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King of Foxes
Raymond E. Feist
HarperCollins Eos, 400 pages

King of Foxes
Raymond E. Feist
Raymond E. Feist has produced some remarkable novels. Most fall into his Riftwar Saga, consisting of Magician: Apprentice, Magician: Master, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon, along with his Midkemia series consisting of Prince of the Blood and The King's Buccaneer, plus The Serpentwar Saga, consisting of Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince, Rage of a Demon King, and Shards of a Broken Crown. He developed the basis for the award-winning game, Betrayal at Krondor.

Raymond E. Feist Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Talon of the Silver Hawk
SF Site Review: Exile's Return
SF Site Review: Prince of the Blood
SF Site Review: Murder in LaMut
SF Site Review: Krondor: Tear of the Gods
SF Site Review: Krondor: The Assassins
SF Site Review: Krondor the Betrayal
SF Site Review: Serpentwar Saga
SF Site Review: Serpentwar Saga
SF Site Review: Rage of a Demon King
SF Site Review: Shards of a Broken Crown
SF Site Review: Shards of a Broken Crown

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'For he was ready to embark upon the most difficult and dangerous portion of his personal mission to avenge his people: he had to find a way to destroy Duke Kaspar of Olasko, the man ultimately responsible for the obliteration of the Orosini nation. And Duke Kaspar happened to be the most dangerous man in the world, according to many sources.'
Having been a little disappointed with the first novel in the Conclave of Shadows series, I expected the kinks to be ironed out in book two. King of Foxes got off to a good, tedium-free start, with Talwin Hawkins a fully formed, remade man. From his origin as a boy in a tribe not unlike Native Americans, he was now submerged under a constructed persona. A combination of the Flashing Blade and Jimmy the Hand, with a dash of Casanova. The story still revolves and evolves around one man. The disadvantage of this is that it makes Talwin Hawkins very obviously indispensable.

Unlike Magician, where the central character vanishes for a few hundred pages, there is not enough going on with the supporting cast in King of Foxes to allow the same leeway. It's also a plot with far less magic, as a story element, than in previous works. Talwin Hawkins very rarely encounters of practices magic. In some ways, sword over sorcery is a welcome change, in other ways I got a feeling of incompleteness. As if a part of the world was missing. It's a point that is most apparent than when magic wielders, such as Pug or Nakor, arrive on a scene. When they do, the anticipation level rises dramatically, and their stature as characters suppresses everyone around them.

The Conclave of Shadows themselves remain largely in the background, masterminding everything that Tal is and does. Their long term agenda stays vague, and the reader is required to mirror the blind faith showed by the lead character, and accept that the Conclave knows best. Without any real proof or reason to believe, we're left to assume that there are good reasons for the lives that are twisted or ruined on Conclave orders. Awkward questions as to whether the end really justifies the means are either ignored or sidestepped, which had me wondering if power in Midkemia corrupts as it does in the real world. I also had a problem with some plot elements not making sense, such as a device which has Tal placed in a very bad position for some time, apparently as part of his learning curve. However, while he is detained, he is clearly unable to serve the Conclave to full effect, and beside the experience gained from overcoming personal trauma and hardship -- and setting up a future alliance -- it seemed like time wasted. Particularly when there are at least four high powered Conclave members who could have rescued their man and his cats-paw via teleportation.

As with its predecessor, King of Foxes lacks the complexity and grand sweep which Raymond E. Feist has delivered in other series, and has too much reliance on one character. However, its pace and purview are a big improvement on Talon of the Silver Hawk, and there's better development of supporting characters intended to progress the series. In particular, Kaspar of Olasko, whose franchise extending fate enthused me enough to want book three. As a series, Conclave of Shadows is proving to be a slow burner, but if books one and two are the set-up, the suggested pay off strongly hints that it may yet carry the depth and dynamism that permeates the author's classic works.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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