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Along with David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist was one of my first loves when it comes to Fantasy writing. They always used magic as a tool, rarely as a plot device and they avoided the long passages in Elvish that can make Tolkien so much of a chore. I may have always had a slight preference for Eddings, but my copies of Feist's original Riftwar trilogy are showing serious signs of use these days.
I may not have kept up with Feist's writing over the years, missing "The Conclave of Shadows" trilogy, but there is enough familiarity in both style and characters to make me feel instantly back at home. Pug may have grown up and is now a grandfather, but he is still involved with important business and, as ever, the future of both his home worlds is at stake.
Following on from the opening part of the trilogy, the few remaining members of the Night Hawks are being taken care of. Meanwhile, the presence of the slumbering Talnoy is still causing concern and Pug speaks to the Oracle who advises him that he will need to travel to a separate plane of existence, one of the lower planes, to the Dasati world to figure out exactly why the Talnoy are there.
The storyline is much as you would expect from the middle book in a trilogy. There is some tidying up and recovering to be done from the events of the first book. But there is still a more formidable enemy somewhere on the horizon and steps need to be taken towards the final confrontation. Feist has written this middle book before, however, so he keeps things interesting by having all his main characters doing separate things and jumping between them. You can never be quite sure what is going to prove to be immediately relevant and what may be important later, which keeps you reading.
What first made me a fan of Feist's writing is that, unlike a lot of fantasy writers, he concentrates on how the characters react to situations, rather than just describing things. This is true even with his non-human characters, who he manages to give a touch of humanity. Here, even when they travel to a whole new world, there is more about how the characters handle the culture shock than there is of telling the reader about the new world.
These two characteristics do cause a problem part way through, however. Feist flicks between characters and races quite easily and at such a rate it can be a little dizzying. At one point, when he introduces the new alien character, there's nothing to indicate this is what he's done and the human like way they are described meant that for some time, I was confused as to who was who. Once I'd got this sorted out in my head, however, things became a lot clearer and I was able to enjoy the story.
If there is one other concern, it's that the identity of the main villain was a little too easy to predict. Admittedly, the way things came about was unexpected, but I was a little disappointed to have picked him so easily and so early on, especially as I'm not usually good at guessing things like that.
These minor concerns aside, however, this middle book doesn't feel like something to take up space between and introduction and a climax, but an adventure in its own right, unlike some similar books I have read recently, such as Terry Brooks' "Elves of Cintra". It's clear that there have been events leading up to the story in this book and that there will be more to come, but there's enough here to keep you entertained rather than looking out for what is to follow.
If you have read Feist before, this is certainly up to his usual standards and will be enjoyable, regardless of whether you've read every word he's written, which I hadn't. If you've not read his works before, the character based fantasy he writes is always wonderful to read and his earlier work "Magician" is a fine introduction to the genre, not just the author.
If you are already an existing fan of Raymond Feist and have followed "The Conclave of Shadows" and much of his more recent work, this is certainly worth a go. Despite some minor reservations, this is a decent example of Feist's work and with copies available from as little as 50 pence on eBay and from £1.99 in the Amazon Marketplace, it's certainly worth a try for any fantasy fan and especially so if you're a fan of Feist or Eddings or both, as I am.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
The second book in the brand new series, Conclave of Shadows from world-wide bestselling author of Magician, Raymond E. Feist Chaos threatens to overwhelm two worlds as the most dangerous force ever encountered threatens to invade Midkemia, while the most treacherous magician in history - the madman Leso Varen - begins to wreak havoc on the world of Kelewan. Pug and the Conclave of Shadows are determined to find Varen, only to discover that he has usurped the body of one of the most powerful men in the Empire of Tsuranuani - a Black Robe and member of the Assembly of Magicians. Pug has the almost impossible task of uncovering the true identity of the fiendish magician in an entire city full of Black Robes. Murder, mayhem, horror, and the darkest evil await Pug's son, Magnus, and his companions as they attempt to discover the ultimate source of the terrible threat that hovers over Midkemia and Kelewan. Leading a desperate expedition into the realm of the Dasati, the vast and malevolent empire which is threatening his homeworld, Magnus hopes to find the key to defeating this enemy who is capable of overwhelming the combined might of two worlds. But even if he does, the companions will have a desperate struggle to return home with their vital information. Three worlds will teeter on the brink of destruction as the third Riftwar: the Darkwar, is unleashed.