Rating: 3 out of 5
Mr Feist’s fantasy world makes for a very pleasant escape. It focusses, at least in this first instalment, heavily on everyday life even if this is interspersed with glimpses of actions. The characters are, broadly, a blacksmith and a spy/assassin who each have found a number of companions in the wide world. This book details the coming of age for both of the characters and how they slowly come to find a place for themselves in the wide world.
Yet, I found much of the introspection by these characters dull. There are numerous long and fairly repetitive “what is happening to me? I like her/him but can’t act on my desires” scenes which become irksome as they do not add anything significant to the story. These emotions get mentioned in more than enough detail in the long introductions to each character, so having this happen again and again every few chapters becomes rather boring. This, however, is my main gripe if not my only one.
I also did not like the way the author purposefully brought in unexplained villains to hound one of the main characters at a point where it looked like they had escaped, especially as the same internal logic was not continuously used in those scenes. This seemed unnecessary, and even a good few chapters into the second book, I haven’t found out why it became necessary to do so despite the villains already having served their main purpose. The special hounding of the main character has not made a difference to the story thus far (end of second book I am looking back for this review) and it only made an already complicated situation more complicated.
Lastly, and this is not up to the author, but rather the publisher: the Kindle edition is full of spelling mistakes, etc. This is especially annoying as it looks like a text conversion problem (“hut” instead of “but”, etc…) and not actual errors, so it’s a question of proofreading which should have been done prior to issuing this version.
That said, the story itself is immersive. I already brought up that it mostly looks at the lives of ordinary folk, or let’s say extraordinary folk in ordinary roles. We’ve got secret island nations, assassin factions, honourable nobles, and much much more. The history is not particularly complex, but it looks to me that the rough and ready first book gets fleshed out a lot more in the sequels. Nevertheless, my favourite chapter was the prologue as Declan and Hatu, no matter how interesting their stories are, don’t rival Baron Daylon—but I still want to know what happens to them.
I jumped straight into the next volume, ignoring my general policy for F&SF series (review one before starting the next), which tells you that overall, despite my criticism, this was something I very much enjoyed.