The cover for Magician’s End declares it to be the final book in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle, the very last book set in Midkemia. This came as rather a surprise to me — this series has basically been going forever, and I didn’t really expect there to ever be an end.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument this is in fact the end. And to be fair, it does provide a pretty conclusive end to most of the main arcs and does an admirable job of wrapping up one of the most bloated and unwieldy fantasy series in existence.
No small task, either. This series started in the early 1980s. It has sprawled across nearly thirty novels. It’s lost its groove, got it back again, lost it again, got it back again, kind of lost it again, kind of got it back… The weight of expectation for a conclusion is rather crushing.
By necessity, this review will continue some spoilers.
As is tradition for Midkemia books, the story is split between vast, cosmic conflict involving the characters who have been there from the start — Pug, Miranda, Nakor, Tomas, and Macros — and a far more mundane story that seems pretty much irrelevant. In this case, it’s a civil war in the Kingdom of the Isles starring Hal, whom I still couldn’t tell you anything about.
Normally I enjoy the incredibly in-depth examinations of the abstracts of magic and the fundamentals of this imaginary universe, but this time Pug and Company’s story ended up treading into the realm of “trying too hard.” I suppose this was inevitable when you have to keep one-upping yourself over this many books.
This does have the side effect of making Hal’s otherwise dull story a little more interesting — it is at least a welcome counterpoint to the somewhat ponderous meditations on the true nature of reality.
My biggest complaint, though, is how it tends to abandon or under-serve previously established storylines.
Most notably, most of the Riftwar Cycle has painted all the bad stuff happening in Midkemia as being the work of the imprisoned god of evil, generally referred to only as the Nameless One. Magician’s End just sort of brushes that idea off and instead paints the Dread as the hand behind all that’s gone wrong. I like the Dread, but the last minute change of direction for the entire plot of the series is incredibly jarring.
I was incredibly excited when the first book of the Chaoswar series introduced another reborn Dragon Lord — and not just any Dragon Lord, but the most wicked Valheru of all, Draken-Korin — but he’s hardly a footnote in the story. There’s some side-arc with the Dark Elf chieftain introduced in the last book, but it plays such a small role in the story I have to wonder why it was included at all.
But to be fair, I suppose some loose ends was inevitable with a series this vast.
And in favour of Magician’s End, the actual ending it provides is quite satisfying. It’s got a lot of tragedy, but there’s also a lot of hope for the future. It hits that perfect bittersweet balance I like.
Similarly, there’s room for more sequels — not every problem everywhere has been solved — but it also feels conclusive enough to be satisfying should there be no more books in the series.
Considering all the stumbles this series has had over the
years decades, and considering the massive weight of history and expectation pressing down on it, Magician’s End does a fairly admirable job, though it remains a book with significant flaws.
Overall rating: 7.3/10