This book is the second book in Feist's Riftwar Saga (the first book is Magician: Apprentice) and in this book we see not only the transformation of our main character from apprentice to master but we also see this same transformation in Feist's writing. The tone, texture, and richness of this novel is significantly different than the first book. In this book Feist builds us a big world and takes us for a grand adventure. He opens up two worlds for us and introduces us to a lot of new characters and a very big story. In this volume Feist also goes from Apprentice to Master.
There are four books in this series. The first is Magician: Apprentice, the second is Magician: Master, the third is Silverthorn and the final book is A Darkness at Sethanon. This is the current version but there is an earlier version that combines the first two volumes and it is simply entitled: Magician. This single version of the first two novels is uncommon. As Feist's writing gained in popularity the publishers split up that first book into two volumes and reprinted them.
The Basic Premise of the series
The plotline of the series of books is that a rift is opened up between two worlds and through this rift people and things can pass. A warrior empire is using this rift to conquer the world of our main characters which is called Midkemia and the main characters are Pug (a magician in training) and Tomas (an aspiring warrior). The setting is very much high medieval period with kings, castles, dwarves, elves, magicians, and much of the expected epic fantasy fare.
This second book begins about four years after the second book and one of the unique things about it is that we spend a fair amount of time on the other world which is named Kelewan. That world too is also very much high medieval Europe but of course with its own customs and idiosyncrasies. One thing of note is that horses are totally alien to their world which creates some nice side developments in the story.
I approached this shifting to the other world with some trepidation because, after all, they are the bad guys and I don't really want to get to know them! But, it works extremely well and this shifting gives us some really good (and necessary) developments in the story.
Overall perception and analysis
This book is substantially different than the first one. We go from a pretty straight-forward epic fantasy theme to something that is significantly more textured and rich. It feels like there might have been four years of Feist's writing skill development between the first and second book. The first book was more about introducing us to the characters and the story and this second book takes a bigger and more ambitious look by introducing us to the two worlds involved. It's ambitious and it works well. There are some outstanding dramatic scenes and events that really leave an impression.
A Mild Criticism
This book deals with two worlds. And each world is complete with its own politics, empires, barons, blood lines, warlords, and all the requisite political maneuverings for power and wealth. This political infighting means that it gets a bit complex at times. A lot of different characters are introduced and sometimes this gets to be a bit too complicated for my taste.
Something really great about this book is that it and the first magician book can be read as a satisfying single work without having to continue through more books in the series. This book brings about a conclusion to the story begun in book one. And, one of the things that I like best about this book is that once we come to our dramatic conclusion we don't find our characters sitting under a tree and living happily ever after. There is another forty or so pages that draw us further into some interesting developments which of course draw us into the next novel.
If you are looking for a new world to explore and a new series to sink your teeth into the Riftwar books are an excellent choice. There are currently over twenty books that take place in the Riftwar series and the latest book was released in early 2008 (Wrath of a Mad God). And a new series begins with the release of Rides a Dread Legion in early 2009.
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