Saturday, January 10, 2015

Retro Reviews: Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

Magician: Apprentice
Author:  Raymond E. Feist
Series:  The Riftwar Saga 1
Original Publisher and Date:  Bantam Spectra, October 1, 1982
Still in Print:  Yes
Current Formats and Length:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 512 pages
        (originally 323 pages)
Availability:  online and in stores
Original ISBN:  0-553-56494-3

A later edition of the novel
Brief History

Raymond E. Feist was born in 1945 in Los Angeles, CA, and was raised in southern California. Feist graduated from the University of California at San Diego in 1977. Magician: Apprentice was his first published novel in 1982. He has written 36 novels so far. 32 of those novels and novellas take place in the same world as Magician: Apprentice. There are also role-playing games, video games and graphic novels based on this creation.

Magician: Apprentice was originally published as a larger book titled Magician, but the American publisher made Feist break the book into two parts Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master. Even after splitting the book in two, the publisher still required the book to be edited further, until it was only 323 pages. Once the book became popular, it was republished with the edits removed and retitled Magician Apprentice Author's Preferred Edition, with a page count of 512 pages. It's been published in 20 countries.

Back Cover Description

To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry. Yet Pug's strange sort of magic would one day change forever the fates of two worlds. For dark beings from another world had opened a rift in the fabric of spacetime to being again the age-old battle between the forces of Order and Chaos.

Brannigan's Review

I loved this book. It immediately felt familiar and fun while still offering new wonders. I've known about this book and series for awhile now, but never got around to reading it. A few years ago there was a graphic novel adaptation of the book, that I read, but didn't like, which made me put off reading the book even longer. I'm so glad I finally opened the book and gave it a go. I quickly fell into the story.

Before I get going too far into my review, I would like to mention the back cover description is a bit odd as it makes the reader believe that Pug traveled to apprentice under Kulgan. That isn't actually the case. Pug grew up in the castle as an orphan and was raised by the cook and baker of the castle, along with their son Tomas, Pug's de facto brother. Once the two boys are old enough, they and other children of the castle are assigned crafts and positions to apprentice under masters. Tomas apprentices under the Sword Master of the castle to be trained as a castle guard. When none of the regular craftsmen and masters pick Pug, a scrawny small lad for his age, Kulgan the magician takes mercy on him and takes him as his apprentice. From this point on the description is correct.

Feist takes the familiar hero's journey/quest storyline we are all familiar and comfortable with, and then introduces his own twist to the story with 'aliens' from another world entering their world bent on world domination. The mix of familiar and strange make the story both comforting and exciting at the same time. I also found it interesting how Feist removes Pug from the story all together a little over three quarters of the way through. Normally, this would be frustrating, but Feist did such a great job of developing his second-tier characters, that once the main protagonist is gone, the supporting cast easily steps up and keeps the story going.

Feist does a great job of world building and also showing it to the reader. The castle Pug grew up in is on the far west edge of the kingdom and the capital is on the far east end. We follow Pug and other members of the castle as they seek to warn the King of the impending invasion. Along the way, we meet the Elves, Dwarves, The Brotherhood of the Dark Path, and other monsters that make up the world. We also get to spend time in a large forest, mountains, underground caves, and crossing the sea, as well as several different cities. All of this helps to immerse you in the world.

The only issues I have are due more to the editing of the original book than the actual book itself. It feels rushed at times and several battles are just barely mentioned before we move on. There are also several large jumps in time at the end of the book that make me wonder why would Feist do this, if I wasn't aware of the massive cuts made prior to publishing. All of these things would aid in building tension, emotion and connection to the characters. With as much fun as I had with the original book, I can't wait to buy the extended edition and dive back into the full story of Pug.

Magician: Apprentice is one of the most enjoyable first books to a series I've read in a long time. I would normally hesitate starting a series that is currently 32 books long, but I enjoyed this book so much I can't wait to dive into this series. I have no problem recommending this book to teens and adults. There are no issues with violence, language or sexual situations that warrant any caution. This is definitely a book to buy and add to your collection. I would recommend buying the newest edition, as I feel it will fix some of the issues I had with this first edition. It's the perfect fantasy book for those familiar to the genre and those who would like a fresh take on familiar ideas. It's also accessible enough for readers unfamiliar with the genre.


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