The ideal middle part to a trilogy is one that hooks you, reels you in and leaves you desperate to find out what is going to happen next. Feist achieved exactly that with "Into a Dark Realm", the middle part of his Darkwar trilogy and so it was with excitement and anticipation that I turned to "Wrath of a Mad God".
Perhaps it's wrong, but an opening scene which involves a major character being psychologically and magically tortured seemed like a decent start. In all ways, "Wrath of a Mad God" picks up where "Into a Dark Realm" left off. The linked worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan are under threat of invasion by the Dasati. There have been initial skirmishes from the Dasati into both worlds and Pug and his son Magnus have travelled to the Dasati world to try and prevent this.
It seems that the Dark God of the Dasati has the upper hand, however. Unlike the more human races, the alien Dasati have no qualms about killing as many of their own people as they have to in order to facilitate an invasion. Pug and a few rebel Dasati have to try and prevent the threat from the Dasati end, as their weight of numbers and evil nature threaten to overwhelm the worlds they are trying to invade, as they seem intent more on killing the people, not conquering them.
As ever, Feist drops you into the story on the assumption that you have read the previous books in the trilogy. Indeed, this time around, he assumes you've been reading his work for some time, giving back story to some of the characters that not only covers books I haven't read over the last few years, but goes back to books I read more than a decade ago. Whilst this is an exciting read, it certainly isn't one for newcomers to Feist's work.
For the fans who know what to expect and who won't be put off by the back story making reference to important events they have very little knowledge of, this is a decent read. Feist once more doesn't rely on magic as a plot device, but as a tool, so there aren't so many strange things happening as in a lot of fantasy and much of the magic used here will be familiar to his fans. His other strength has always been concentrating on his character's feelings much more than many fantasy authors, so we don't see the characters as all powerful magicians, but as real people with similar fears to our own. I felt that the interaction between Pug's wife Miranda and their son Caleb was particularly well done, as it was a wonderfully emotional part about a parent's love for the black sheep of the family which many of us will be able to relate to.
This has always been Feist's way of involving the reader in the story and he doesn't disappoint this time around. It is always very clear who are the characters you are supposed to sympathise with and who is the enemy. If there is one minor complaint, it is that the two human races, the Midkemians and the Tsuranuanni are quite similar and with the alien Dasati making incursions into both worlds, it's not always immediately obvious whether they are on Midkemia or Kelewan. The difference between good and evil is always obvious, but the split between the different kinds of good, especially when the Midkemians are helping out the Tsurani army is a little muddled.
My other issues were that there was the inclusion of Tomas, a character from Feist's early work. His inclusion involved a sub plot that appeared and ended part way through and didn't have any obvious bearing on the plot of this story. It seems that there may be more to come from Feist, but this part of the story just didn't seem to fit in here and it made me feel as if he'd dropped in a plot from a different book by mistake. Maybe a bigger fan of Feist than I am would see the significance of this portion of the plot, but to me it seemed largely irrelevant, seeming to be a self contained story in its own right, but not one with any importance here.
The other disappointment was in the ending of the book, which seemed a little weak to me. After all that had gone before, it seemed to be over quite quickly and the ending seemed to be a little too convenient and easy. It felt as if Feist was either in a hurry to finish things or if he'd run out of ideas and just wanted to tie everything up as quickly and easily as he could just to get it done,
This aside, this is another decent book from Feist. All the things that made me a fan and have kept me reading his books are here and as good as ever. Apart from the ending, his pacing of the story is as good as ever, with plenty of action going on and the constant swapping of perspective keeping you involved with the whole of the story. It's not his best and not the best ending to a trilogy, but it is still a decent book and well worth a look for any fan of Feist, although I would recommend his earlier works such as "Magician" for the newcomer, especially whilst this is still only available in hardback at prices like Amazon's £9.49, although for a fan an eBay bargain from £2.20 isn't to be sniffed at. Perhaps the most interesting thing for the fan could be that the plot strands that don't seem to fit here suggest that Feist isn't finished yet and there could be more to look forward to in the future.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
The third book in the latest series, The Darkwar from the world-wide bestselling author of Magician The Darkwar has fallen upon the worlds of Kelewan and Midkemia; a time of heroes, trials and destruction. Following their dangerous mission to the realm of the alien Dasati, Magnus and the other members of the Conclave must now find a way to use what they discovered to help save their own people from the wrath of a mad god.