Ori Fienberg's Reviews > Magician: Apprentice

Magician by Raymond E. Feist
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's review
Dec 22, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: oh-well
Read in December, 2008

Earlier this year I got back into the fantasy genre by reading Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. Since then I've been reading backwards; finding the authors Rothfuss was favorably compared to and reading their books.

I was very taken with the author I read next, George R. R. Martin, and would happily have continued the Song of Fire and Ice series, but apparently the next book in that series has been postponed till 2013. So I chose Raymond Feist who was next on my list.

To a total fantasy virgin it may hold some appeal, but even the books I read at the peak of my dorkiness, at a time when I read almost nothing except books by R.A. Salvatore and others published by Forgotten Realms, are significantly better than this book.

Simply put Magician: Apprentice lacks the subtlety, beauty, and complexity of the other works of fantasy (or even plain old fiction) I've read this year. Overall I'd say it reads like the collected notes of what were probably very engaging D&D styled scenarios and RPG adventures.

The characters are perhaps over-loved by the author. All are sort of generic "nice guys" thrown into tough situations. They lack flaws, they have no weaknesses, and so they don't broaden as characters. They're chivalrous and handsome. When they fail (rarely) it's through no fault of their own. All personal conflicts are resolved with a good cry, some laughter, and then drinks. The most major change in a character is enacted not by learning from experience or harsh reality, or personal introspection, but instead by donning mysterious magical armor. None of the characters face more than brief moral or ethical dilemmas. Because these men are only faced with deus ex machina type problems their growth is never shown, we're merely told it's happened after random narrative leaps. Four months has passed and generic male hero #1 wishes to return home, or 2 years have passed and generic male #2 is now battle hardened. Okay, I guess if you say so. The females are even more one dimensional. All those given more than one line of dialog are beautiful, playful, strong-willed, and eager to find a partner. Even the elven Queen is essentially the same, she just has a title.

Leaving aside for a moment the other worldly opposition, the only villains are mentioned in passing. None are full characters, just useful tools to create minor shifts in the action. The opposition from another world are the most interesting, but unfortunately much of the consideration and description of them is repetitious. They have different notions of honor, they're fearless, they speak a tonal language, they come from a world without metal, and employ a magic beyond the understanding Midkemians. Those basic points are hammered home over and over again.

Over and over again is one of the main problems of this book. So much feels like repetition of the same fight, the same history, and the same description. I read the author's preferred text or edition or some such nonsense. Having not read the original I can't be sure, but I'm sure that with 20-40 pages trimmed while many of my complaints about the characters would be the same, at the very least the plot would move that much faster.

I also read Magician: Master, which I won't bother reviewing, but is a slight improvement: I'd probably give it two stars. The description and consideration of the Kelewan world, its people, and their customs is far more interesting than anything in the first book, but the writing and characters still feel tired and one dimensional.
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02/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Craig Beckett Ori, your review encapsulates all of what I thought about the first two books of Feist's Riftwar saga. I found all of the Crydee characters overly likable. Everyone of them is too good and there are no warts on any of them. At one point I thought the relationship between Pug and Carline might have been a source of tension but even that ended up flat.

Donna you would enjoy Brandon Sanderson ... especially the way of kings

Sebastian You got some points - but remember that Magician was written in 1980 when REF was a nerdy D'n'D gamer in college

Matt Goguen lmao if you base fantasy off of Name of the Wind then you dont even deserve to read the Genre. Name of the wind is very poorly written with a brat and horrible main character. Its gotten great ratings but i promise you thats only because the people who rated it were the only ones that were able to finish it.

message 5: by Anna (new)

Anna Thank you for this review. I also became more enamoured with fantasy through Pat's and George R.R. Martin's writing and am looking for something with equally complex characters.
While it is much simpler in its structure and is more slowly paced, Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy is a series I enjoy and has some elements in common with these books.

message 6: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob While Feist pales in comparison to Rothfuss, Martin, Lynch, Hobb, and Sandersons of the world, I feel you've been overly harsh about this book/series. I agree that they are relitivly less imaginative than the authors mentioned, Feist does work on character development fairly well..i.e. Pug's transition to power. I agree that the characters do lack flaws in some cases but, this entire series is enjoyable and enthralling. I may be biased because this is the author that got me engaged in fantasy and have read the "superior" authors of this genre, but I feel the books are captivating and addictive. From Magician Apprentice to Magician's End, I was always hungry for more.

