Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist

Let me start this by saying that Magician is one of my most reread books. When I think in my mind about how Epic Fantasy should be, this is the first book that appears in my mind. I have recommended this book to more people than I can count. And I still do.

Rides a Dread Legion is the latest in the books set in Mr. Feist's Midkemia setting. Of course, the truth is, that he only helped create the original setting, but since then he has gone on to flesh it out in detailed ways that few other fantasy authors can match. Thus far he has put out more than twenty books in that setting, in a series of trilogies to make it more accessible. He shares this tactic with Terry Brooks, who has written more than a dozen Shanara books (twenty if you include the recent bridge created between the Shanara books and the Knight of the Word series.) From a writer's perspective, this is a really good idea because it makes the setting more accessible to a new comer, and it also gives the writer much greater flexibility in determining plot, which characters to use etc, so it doesn't get stale.

Having said that, the trilogy before the last trilogy, "Talon of the Silver Hawk" felt damn close. It wasn't stale, but it had some elements that Feist has used before. A young boy has a tragic happenstance and then rises to his birthright. The series had a lot that saved it, including the highly unique Count of Monte Cristo element to it which Feist hadn't touched before, as well as the addition of very interesting characters such as the anti hero Count Olasko.

The last series saw the new addition of some fairly forgettable young characters but used PREVIOUS characters in highly interesting ways. The villains were also quite interesting, and the slow, almost glacial metaplot that ties all the series together moved forward as well.

According to Feist, this series is the second to last before the Riftwar saga is done. I presume that is tied to his own retirement, because thus far he has only done one series outside of Midkemia and that is Fairy Tale (which I liked but I can easily see not being popular with some). Then again, he has already written two 'sideways' trilogies which take place in other parts and times in the universe he has already created, and then there is that whole 'Hall of Worlds' stuff, so there is plenty of potential.

This new book starts of a bit slowly with some new Mary Sue elves, but since the Mary Sue elves are the BAD guys in this instance, they're pretty cool. You definitely want to beat the crap out of them, and things sure like they are going to go that way. There is also this whole inevitable demon hoard coming to (yet again) destroy all life in Midkemia. In some ways, Midkemia is the Dragon Ball Z of epic fantasy, with some giant even bigger, nastier thing coming to get you, but Feist has the advantage of having mentioned the bigger, nastier things coming, until in the final series it will be the biggest, nastiest thing of them all. After that, there are no more. And the last proposed title is called Magician: End, which is quite fitting.

Basically, I really liked this book, and I recommend it, but little of it will make sense if you don't at least read the trilogy right before it. It also has just enough ideas to make sense for just two books instead of a full out trilogy.

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