A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist – Book Review [Shadowhawk]
Shadowhawk takes a look at the first novel in Raymond E. Feist’s final trilogy of the great Midkemian Saga. This is also the fourth review in his Advent Review series and you can check out the full list here.
“With this book, I returned to the world of Midkemia after a long, long time and what I found was that the setting was just as captivating and enthralling as it was in the first book that started it all off. This book has my seal of approval and recommendation.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
I have professed my love for Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemian Saga/Riftwar Cycle novels numerous times on this site and on my blog. Magician is the one of the books I read during my formative years of reading SFF in high school and I cherish that novel very close to my heart because how absolutely wonderous it was. If, like me, you grew up reading Enid Blyton’s Magical Faraway Tree novels, then you’ll have an idea of how special I hold Magician to be. Feist’s novels have absolutely everything I want in an epic fantasy and they do a great job of exploring numerous themes that are matters of ongoing debates in the fantasy community and they also often experiment with different subgenres of fantasy.
I lost track of the series sometime around the end of the Conclave of Shadows trilogy, which took us to Olasko in the Far East of Midkemia and introduced us to Talwin Hawkins, and I didn’t get back until much later. Then I dropped off again and only recently did I manage to get back on track with this setting and I picked up Chaoswar Saga as my reentry point. A lot has happened in the world since Conclave of Shadows ended and Chaoswar Saga began and I have missed quite a bit of it, but I don’t regret any of that for a second. Frankly, when you are a voracious reader like me, you don’t have time for regrets. You only have time to read and enjoy what you are reading.
The basic framework for the new trilogy isn’t new. Feist draws on character archetypes that he’s already established and reuses several of his previous characters. For the trilogy that is meant to be the final word on the Midkemian Saga/Riftwar Cycle, this is appropriate. The time for grand experiments like The King’s Buccaneer and the Conclave of Shadows trilogy must give way to the familiar because this is the trilogy where all loose ends are meant to be tied and where Feist brings in everything to a conclusion.
And that’s what I got out of this novel. Through familiar characters like Pug and Magnus, and unfamiliar characters like two unnamed demons and one of Pug’s indirect descendants and other descendants of the ConDoin line, we see a new grand event in the Midkemian Saga begin to unfold. As is its wont, Kesh is on the move again and this time a really confusing series of mini-events are occurring that have Kingdom Intelligence on the backfoot. Added to all that is the activity on the demonic realms and you have the makings of a premise that is as solid as the invasion of the Tsurani in the Riftwar trilogy or the Serpentwar Saga.
Given my familiarity with the setting and many of the characters, the novel was a breeze to read. I moved through it quite quickly, just as I expected, and every moment was one to be cherished, despite some of the missteps that the author makes along the way. Some of the characters fall too easily into archetypes that are bland and boring and this was somewhat disappointing. Also, it could be said that the story moves along a bit too quickly and thus some of the emotional impact of the story at large is lost. And to mention one other negative, there is a bit of a mystery regarding the identity of the two prominent demons in the novel. After a while, given the conversations that happen, its quite clear as to who they are, and I was disappointed that it was all a bit too obvious. I would have liked for Feist to have at least one red herring up his sleeve for that.
But, what it all comes down to is the fact that it was a blast to get back to this setting after all this time. Feist still has the same old magic touch and while A Kingdom Besieged isn’t his finest hour, its one of his finer ones by quite a measure. And that’s what mattered to me.