Milan Perišić Agreed with Rob

message 8: by Jonathan (new) - added it

Jonathan S. Harbour I don't know how useful this review is to someone like me considering Feist for the first time. So much elitist condescension. And dissing Salvatore is fightin' words. There are times when I don't WANT to look up every third word in a dictionary, and don't WANT three- or four-layered stories with plots criss-crossing. When I'm in the mood for that, I'll read Peter Hamilton and groan at the lack of an ending. Sometimes linear, sequential, is okay. I'll give this book a try anyway. Like Salvatore, he's bound to get better if indeed this was his first book as a "D&D nerd".

Alastair You should read The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Feist's narrative is way better than his characterisation. I thoroughly enjoyed this about 20 or more years ago, when I was a Fantasy Noob and still thought the world was a beautiful place.

message 10: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob The blade itself is a wonderful start to a great series and is enthralling in its own way. This series is admitting and realizing Joe Abercrombie's roots and a as author who wasn't intimidated by Tolkiens' work and construct
a series, though a little cliche, honest, captivating, and original to itself.

message 11: by Jerome (new)

Jerome Foster This book may not suffice for people newly weaned into fantasy via the GRRM school of modern taoism but for its period it was spectacular and without it and others like the Shannara series you wouldn't have seen the evolution to the current masterpieces. Fire when it was written 30 years ago it still is a solid and enjoyable read

message 12: by Dawan (new) - added it

Dawan I don't care what anyone Say's this is the greatest boom of all time

message 13: by Benjamin (new) - added it

Benjamin Nice review, thanks
My picks for you :
Must read David Gemmell, It all starts with Druss....
Sanderson all
Robin hobb
Brent Weeks
Adrian Tchaikovsky (stick with won't be sorry)
He just came out with Children of Time, stand alone SF, i enjoyed it
Peter Brett (currently reading Desert Spear one best sequel i've read)
Michael Sullivan
Joe Abercrombie (his latest trilogy, Half a ...3rd one just came out, just got it in mail)
Kevin Hearne Iron Druid, really fun, fast reads set in present

Conn Iggulden ; 2 great series on Genghis an Caesar

And classic David Eddings
A little older but major pioneer and great fun if you like big book, I like big books and can not lie

message 14: by Olaf (new) - rated it 2 stars

Olaf I really liked the review, my biggest concern with the book was that it's too easy going. Overall I like it and for its time it is decent work but the book definitely lost a lot of its appeal over the years

message 15: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Reinhar Not surprised that someone who hates this book loves the trash that Martin writes.

message 16: by Val (new)

Val this saga was suggested to me by a friend so i'm checking out the reviews before delving in.
i loved the name of the wind as well, and Steven Erikson is my favorite writer, i''ve mostly been reading only his books for a while now, i find that i no longer have any patience for over simplistic fantasy books and the stupid characters found in most other genres. so i'm at a loss here. if you have any suggestions i'de be happy to try them.
thanks for the review.

message 17: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy Ross I am reading this book just now. I believe it to be well crafted. I think it's my first of the authors books. But I can't be sure.
It's so uncomplicated that I'm really relaxed whilst reading it. Appreciating the lack of grimdark. High fantasy is so...enjoyable. Dragons, 300 year old magicians, magic hammers, dwarfes in mountains and Elves. When you're in the mood, high fantasy is fabulous, in 1980 Grimdark didn't exist.
Sometimes you need to just sit back enjoy the ride, no need to worry about complex magic systems and hundreds of POV characters. You know the score, it's predictable. But that predictability allows you to really become swept away by the story.

message 18: by Justice (new)

Justice Learning that is is really only half of a book helps make sense of the fact that the main characters disappear completely for the last several chapters. I'd never seen that done before. EVERYTHING else, however HAD been done before, so I don't think I'll bother with the second book.

message 19: by Emma (new) - rated it 2 stars

Emma I am not enjoying this that much. Where's the magic?!

message 20: by Asharial (new)

Asharial I'm starting this book because of your review, but don't think that A Song of Fire and Ice is the epitome of fantasy. The Name of the Wind and pretty much anything by Brandon Sanderson (specially Mistborn and Stormlight Archive) are amazing. Also don't forget about the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Paulo I think 1* is too harsh but I have to agree with all the faults you pointed out.

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