Thursday, June 25, 2009

Raymond E. Feist: Rift Saga - Warning & A Reading Sequence

First, the warning: if you read fantasy novels for the pleasure, among other things, of seeing the good guys win and the bad guys die (ala Eddings), Feist is not for you. This author kills off characters. Indeed, sometimes it seems as if he introduces characters just for the pleasure of getting rid of them. Note: I'm not talking about characters that would logically die of old age given the number of novels and the time period they cover. No. Feist kills characters, characters you like. (I don't think anybody actually gets to die in bed of old age w/ friends and family around.)

Now, obviously, he's not the only fantasy writer who does this. A lot of good people die in Kurtz's Deryni novels - but those deaths, however painful to the reader - seem integral to the narrative. Feist, on the other hand, just kills them off. They rarely even die after multi-page battle descriptions. They're knifed or slashed or bashed. One moment alive, one moment dead. One long-time character disappears in one novel. We find out later on that he was killed and where his body was found. That's it. Nothing more. In another, there's a massacre early in a novel whose only purpose seems to be to get rid of a bunch of characters. No reason. The rest of the novel could have been written with barely a change had those characters not died. So it is the casual nature, the purposelessness (unless it is the only way Feist thinks he can add some "darkness" to his novels) of the deaths.

In short, if you read Feist don't invest yourself in any of the characters unless you are prepared to mourn their deaths.

Now, as for the sequence in which you should read the novels, it's not easy to do because Feist seems to back-and-fill: the publication sequence bears little relationship to the internal time lines. However, based on the series I've read so far and synopses on the Crydee web set, I recommend reading them in the following order:
The original Riftwar Saga:
Magician: Apprentice
Magician: Master
A Darkness at Sethanon

The Empire [Kelewan] Novels

These stories take place on the other side of the Rift roughly parallel to the events in the original Riftwar Saga. Still, there are enough references to events that occur in the Riftwar Saga that I recommend reading these novels after you've completed the first four.
Daughter of the Empire
Servant of the Empire
Mistress of the Empire

Based on synopses, I think the Legends of the Riftwar novels may fit in here - may even be more or less contemporaneous with the Riftwar/Empire novels (sort of like missing episodes) - but I've not yet read them and will update later this year.

Legends of the Riftwar
Honoured Enemy
Murder in LaMut
Jimmy the Hand

The first 3 Krondor novels (the only ones I've read) definitely follow the Riftwar and Empire series and precede the two "standalone" books (Prince of the Blood and King's Buccaneer).
The Krondor Series
Krondor the Betrayal
Krondor the Assassins
Krondor Tear of the Gods

Krondors Sons

Prince of the Blood
King's Buccaneer - lots of characters die, esp. early in the novel.

The Serpentwar Saga
Shadow of a Dark Queen
Rise of a Merchant Prince
Rage of a Demon King
Shards of a Broken Crown

Conclave of the Shadows

Talon of the Silver Hawk
King of Foxes
Exiles Return

Again, based on synopses, I think these two sequences follow the previous, but I can't guarantee it.
Darkwar Saga
Flight of the Nighthawks
Into a Dark Realm
Wrath of a Mad God
Demonwar Saga
Rides a Dread Legion
** At the Gates of Darkness


Anonymous said...

Hey mate.

I have read all of rays books.

and though you may not see it.

the death of the characters is integral to the novels.

if for example X person didnt die then X god would not be true to X gods word would they.

really it is just the same as gandalf dying in the first lord of the rings novel. except they dont come back.

and i just want to point out. im really not sure if your angry about this or just stating facts. but really you should work on your "innver voice" when you right things so they come accross the way that you intend


have a good one mate.

Anonymous said...

By reading your blog you seem angry and letting off steam.

Have you actually read any of Ray's books? You have not made these opinions based on what you have heard or read by outside sources are you?

I also have read all of Ray's books and the characters do not die as quick as you say they do. You have misrepresented Ray's Books.

The publication sequence DOES bear a huge relationship to the internal time line, as majority of trilogies do. Read all the books before you post your opinion as fact about the publication sequence.

There are large amounts of characters you can "invest" yourself into, who do not die naturally. Most characters live through many books.

Anonymous said...

What's more, is that in real life, people die. The flow of characters into and out of the books is integral to the books themselves.

Also, the books cover about 150 years. People die in that time.

Furthermore, it gets pretty boring if everyone dies in their sleep with family around.

Additionally, when you write a book written about a genre that is loosely based on the medieval era then most people die early. Eddings had the lovely charcteristic in his novels of immortal characters. That made writing a bit easier. Ray is trying to extend himself and tell a good story.

Personally, I think you're missing the big picture. And I would try and wrtie 20-30 books on a single world before I started blasting someone for their style. If his style doesn't fit you, well, that's ok. There's over a million people worldwide in about 15 languages who disagree.

Have fun.