Colossal, compelling, exciting and imaginative, Raymond E Feist's now classic, original fantasy 'Magician' is as fantastic as I remember it years ago. I was thirteen when my tutor allowed me to borrow this huge book. He told me that he had devoured it in ten hours on one coach journey and thought that as I had expressed a love of 'Lord of the Rings' that I would also love Feist's epic. He was right. 'Magician' is a worthy successor to Tolkien's mythopoeic series and a precursor to the scope of 'Game of Thrones'. And I loved reading it now as much as I did at thirteen when I read late into the night, even dreaming about it in vivid, spectacular detail.
The story may seem cliche today: a young, orphan boy is apprenticed to a master magician, before a great war breaks out threatening the existence of all, until the young boy grows up to be the greatest magician in the land. We've had 'Harry Potter' since, so returning to the character of Pug in a strange, yet familiar world called Midkemia comes with its inevitable baggage. Fortunately, though, any comparisons are swiftly brushed aside. 'Magician' is unique in that once you are accustomed to the idea of Midkemia (a world recognized as distinct as Middle Earth) we are then introduced to a whole new world, Kelewan, which is more Eastern than Western Middle Ages. From Kelewan, the Tsurani cross a rift through space and time to launch an invasion into Pug's seemingly peaceful world. Immediately this shatters any expectations of cliche we may have harboured. Instead, Raymond E Feist expands our preconceptions of what makes a traditional fantasy and we are quickly consumed by a story far more complex and imaginative. Imagine the ancient Japanese teleporting into Middle Earth using a magic more akin to mastering quantum mechanics, and you get an idea of what 'Magician' is all about. With this twist in concept, the story is propelled from what could have been a bog standard fantasy into something far more dynamic, bold and brilliant.
At a near 700 pages, the story is dense but never without a dull moment. There is a rich cast of characters from both worlds: kings, princes, princesses, magicians, priests, servants, slaves, soldiers, elves, goblins and other strange beasts we have never met before in traditional fantasy. We care for the characters too and they change, for better or worse, over a couple of decades of narrative. There are twists and turns which leave you wondering until the final pages. And then you realize, with joy, that this is actually the first book in a larger series, focusing on different aspects of both Midkemia and Kelewan.
If you love 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Games of Thrones', then 'Magician' will certainly be enjoyed in equal measure. I will hold back from reading the sequels just yet, all else I will read nothing else all year!