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Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Riftwar Saga (Book #1 of 3 or 4), The Riftwar Cycle (Book #1 of 31)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Classic Fantasy
Pages: 509 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 1st October 1982
Magician: Apprentice is a familiar and enjoyable start to a beloved classic fantasy series.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Riftwar Saga and Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist; it is one of the series that I know has sparked a lot of reader’s passion for reading fantasy. And that’s always a good thing in my book. Honestly speaking, though, I don’t have nostalgia goggles for this series, and the main reason why I wanted to read Riftwar Saga was so that I can dive into Riftwar: Empire trilogy without missing any necessary details. The reason for my reluctance in reading Riftwar Saga is that I don’t often gel well with fantasy books written pre 1990. I tend to find either the writing being outdated or the story being too clichéd already by now. Is this applicable to Magician: Apprentice? Yes and no.
“’Tis a wise thing to know what is wanted, and wiser still to know when ‘tis achieved.
‘True. And still wiser to know when it is unachievable, for then striving is folly.’”
Now, I realize that Magician: Apprentice is the first half of a single big book named The Magician. Although it’s true that Magician: Apprentice ended in an awkward scene, I totally understand why Magician was divided into two books. First of all, The Magician as a single book is as big as Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon combined. Second, and most importantly for me, The Magician as a single book felt too long for its own good. This is just my personal feeling, of course. I know that many fans of the series really loved the fact that The Magician is being rereleased as a single book. But having it divided into two parts gave me the right moment to stop and take a break before continuing with the second half of the series: Magician: Master. Magician: Apprentice introduced us to the characters, the world, and the premise of the series. It’s a huge plus to me that none of the characters ever felt infuriating, and the friendship between the two main characters—Pug and Tomas—was definitely my favorite points of the book. In general, I think Feist is good at portraying genuine friendship.
“Some love comes like the wind off the sea, while others grow slowly from the seeds of friendship and kindness.”
From stories, tropes, and execution, Magician: Apprentice is without a doubt a classic fantasy. I, as a reader, love classic fantasy TOLD with a modern narrative/voice. The issues I often have with classic fantasy are not the tropes or familiarity, but the way it’s written. That’s what I do appreciate so much about Feist’s writing style. Now, don’t get me wrong, the writing still felt outdated at times, and it’s very clear from the prose that this is written pre the year 1990. For example, the progression of each chapter never felt seamless; chapters felt like a series of connecting short stories combined into a novel. Similar to many fantasy novels in the 80’s or older, I have a lot of issues with the way the action scenes are written; many scenes in the book felt overwritten, and the war scenes actually dragged the pacing of the book for me. However, for a book published 39 years ago, I’m pleasantly surprised by how relatively “modern” the writing felt. There were several moments where the narration shifts to an omnisicient narration, which I didn’t like, but they’re not too noticeable. At the very least, the writing certainly felt more modern than Tolkien’s. Speaking of Tolkien—Elves and Dwarves aside—there was an obvious ode to Moria which I enjoyed reading.
“Father used to say that, among man’s strange undertakings, war stood clearly forth as the strangest.”
As I said, the book did end in a bit of an unsatisfying manner. I mean, the two main characters weren’t even featured in the last few chapters. I will admit that although I enjoyed reading Magician: Apprentice, my motivation to continue with the series isn’t too positive. But I’m hopeful about the second half of Magician. My co-bloggers have insisted that Magician: Master is a much better section compared to the first half. Considering that Magician: Apprentice has served its purpose as a great introduction—despite the issues I had with it—to the series, I am looking forward to finding out what Feist has left in store for me in the second half. Judging from the title of the novels, I expect to see Pug becoming a Master Magician in the second half of Magician. It will also be a plus to learn more about the Asian-inspired culture of Tsurani and Kelewan.
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