by Raymond E. Feist & William Forstchen
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga has grown to cover a score of novels with no sign of Feist's creativity letting up. However, realizing that he may not have all the stories of the Riftwar in his arsenal, a few years ago, he invited other authors to explore the lengthy war between Midkemia and Kelewan. The results were three novels, co-written by Feist and Joel Rosenberg, S.M. Stirling and William Forstchen. The novel written with Forstchen, Honored Enemy, is the first of the trio.
Set nine years into the war, Honored Enemy follows Midkemian war leader Dennis Hartraft as he leads his band through the mountains of Northern Midkemia. In the middle of a war with the alien Kelewanese, Dennis's troop knows that a band of the invaders in nearby. There is also a band of moredhel, dark elves, in the area and Dennis arranges to lead the Kelewanese into a battle with the moredhel which would allow the Midkemians to easily defeat the victor. Things in war, however, rarely go as planned and Dennis soon finds himself in a position where the only way he and his band can hope to survive is by linking their fortunes together with the Kelewanese, led by Asayaga.
Asayaga and his men have no more love for Dennis than Dennis has for the invaders, and the tension between the groups is clear in the novel. As the two groups travel together they never combine. Throughout the novel, there is always a sense that the groups could come to blows for any perceived slight. More importantly, the tension doesn't seem contrived. The authors set up an alliance in which a funny look could send men from either side reaching for their swords.
The tension between Dennis and Asayaga is only part of the story. Their flight through the mountains of Midkemia with the moredhel on their trail brings up the histories not only of them, but of their followers, and the gradual revelation that not all of Dennis's comrades are as they seem, even his most trusted companions. These revelations are handled well and come upon the reader as surprises, usually blind-siding the reader in a manner which causes the reader to look at the entire story in a different light.
Despite being labeled as part of the "Legends of the Riftwar" and focusing on three war bands, Honored Enemy is not really a war novel. There are few battles or even skirmishes. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the Paul Newman-Robert Redford film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." In the starring roles, Feist and Forstchen have placed Dennis and Asayaga, whose relationship is explored as they try to outrun the moredhel posse led by the dark elf Bovai.
Although a respect develops between Asayaga and Dennis, it can't really be called a friendship. Both war leaders, as well as their men, would gladly drop any pretense of camaraderie at the slightest provocation, although there are a few hopeful points, whether the friendship between the young Richard Kevinsson and Osami, or the manner in which the priest Corwin treats the wounded of both invaded and invader. However, the majority of the book demonstrates how one can have respect for an enemy without achieving affection.
Feist and Forstchen do a good job focusing on a small bit of the larger war. The politics and enmities which drive the war as a whole are clearly shown in the microcosm of the two war bands as they try to survive while relying on each other when that reliance can't be trusted. The characters, and more importantly, their relationships and beliefs, are delineated in a manner consistent with the long-running war, providing a story against the backdrop of war, but with a much more human face.
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