Friday, December 4, 2015

A Darkness at Sethanon Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Raymond E. Feist
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Riftwar Saga Book Four
Pages: 430

Buy on Amazon!

(Spoilers for the previous three books in the Riftwar Saga are below).

What a disappointing conclusion to a series of books.  A Darkness at Sethanon is barely better than it’s predecessor Silverthorn, which is largely due to the fact there “is” a climactic ending to this book. Nevertheless it’s still significantly worse than both Magician books.

Like I said in my review of Silverthorn, we recommend this to people who are diehard Feist fans.  If you’ve made it to this point, and you’re not sure whether or not to continue … don’t. Read a synopsis and save your time. It’s always disappointing to start a series with a lot of potential, only for it to fizzle out, but that’s what ultimately happens with the Riftwar Saga.

Assassins are once again hunting Prince Arutha, but the Prince comes up with a bold plan that he hopes will lead him into a direct confrontation with Murmandamus. While Arutha prepares to defend Midkemia, Pug and Tomas are whisked away on a journey across the cosmos to find Macros the Black, for it’s Macros who may have the knowledge needed to defeat Murmandamus once and for all.

One of the most tired and overused tropes in fantasy is reviving a fallen hero. I hate to say this but Lord of the Rings offers one of the most prominent examples of this trope, which occurs after Gandalf the Grey falls into the Mines of Moria in Fellowship of the Ring and was later revived as Gandalf the White in the Two Towers.  As great as Tolkien was, Gandalf’s revival has always been an eye roller of a moment.  Needless to say, Feist manages to take this idea and make it even more cringeworthy with one of his major characters early in the story.

A Darkness at Sethanon has a first half that feels like Silverthorn and a back half that feels like Magician.  The beginning of the plot is the exact same as Silverthorn’s: assassin’s are coming to kill Arutha.  Once again Arutha, Jimmy, and the rest of the Krondor crew prepare to head north and face Murmandamus (If you’re cringing at the Krondor crew expression, just wait until you read this book). Feist has a plan for Jimmy and Arutha through the first half of the book, but by the time these characters reach Sethanon it appears the author doesn’t even know what to do with them. Their resolutions at the books end are very weak, and fans of these characters will likely be let down.

Pug and Tomas return to prominence in this book, and their journey across the universe on the back of dragon was an awesome idea by the author.  Who wouldn’t want to fly in space on the back of a dragon? It’s the whimisicalness – like this journey across space on the back of a dragon – that endeared me to certain parts of Magician, and it’s also why I enjoyed Pug and Tomas the most in this book. However, the author just can’t seem to maintain that aura for the duration of the entire story.

The other strong point of A Darkness at Sethanon is the reintroduction of Guy du bas-Tyra, the exiled traitor. Guy is one of the few morally ambiguous characters in the series and that makes him standout. Feist gives him an interesting enough backstory, too.  It does have some cliches, but there are also some different ideas in there, a few which really work well in shifting the readers perspective of Guy.
Murmandamus is a lame, boring, and incompetent character.  He makes the villains from the Wheel of Time look like geniuses. This is a villain that needed to prove he was dangerous, especially after the reader had seen what the likes of Pug, Tomas, and Macros could do with magic. Murmandamus does nothing of the sort.  The worst he does is yell at Arutha and Guy on the walls and then put up a forcefield so that he can’t be shot by arrows … ohhhhh (ghost sound) … what a scary villain.  It’s disappointing to see yet another dark lord dressed in black amount to being little more than a dark lord dressed in black.

I’m glad to be finished with this series. I had high expectations, but I feel genuinely let down by the reading experience.  Feist can be a strong writer at times, and the world fighting world concept was a great idea for a fantasy story.  It’s a shame that the world fighting world concept wasn’t more prominent in the third and fourth book of the saga; that was the idea that made Magician really work. I believe the treatment of the world vs world concept in this series is symbolic of how the author treated a lot of his new ideas, and by extension the entirety of the series: Feist creates remarkable new ideas, but he develops them in the most unexciting ways.

Score: 5.3

No comments:

Post a Comment