Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Magician: Apprentice

Magician: Apprentice Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly a landmark fantasy book for me, as well as a phenomenal series. I remember distinctly all those years ago, when I was first hired at Borders Books. I was assigned the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section to shelf and maintain as a new bookseller. I had read zero fantasy books up to that point, my genre of preference at the time being horror. It was during my second day of work that I begin to really examine the covers and back cover synopses to see what this fantasy stuff was all about. One of the first that I pulled off the shelf was Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist. Well, the cover was pretty cool I thought and upon reading the summary it seemed like a fun, uncomplicated read. I figured if I was going to be shelving this peculiar genre, I may as well pick up a book or two and take them home to read. I ultimately chose Feist's first book of the Riftwar saga as my initiation into reading fantasy. It wasn't long before I was pulled into this amazing book and pretty soon I was missing dinner, ignoring phone calls, blowing off my friends, and doing just about everything I could to steal as much time as possible so that I could get back to reading it.

Magician: Apprentice tells the story of a young orphaned boy named Pug who lives in the small town of Crydee in the world of Midkemia. Pug is apprenticed to a master magician, having no family to speak of and no skills involving anything other than the use of his brain not brawn. Very early on in the story, a rift from another world is opened into Crydee using powerful sorcery. From this rift, a strange and foreign invading army begins to pour through. It is incumbent on the leaders of Crydee to inform Midkemia's king that they are under attack and to use any means both militarily and magical to throw back the invaders. The question looming through the first half of the book is what are the origins of these invaders, and from what world did they come from? Also, for what purpose would they wish to open a rift to a relatively peaceful world? The story shifts back and forth from Midkemias's leaders in their attempt to figure out how to deal with the invaders and Pug who now finds his training accelerated in an effort to use his growing skills to find a magical way to combat this new foe. We gradually learn that the invaders are from a world called Kelewan, which is ruled by a race known as the Tsurani. Not content to simply extend their empire to their own world, the Tsurani have found a way to open up rifts in time and space with the hopes of also conquering other worlds. Unfortunately for the population of Midkemia, they were first on the list to conquer. The overarching question is can Midkemia fend off the wave after wave of Tsurani and reclaim their world or will they fall to the Tsurani and be enslaved forever?

I absolutely loved Magician: Apprentice when I first read it about twenty years ago. I love it just as much, if not more now upon rereading it. For me, it is what sparked my interest in fantasy and more specifically, portal fantasy. Magician: Apprentice is probably the reason why portal fantasy will always be my favorite sub-genre. I've read a ton of portal fantasy since this one, few having reached the level of pure genius as the Riftwar Saga. I keep waiting for something to top it, but nothing ever does. About the closest I've come is Barabara Hambly's Darwath series. If you're into fantasy of any kind, you owe it to yourself to read this series. It stands out in so many ways as the right way to write fantasy. The characters are interesting, quirky, and very relatable. I can't recommend it enough really. Don't be dissuaded by people who say that Feist's work is fairly mediocre and that his writing isn't very good. As someone who has read pretty much every Feist book, I agree that his books get progressively lower in quality after Riftwar. But the truth of the matter is he hits a grand slam in the bottom of the 12th inning to win the World Series with the Riftwar Saga. The whole series is worth reading and savoring. In fact, If people who have never read fantasy before in their lives asked me to recommend to them three series to read to get into the genre, this would always be one of them. Truly a magnificent work and will always be one of my favorites. If you are planning on reading them for the first time, I am jealous. All I can say is enjoy the ride, it will be well worth it in the end.

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