If someone had asked me a few days ago ‘who is your favourite fantasy author?’ I would have told them Raymond. E. Feist without any hesitation. When I was fifteen a family friend made me a present of a box of second hand fantasy novels she had cleared out from her mother’s house. Among them was Feist’s Serpentwar Saga, which I thought was just about the best series I had ever read.
When I was seventeen and drifting through my A-Levels, I read the wonderful Magician, The King’s Buccaneer, and Prince of the Blood. I enjoyed all of them, and promised myself that I would read all of Feist’s works, but in a jealous, loving fashion I also promised that I would save his books like treats.
The decision not to devour the entire series in one glorious banquet is one I regret, because now I’m twenty, reading Silverthorn, and the writing is not as good as I remember.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think Feist is great. I find his work easy to read. It slips down like honeyed yoghurt, and his pacing is nothing short of perfection. His plots are clever without pretence, and I like the way that whenever I step into Midkemia I know exactly what I’m getting – a fun fantasy romp. I have always likened Feist’s work to the 80s film of Conan the Barbarian. The special effects aren’t all that, the characters have more heart than complexity, and the world is full of gentle fairytale peril that makes my heart beat faster but doesn’t keep me awake at night.
Going into one of Feist’s novels, I know that people are going to die, worlds are going to change, and it’s going to be an exciting journey from start to finish.
I used to love books like that. I used to adore the sweet snippets of romance that flit in and out without exerting influence on the overarching plot. I liked the battle scenes that paused for a good joke between brothers, and the death scenes that were a bit sad, but punctuated with a feeling of ‘chin up, lads. Life goes on.’
I think sometimes I still like my stories light-hearted and full of simple wholesomeness, but my mood fifty pages into Silverthorn is one of marginal disillusionment. I’m still loving it. I think Arutha and Anita are cute. I like the bromance. Carline and Laurie for the comic relief are much appreciated. I think it’s going to be fun. I still think I’m going to rate it, but I wish there was a little more to it than the adventure.
It feels a little like how I felt when I realised my first boyfriend was a sweetheart, but not the person my imagination had him pegged as. I put Feist’s work on a pedestal, and now that I’ve read a bit more I’ve gone back to the series realising that love for an author can be a inconstant, fragile thing, ultimately defined by the external factors of our life.
When I was seventeen and brimming over with an unsatisfied lust for adventure, Feist’s fantasy romps were just what I needed. Now, the series is still great, but my life experiences have changed me. With my tastes now best appeased by darkness and complex characters, Midkemia just doesn’t speak to me like it used to.
I think it’s a shame I didn’t read the whole series when I really wanted to.