Review: The Chaoswar Saga, Book Three: Magician’s End

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.

Cover art for "The Chaoswar Saga, book three: Magician's End" by Raymond E. Feist.I’m still not entirely convinced Feist won’t start churning out prequels and spin-offs or even just more sequels in a few years.

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.

A map of Midkemia's Triagia continent, setting of the Riftwar novelsThis 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

TSW’s Second Anniversary + Review: The Chaoswar Saga: A Crown Imperiled

As of today, The Secret World is two years old. Of course, that’s a great accomplishment for the game, but more importantly, it’s time for us all to drown in a sea of free loot.

Players defend Harbaburesti during the Guardians of Gaia event in The Secret WorldThe Guardians of Gaia event is back, bringing with it buffs to double or at least greatly increase the acquisition of ability points, black bullion, AEGIS XP, and… pretty much everything else in the game, really. There’s also an all new world boss in Tokyo, with new loot and new lore.

Also, there will not be a golem in Fusang Projects this year. That sound you hear is everyone in the Secret World breathing a sigh of relief.

I don’t really see anything topping last year’s Joelzilla Incident, but I fully expect awesome times ahead. TSW puts on fantastic world events, but none have quite topped Guardians of Gaia, in my view.

Today also marks the release of the first additional mission pack added to Tokyo (much sooner than I expected): Sidestories: Love and Loathing, which features five new missions from the various Tokyo NPCs. More Daimon Kiyota can only be a good thing.

Review: A Crown Imperiled

If you follow this blog regularly, you may have heard me say in the past that mediocrity is very hard to review. Without any brilliant moments to praise, or any monumental blunders to rant over, there isn’t much to say.

You may also remember my review of the first book of Raymond E. Feist’s Chaoswar Saga — itself a continuation of the enormous Riftwar Cycle, which tells the story of the embattled world of Midkemia — about two years ago.

I finally got around to reading the second book of this trilogy, A Crown Imperiled, and it is a very hard book to review.

It’s doubly hard because Feist’s writing has become so consistent and predictable that I feel anything I could say would just be repeating what I’ve already said many times before, even if I’ve technically only reviewed one of his other books on this blog.

Cover art for "The Chaoswar Saga: A Crown Imperiled" by Raymond E. FeistIn short, A Crown Imperiled is a classic example of the rut that the Midkemian novels have fallen into. Feist has created a world full of rich and memorable characters, terrifying threats, and fantastical wonders.

And he all but ignores them in favour of the mundane, the generic, and the predictable.

Every new Midkemia series splits its attention between the longstanding characters who have carried this series from the start — like the godlike magician Pug and the Dragon Lord Tomas — and new characters introduced for that series.

Two things invariably hold true: The new characters are nowhere near as interesting as the old ones, but they get the lion’s share of the attention.

The majority of characters in the Midkemia books are the very definition of forgettable. As in I had literally forgotten everything about most of them right down to their very existence in the time between reading this book and the last one. The only reason I remembered Ty Hawkins was that he has the same nickname as me.

So that’s a major knock against this book out of the gate, and the plot suffers from similar issues. There are some very interesting things going on, but they are not the focus of the story. The side-dishes have crowded out the entrèe.

Martin and Brendan — whom I could not tell you anything about — are digging in to halt the Keshian invasion, a war that the book makes abundantly clear is just a distraction for some other nefarious plot. I swear half the scenes with these characters were just them discussing the logistics of preparing for a siege. Or that’s how it felt.

Meanwhile, their equally nondescript brother Hal ends up running through the wilderness with the fugitive princess of Roldem, which ultimately accomplishes nothing other than providing an excuse for a very generic romance arc.

A map of Midkemia's Triagia continent, setting of the Riftwar novelsThe most interesting part of this book involves the return from the dead (sort of) of Miranda and Nakor. I was never the biggest fan of Miranda, but Nakor is awesome enough to make all the other tedium of these books worthwhile, and the fact they’ve returned, and the method of their return, raises some intriguing questions.

There’s also a potentially interesting plot involving a Dark Elf chieftain, but it’s largely abandoned after a few chapters because reasons.

Unfortunately, the mind-blowing twist at the end of the last book is largely ignored.

In case it wasn’t clear by now, I wasn’t very impressed by A Crown Imperiled.

It may be that I am being harsher than the book deserves. Certainly, it’s still a well-written book in the technical sense, and it’s not without its thrills. But it’s hard to ignore how much potential is being completely wasted.

At least Nakor is back. That almost makes all the other stumbles worthwhile. That guy is amazing.

Overall rating: 6.5/10 While the last few books felt above average for the flagging Riftwar series, A Crown Imperiled is a return to form, and not at all in a good way.