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It could have been so good, but.........
on 13 January 2004
Oh dear Mr Feist, are we bound by a contract to our publishers by any chance? It is sad that a once brilliant author of a book which made it into the Top 100 books of all time (Magician) is reduced to 'writing by numbers'.
As a number of reviewers have already pointed out, King Of Foxes falls a long way short of the book that it ought to have been. Book One of the Conclave series, Talon Of The Silver Hawk, marked a welcome return to gripping fantasy writing following a number of 'collaborations' (for which you can read Feist allowed others to play around with his world and characters, usually to disastrous results in terms of the quality of the books, and took a co-writer credit) and, I hoped, paved the way for greater things to come. I completely agree that it's as though Feist just decided that he couldn't be bothered and so churned out this rubbish as quickly as he could.
It's sad that Talon (now Tal) has become so wooden that his creator doesn't feel it necessary to paint him with any kind of emotions and so even the most major setbacks (one of which caused me to feel physically sick) and betrayals fail to create any sense of despair or sadness in what is essentially the book's only character. Which leads me to the second main criticism of KOF: where are the other plots and characters which made former Feist novels so intriguing and readable. As a nod to loyal readers, Feist manages to name-check a number of former characters (for example we see Erik Von Darkmoor, of the Serpentwar Saga, now in his old age, for a fleeting moment), but where are the sub-plots and other characters to care about? When Feist does his usual trick of showing that the 'good' guys don't have it all their own way, and kills off various people as the book progresses, you just don't care about it. As for a sub-plot, what greater one could there be than the mysterious workings of the Conclave of the Shadows, yet Feist gives the reader absolutely zero insight into their operations. He could easily have done it without Tal being in the know, but that would have involved making the book longer and more effort on Feist's part. The point is that I have only just finished the book and I can't think of a single scene that didn't involve Tal - that may be ok for children's authors but from the writer of 3 of the best series in fantasy history (the Riftwar Saga, the Serpentwar Saga, the Empire series), it just isn't good enough.
I've given the book a very generous 2 stars, simply because the plot itself, one dimensional as it may have been, was sufficient to keep me reading to the end, but if I were reviewing it purely on the basis of things which have made previous Feist novels so enjoyable (character development, multiple plots and sub-plots, epic descriptions etc. etc.), then Feist should count himself lucky that Amazon doesn't allow a zero star rating. If you can't be bothered anymore then just give up and let Magician and co take pride-of-place on my bookshelf without having to sit embarrassed alongside this sort of nonsense.