Friday, December 4, 2015

Magician: Master Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Raymond E. Feist
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Riftwar Saga Book Two
Pages: 499

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(Spoilers for Magician: Apprentice are below).

Magician: Master is the second half of Magician, which was one book published in two parts in the United States.  Continuing the journey of Pug and his friends and allies, Feist brings the story to a definitive conclusion, one that was so definitive that it had me wondering why write more books with these characters?

Nevertheless the same issues in the previous book arise in this as well; there was even more potential for the exploration of some serious moral conundrums. These explorations unfortunately never reach their full potential.  However, I found myself reading Magician: Master a lot faster than its predecessor, and for a good vs evil fantasy book the ending was acceptable.

In the Empire of Kelewan Pug the once apprentice to the sorcerer Kulgan is now a slave.  Moved to a different world, and given a different name, he begins to learn to control the eminent power within him.

On Midkemia the war between the Tsaurani and the Midkemians rages on with the Midkemians slowly losing ground.  Arutha, Martin, and Lyam work on uniting their forces, while Tomas struggles to keep the magical armor he won from the dying dragon under control.

The peak of the potential of Magician is reached half way through this novel.  With Pug now thoroughly entrenched on the Tsuarani side, and Arutha, Lyam, and the rest of the supporting characters supporting the Midkemian side, this war has the potential to be so much more than just another fantasy episode of good vs evil. It could depict war for what it truly is, but Feist never follows through on it, and again, the fantasy cliches return to bring this novel to a conclusion that should sound familiar to most readers.

I had a problem with the characterization of women in the last book, where I found the only strong minded female character was Aglaranna, the centuries old and wise Queen of the Elves.  Well, you can’t blow at writing women until you ruin all of your female characters, and Feist does just that.

Aglaranna becomes with infatuated with Tomas, a man who’s losing his mind because he wears magic armor.  A centuries old wise Elven lady cannot deny her feelings for a man – feelings that make no sense by the way – whom she knows is dangerous to her, her rule, and her people. Well if Aglaranna didn’t fail the Bechdel test in Magician: Apprentice, she’s failing it now.  Her nonsensical feelings for Tomas feel so forced. Their relationship destroys any respectable credibility the reader had for the Elven Queen.

It seems Feist is determined to force everyone into a relationship in Magician: Master no matter how little sense the relationship makes. By the end of the book nearly every major character is set up with a significant other or they’re implicitly set up with someone.  I have no problem with relationships in stories, but does everyone need to have a significant other? If they do need a significant other, then the relationship(s) should at the very least make some sense.

Pug’s journey on Kelewan is a lot more interesting than it was on Midkemia.  The Tsuarani culture and the worldbuilding for them was handled real well by Feist.  Their government, views on magic, history, and even the way they speak their language is all handled very creatively.  It heightens the conflict the Tsuarani have with Midkemians as the opposing views of the two cultures quite naturally lead them to be enemies. Pug also struggles to accept the Tsuarani culture, especially the aspect of slavery.

Macros the Black returns and is enigmatic as ever. I wish more time was spent developing him, but he did make impact on me with the little reading time he was given.  A new character named Jimmy the Hand, a young thief who helps Arutha turns out to be a fun new secondary character.

Magician: Master feels like a tease. Feist had the opportunity to write a story way ahead of its time, but instead it becomes a story of its time. By the end of Magician: Master I felt like I had read a decent fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien, and fans of that style of fantasy will probably really enjoy Riftwar.  If you’re looking for a little more though, this book is probably going to fall short of your expectations.  I personally enjoyed it, but I have some serious reservations about it, too.

Score: 7.9

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