Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Magician by Raymond E Feist #review

Title: Magician
Author: Raymond E Feist
Publisher: Voyager, 2012

When I heard that fantasy author Raymond E Feist was visiting South Africa during Open Book 2014, I was super excited. Apart from Terry Pratchett, I couldn’t recall such a luminary of the fantasy genre visiting our shores in ages. I also cringed inwardly because in my career as a voracious reader of fantasy, never once had I succeeded in reading anything by Feist.

From meeting the man and being in the audience during a panel discussion hosted by Marius du Plessis (Fox & Raven), and also featuring Mike Carey and Dave-Brendon de Burgh, it became clear from the outset that Feist is a man who deeply loves the fantasy genre. Not only is he immersed in fantasy, but his enthusiasm is impossible to resist.

So, it is within this context, that I tackled Magician, his first in this epic series. Vaguely I do recall that I tried to read this book many years ago, and that I abandoned it for some reason. Now at least I have a better idea of why I never finished reading the book. Much as I adore the author (and if I am given a chance to talk fantasy with him, could probably while away a night until the wee hours), his writing simply doesn’t gel with me.

Unfortunate as this is, I suspect it is a matter of taste, and bears no reflection on the man himself or his legions of fans.

In Magician, we meet the orphan Pug, who has grown up in and around a duke’s keep. He, and his best friend Tomas, are, as boys do, constantly getting into trouble – and it’s their adventuresome spirits that put them first on the scene when a mysterious ship runs aground near their home.

That event is the beginning of an invasion by a warlike people, who control rifts from another world, and Pug and Tomas soon find themselves drawn into the conflict – and vastly separate life paths. Pug follows his calling as magician, and Tomas dreams of becoming a great warrior who gains the love of an elven queen.

The setting is straight-up, Tolkienesque-style fantasy, complete with dragons, elves and dwarves, which in itself is not a bad thing, unless you’re expecting something a little more. I did find myself annoyed by the two-dimensionality of the (few) female characters, but as I’ve yet to read more of Feist’s work, I can’t say whether this aspect of his writing matures and diversifies.

I think if I’d pressed on with reading this book when I’d been much younger, I may have enjoyed it more, or perhaps I’ve had my tastes in reading matter somewhat tainted by the masters of GrimDark. It just simply didn’t blow me out of the water with regard to complexity of the narrative structure nor the characterisation, which felt a little flat to me. However, so far as an introduction to the fantasy genre, and a place marker for its development over the years, this book remains a classic.

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