Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
A Kingdom Besieged
Raymond E. Feist
Harper Voyager, 353 pages

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: At the Gates of Darkness
SF Site Review: Rides A Dread Legion
SF Site Review: Wrath of a Mad God
SF Site Review: Into A Dark Realm
SF Site Review: Flight of the Nighthawks
SF Site Review: King of Foxes
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

'"It looks like the Keshians have grown tired of waiting for us to walk away," Martin told him. Then added calmly, "Sound the Alarm."'
Advertisement
A Kingdom Besieged Veteran author Raymond E. Feist has produced a body of work which, in recent years, has been patchy. At times there have been flashes of the old brilliance which made his name, only for this to crumble like an ancient keep when he seemingly can't be bothered to put in the effort. In many ways, he's become the literary version of an aging rock star; millions of fans remember his greatest hits, and wish that he could wield that old magic, just one more time. A Kingdom Besieged opens with some bog-standard fantasy waffle concerning the demonic realm, and a creature called Child. Perhaps it was the author's attempt to make the sequence seem more strange and alien, but the episode left me cold. However, we were soon back in Midkemia, and on the familiar ground of Crydee, where older Feist readers will remember Pug was first introduced as a kitchen boy. A lacklustre introduction to the current ruling family of Crydee finally gives way to the arrival, by sea, of a charismatic messenger. It is from this point that the story picked up pace, began to develop depth, and presented enticing characterisation; all but one of the ingredients required to make a Feist classic. The last, most vital element, and the one that has sometimes eluded the author, is a credible and intriguing plot. So, is this a turkey or a golden goose?

In more ways than one, Raymond E. Feist has zipped up his boots and gone back to his roots. There are plenty of references, some subtle some a slap across the chops, to past fan favourites. Parallels, both natural feeling and a little forced, are drawn with favourite plot lines and vintage characters, such as Martin Longbow and Jimmy the Hand. There is a deliberate sense of history repeating in terms of what these characters are doing, but Feist neatly sidesteps the trap of writing them as if they were no more than alternate takes. Speaking of best loved characters, Pug is much more like his classic self, and as the only human major player left alive from the days of Magician, is nicely understated. One big problem with Pug, and the other, non-human, survivor from the old days, Tomas of Elvandar, has been their virtual invincibility. In A Kingdom Besieged this is addressed, giving readers back a sense that the mighty can be challenged. Away from the magic -- and this time around Feist has got the balance just right -- the main plot is invasion. What's going on revolves around what at first seems to be one of Great Kesh's periodic incursions, but is soon revealed as something far greater. A brewing world war in Midkemian terms. Mostly told through the perspectives of the spy Jim Dasher, wandering Knight Sandreena, and the young Martin conDoin of Crydee, what's presented is accomplished and highly entertaining. The purely human elements, which in some of Feist's more recent works have been dull, grabbed my attention right away and made me care. This time, effort has clearly been put into the characterisation and plotting, and it really pays off. Not since the days of Arutha has this side of Feist's work received such fine tuning. Also in the mix are a handful of sub-plots, which are not lobbed in for the purpose of distraction, but rather, are juicy fruits laden with promise. In particular the final sequence, which recalls two fan favourites and draws a pitch dark parallel to another.

A Kingdom Besieged is a long, long way from where Raymond E. Feist began. Yet it manages to feel fresh and bursting with energy, while simultaneously pulling off the trick of seeming familiar. It's an illusion worthy of Penn and Teller. This novel is the work of an author renewed, presenting the fifth and final Riftwar, determined to go out at the top of his game. I really hope that the momentum and quality continues, as the beginning is among the best that the author has written.

Copyright © 2011 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.


SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to editor@sfsite.com.
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide