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Serpentwar Saga
Raymond E. Feist
Avon Books
Volume 1 Shadow of a Dark Queen
Volume 2 Rise of a Merchant Prince
Volume 3 Rage of Demon King
Volume 4 Shards of a Broken Crown (forthcoming)

Shadow of a Dark Queen
Rise of a Merchant Prince
Rage of a Demon King
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A series review by Wayne MacLaurin

A couple weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Rage of a Demon King just before hopping on a long flight. I had been looking forward to Rage since the moment I finished Rise of a Merchant Prince. After finishing it, I felt somewhat cheated at how quickly I finished. Fortunately, I ran out of other reading material and was able to find travelling copies of the first two titles. That gave me an excuse to reread the entire saga on the way home...

The Serpentwar Saga is the second major series set in Feist's world of Midkemia. The first trilogy (done in four paperbacks), The Riftwar Saga, introduced us to some memorable characters (Pug, Thomas, Jimmy the Hand, Arthua) and to the world of Midkemia. After the trilogy, Feist wrote two loosely-connected novels (Princes of the Blood and The King's Buccaneer) that dealt with the children of the heroes of the first books. The Serpentwar Saga picks up after that and carries on a similar plot but introduces several new characters, not least of which are Roo Avery and Erik Von Darkmoor.

While Magician (first book in the Riftwar Saga) was a pretty predicable novel with fairly standard characters (two young boys grow up to be the greatest warrior and magician in the world), Feist's writing has improved dramatically over the years. Shadow of a Dark Queen introduces a much more complex plot with several major plot elements. All of them run independently yet constantly tieing themselves together in a way that keeps the reader enthralled. Roo and Erik are two young boys who are thrust into adventure with the unfortunate murder of a noble (Erik's half-brother, the Baron of Darkmoor). This lands the two into a sort of army press gang and starts the story. Meanwhile, a plot of world destruction involving our old friends, the Pantathians, has created a massive army on a far-away continent. Roo and Erik end up as part of an elite army unit who's job it is to infiltrate this army. There, they intend to discover what the enemy is doing and to try and prevent an attack on the Kingdom.

Of course, the plot is much more complex and involves a bunch of hungry demons, two lost magicians, a really weird place called The Hall and other gems.

Rise of a Merchant Prince continues the story. While we do see a fair bit more of Erik and the plots of the sinister Emerald Queen (along with assorted demons and the Pantathians), the novel spends most of its time with Roo and his rise from being a newly pardoned convict to a major player in Krondor's merchant class. A radical departure from standard fantasy fare, Rise of a Merchant Prince, was among the best novels I read that year. Feist's characters and storytelling are simply wonderful (try an excerpt).

Rage of a Demon King is the anticipated climax of the saga (or is it?). It deals primarily the invasion by the Emerald Queen's army. Once again, Roo and Erik are the main characters. However, I think Erik gets the nod for more-main this time around. Feist also takes the opportunity to literally re-introduce us to many of his characters from the other books (including Pug, Macros, Thomas, and Jimmy the Hand). Everybody gets in on the action as the invaders run amok in the Western Kingdom (try an excerpt).

As it turns out, there will be a fourth book, Shards of a Broken Kingdom. According to one news sources on the Web or another, Feist will finish off this saga. With a title like that, most Feist readers will probably have figured out what that novel is going to deal with.

As a series, the Serpentwar Saga is fabulous. It meets all three of my criteria of greatness; complex plot, great characters, and an overwhelming desire to be re-read. It is also fun to read which makes it even better. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the saga is how Feist starts out with a simple plot, the evil Emerald Queen is trying to take over the world, and slowly sculpts the story into something totally different. Having re-read them all at once, I was amazed at how well they do fit together and how crucial each aspect of three novels was to the overall tale. Feist does turn several long-held truths of his Midkemia world completely around. But, like the plot itself, the changes really don't alter the results, only the understanding of how events have come about.

Now we just have to wait until Spring 1998 for Shards of a Broken Crown to finish off the saga. Eleven months is a long time to wait...

Copyright © 1997 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

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