the next book.
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on 5 January 2016
As my title for this review states this book really did get me into this genre.
Feist offers, as he says "a riping yarn!" Full of diverse characters from many backgrounds and races.
All the usual suspects one expects to find in a fantasy book are here, Magicians, elves,dwarves, dragons,creatures of an alien nature and of course noble men whom we might all wish to be like.
The story is Involved with multiple plot lines and as an added bonus one finds a sci-fi like skew, though achieved through magic, ie the idea of rifts that allow travel between planets.
Another thread that permiates Feist's books is that of philosophical digression by certain characters,as they try to understand the universe and the world around them. This becomes more prolific in later books and my own personal digression enjoyed the quasi-occult perspectives given for certain phenomena.
In short I would say that I have read this novel and all of the others in the riftwar panthion more times than I can count for the most part and challenge any fantasy novel reader who hasn't read Feist to not be seduced as I have been.
I felt there was a dip in a few of the much later books,but the resolution to series books really came back to the "ripping yarn!" That I started with.
If this review allows only one person to get half the enjoyment I derived from this book and the subsequent others then I feel that I have paid Feist back a little for the enjoyment I have felt reading this and other of his novels...
I write this review after re-reading the Magician for the first time in a good few years and have been as immersed as I was the first time...even knowing what would ultimately happen.
Kindest regards to my fellow seekers of a brilliant fantasy novel,you won't go wrong here!
Paul.
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on 1 July 2015
On the whole this book is a great read that gripped me from beginning to end. The story rolls along at a fast pace, avoiding the rather boring and uneventful patches that plague other fantasy books such as those of Robert Jordan's 'The Wheel of Time' series.
The book is epic in scale, taking place over a timeline of more than 10 years, which sees the young main characters mature from their early teens to their mid twenties by the end of the book. While this keeps the story fresh and interesting there are often large gaps in the timeline which are only lightly described. The advantage of this is that rejoining a character that has not been featured for a few chapters often gives the impression of discovering a brand new character all over again.
While for the most part the action scenes are brilliant, there are a few which seem rushed and fail to grip the reader. The book is also less descriptive than other fantasy books such as The Lord of the Rings or The Malazan Book of the Fallen and I felt that the world was not as immersive as those of other books that I have read. However this is quite understandable given the scale of the story. It is a massive undertaking considering it was Feist's first book.
On the whole it's a must read for any fantasy fan with a large cast of varying characters who all take their turn as the lead. Being close to finishing the follow-up (Silverthorn) I can honestly say that Feist is very open minded with his characters and does a brilliant job of bringing background characters to the fore should they show promise, which so far has kept the story gripping and immersive which coupled with well thought out themes and elements, and one of the better frameworks for magic that I have discovered in a fantasy book, comes together to provide the reader with a book that the reader will be engrossed in from cover to cover.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 May 2015
After many years of meaning to read this, I finally got round to it. It was voted into the top 100 of 'Britain's Best Loved Books' in a well publicised competition where the public could chose any book they wished. With so many people loving it, I had to give it a go. It's a very long novel - just over 700 pages - a true fantasy epic. And in so many ways it really is everything you look for in a good high fantasy novel. There are elves and dwarves, castles, magic, dragons, kings and princes, feisty orphans, woodsmen with mysterious pasts, long-lost heirs... If you think this reads like a tick list from Diana Wynne Jones' satirical 'Tough Guide to Fantasy Land', then you'd be right. But this is one of those books that shows why all those tropes have become so popular they can be seen now as clichés - because done well, they work.

The story centres on Pug, a loveable orphan who becomes apprenticed to a magician. But there are many other characters, and the story has multiple threads, in true fantasy epic style. As with all such books, there is an enemy to be battled, but unusually this is not a faceless, pure-evil 'dark lord'. Rather it is the soldiers of an empire from another world - albeit a similarly classic fantasy type one - that have arrived through a magical portal or 'rift' between the worlds.

It is a really easy book to read, and never dull despite its length. It is packed full of incident and excitement, and the multiple characters and subplots mean that it requires that number of pages to do all everything justice. I quickly came to like and care about all of the characters, and that can always carry me through the longest of sagas. Provided you are invested in the characters and their fates, 700 pages can feel like 200. And I'll be coming back to read the sequels too for the same reason.

For anyone who loves fantasy, I would say this is a must-read. For those who are more ambivalent about the genre, I would say this is one of the best examples and therefore still worthwhile reading - if you like a good read, you will get one here. Only those who really can't stand fantasy would be better off steering clear.
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on 7 May 2015
Spoiler Free Review!
Overall, a gripping and intriguing read!
Feist has created an epic-fiction that exists without the usual problems plaguing most of this genre. Namely, an over-abundance of details that can leave a simple feast spanning pages and pages of intricate food descriptions. In contrast, Magician balances a sizeable number of characters and locations perfectly with a fast-paced and gripping plot that includes tense politics, epic battles and that kind of drama where characters think everything is going okay but the audience knows there are other factors that are going to mess things up!
The concept of the otherworldly Tsurani and their empire was a fascinating one and I enjoyed the contrasts between the two worlds and their social and personal beliefs and customs. Throughout the book I was keen to learn more about these "alien" invaders and I liked that Feist manoeuvred the story in a way that allows us to learn more about the Tsurani throughout the course of the story. I also enjoyed the portrayal of magic as a force not-entirely understood by anyone and as a force for great evil as well as acts of good.
Like other works of epic-fantasy, I did find myself sometimes having to concentrate a bit harder on remembering who each character was. But once you have that sorted you'll find it doesn't bother you again.
My number one criticism for Magician is its portrayal of female characters. 95% of the characters in this book are male, and literally all the female characters given are beautiful, quickly-smitten love interests for primary male characters. I found this astonishing and distracting. Even if you were to argue that the book's setting is a male dominated hierarchical medieval-esque land; this is fantasy fiction, literally anything is possible. So it is a shame that Feist did not even utilise the other cultures of Elves, Dwarves or the Tsurani to introduce some female characters with more agency.
Nevertheless, Magician IS a fantastic work of fantasy literature and I recommend it very much for anyone who enjoys this genre.
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