Friday, December 4, 2015

Silverthorn Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Raymond E. Feist
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Riftwar Saga Book Three
Pages: 343

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(Spoilers for Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master are below.  Spoilers for this book will be presented in a clearly marked section of the review).

Feist’s Magician had a pretty conclusive ending, everything except for the Dark Lord aspect of the book was resolved.  The Dark Lord could have been written out of the story completely, which would have been great as Feist could have done without introducing another tiresome fantasy trope, but he doesn’t.

Silverthorn reintroduces the Dark Lord concept, and not only does it do this, but it does it with only half a heart. This is a sequel that didn’t have to be, but for some reason is.  Silverthorn resorts to a bunch of disappointing cliches while it tells one of the most anticlimactic stories in epic fantasy.

Assassins of the moredhel Murmandamus seek to assassinate Prince Arutha. The assassination attempt spares Arutha’s life, but their attack poisons his soon to be wife Anita.  Accompanied by Jimmy the Hand and some close allies, Arutha seeks out the Silverthorn plant, the only possible cure for Anita’s poisoning.  Unfortunately the plant only grows near Lake Moraelin, which is in moredhel held territory. Pug begins to research Murmandamus and prepare for the onslaught he promises to bring to Midkemia.

The biggest difference between Silverthorn and Magician is the focus on different characters.  Silverthorn is mostly told through the perspective of Jimmy the Hand, the thief that is briefly met by some of the major characters in Magician: Master rather than Pug.  Jimmy is an excellent main character with a feisty (no pun intended) personality.  I personally even enjoy him more than Pug, but at the same time he isn’t able to carry this book by himself.

Arutha seems to lose his grip on things after Anita is poisoned.  He’s a character that I enjoyed reading until that happened, and then he becomes highly irrational, more so than I would expect his character to be.  The other characters (with the exception of Martin) that accompany Jimmy and Arutha are all interchangeable and leave no lasting impression. It’s hard to say if this is a fault of character development, or a lack of plot to allow the characters to be flushed out.

My greatest fear once I realized the author was going to shift the focus onto different characters was that the powerfully created characters from the previous book (Pug and Tomas) would show up as deus ex machinas. Needless to say my worst fears came true. As a matter of fact it seems that Arutha and his friends can’t seem to solve any of their own problems by themselves.  It feels like a rich kids road trip. Everyone’s having a grand old time, and anytime there is a problem call mom … or in Arutha’s case get conveniently saved by Jimmy, Pug, or Tomas.

Silverthorn’s plot resembles the plot of Lord of the Rings with its daring mission into enemy lands. However, finding the Silverthorn plant turns out to be one of the most underwhelming endings to a fantasy book I’ve ever read (see spoilers at the end of this review). About three quarters of the way through the book Pug sets off on a side-quest that is meant to help set up the final novel in the saga. While Pug’s side quest itself isn’t necessarily bad, it just feels very intrusive and out of place. Why couldn’t Feist wait to start this portion of the story in the final book?

I do agree with Feist’s decision to switch his focus onto different characters, but he isn’t able to tell a story that compares to Magician, even with the switch in focus. If you’ve read Magician (Both Apprentice and Master) that would be a good stopping place, unless you are an absolute diehard Feist fan.


The whole plot of the entire book can be surmised as this: Anita gets poisoned, Arutha and friends find the silverthorn plant at the bottom of a lake, and then they return home.
You’ve read that correctly.

After a brief pit-stop at an abbey, Arutha and his friends go to the lake, find the plant underwater, and return home. As far as acquiring the plant goes, they don’t have to do anything special, the just pluck it out of the water and outrun some bad guys. The primary plot to this entire story feels like a quick booze run in a less than hospitable convenient store. Story over.

Score: 5.2

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