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Raymond E. Feist – Magician: Apprentice

April 20, 2008

53. Magician: Apprentice (Author’s Preferred Edition) by Raymond E. Feist (1982 original/1992 revised)
Riftwar Saga, Book 1

Length: 485 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 19 April 2008
Finished: 20 April 2008

Summary: Pug is a thirteen-year-old orphan kitchen boy when circumstances find him apprenticed to Kulgan, the magician advisor to the Duke of Crydee. Pug struggles with his studies, but there are indications that he may have magical power beyond reckoning. And chances are, he’ll need it, since his country is being invaded – not by enemies across the sea, but by aliens from another universe, pouring into his country through a rift in the fabric of space-time and bent on conquest.

Review: I am having a hard time understanding how this series frequently gets referred to as one of the great epic fantasy series, how it gets held up along side George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Robert Jordan’s A Wheel of Time novels as though it was their equal. Because it’s not… really, really not. For the most part, this book did tell a pretty exciting story, although the focus shifts about 2/3s of the way through from Pug’s adventures to much more military-focused action with some peripheral characters. But a good story is not enough to save it from wooden and dimensionless characters, some unbelievable dialogue, and writing that ranges from serviceable but bland to stilted and awkwardly phrased, to sounding painfully like it was written by a junior-highschooler. For example: “The elves lived apart from the society of men, and their ways were thought strange and magical.” That’s not particularly egregious on its own, but the thing is: the whole book’s like that. I’ll probably pull the next book in the series off the shelf at some point, but only because this one leaves things remarkably unfinished – Pug’s story is dropped 200 pages before the end and never returned to, and I’d like to know what happened to him – but unless the writing style matures, and sharpish, I have the feeling it’s going to be somewhat of a trial to read. 2 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: There’s other epic fantasy out there that’s so much more complex, more mature, and better written. If you’ve really exhausted everything else out there, I’d think twice about re-reading some of it before starting this one.

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First Line: The storm had broken.

Vocab:

  • p. 8: “Remembering that the man had mentioned having a master, Pug suspected he was a franklin, one who lived on the estate of a landholder.” – a freeholder who was not of noble birth.
    .
  • p. 12: ““This device was fashioned as a gift by Althafain of Carse, a most puissant artificer of magic, who thought me worthy of such a pressent, as I have done hima favor or two in the past – but that is of little matter.”” – powerful; mighty; potent.
    .
  • p. 85: “With a lingering look at the closed door, he added almost absently, “But he’ll have to show me he’s more than the rakehell he’s growing into now if he ever hopes for my consent.”” – a licentious or dissolute man; rake.
    .
  • p. 146: “Pug sat atop a bale of hay, watching Tomas practice with a sword, swinging at a pell post, hacking backhand, then forehand, over and over.” – unsure about this one, pell means to pelt; to knock about, as well as being a synonym for “pelt”, but I can’t find anything for “pell post” – maybe it’s a leather-covered post in the soldier’s yard?
    .
  • p. 161: “Tomas was walking the length of the court, from the soldiers’ commons o the side gate, in full armor – old chain mail over gambeson, full helm, and heavy metal greaves over knee boots.” – a quilted garment worn under mail.
    .
  • p. 221: ““But for the most part, things remain pretty peaceful. But of late, everything’s gone agley.”” – off the right line; awry; wrong.
    .
  • p. 271: “He clapped his hands, and a housecarl came to show them their rooms.” – a member of the household troops or bodyguard of a Danish or early English king or noble.
    .
  • p. 285: ““Nay, lad. Put up your scramasax, I mean you no harm.”” – a single-edged knife or sword used by the Anglo-Saxons.
    .
  • p. 299: “Jongleurs strolled the hall, singing the newest ballads and ditties.” – an itinerant minstrel or entertainer who sang songs, often of his own composition, and told stories.
    .
  • p. 358: “As soon as it was apparent they would pass the earthwork and not charge it, several Tsurani bowmen came tumbling over the top of the redoubt and ran to intercept the riders.” – an isolated work forming a complete enclosure of any form, used to defend a prominent point.
    .
  • p. 450: “Arutha ducked behind the walls of the castle as the arrows sped overhead, then he risked a glance between the merlons of the wall.” – A solid portion between two crenels in a battlement or crenelated wall.
    .
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Violets permalink
    May 16, 2009 10:07 pm

    Wow the vocab sentences tells it all…thanks for the heads up about the end i was sooo close to getting it

  2. December 13, 2009 7:07 pm

    I could tell by looking at the quotes from the vocab list that the language is very dry and lifeless.

  3. Paul permalink
    December 22, 2009 5:40 pm

    A pell is a cutting target used for sword training in medieval Europe. Very little is known about construction, butsome may have been a sturdy post which would stop the blow, others a withy or sapling which would allow a full cut. These would never be used with a steel sword, but a wooden sword called a waster

  4. October 7, 2011 3:29 am

    I actually read Magician: Master before I read Apprentice and found Apprentice to be quite…underwhelming. Master gave me that sense of awe in a few scenes such as the Coliseum, but it is somewhat overrated. However, whilst reading it I did feel that its style was that of a fantasy classic, of ‘old-school’ fantasy, so to speak. His early books in the series were much more impressive that the current ones he’s churning out, which are too-short and lifeless.
    What I DO, however, recommend is his collaborative work with Janny Wurts, my favourite fantasy writer: The Empire Trilogy. If you haven’t read it before, you must do so with haste. The exoticism and detail, the world-building and the characterisation are leaps and bounds ahead of just about everything else I’ve encountered. I’d advise you to check out Wurts’ own Epic fantasy series too: The Wars of Light and Shadow. It’s highly immersive with impressive characterisation, though the writing is an intimidatingly acquired taste. That lady can write!

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