Monday, 9 February 2015

Magician: Master by Raymond Feist

My complaint about the first volume of this saga was that everything felt very mundane. Feist may have been one of the first to do these things, but there wasn't much more to the book. It was fine, but not exhilarating, and I've seen the "young man joins a band of heroic travellers; discovers destiny" paint by numbers a million times. I was taken to task by some people for not recognizing Feist as a pioneer in the field. My position remains: that's fine. Maybe if this was the first of the genre I'd ever read, I'd be flabbergasted. But being first is not all there is.

The Lord of the Rings remains a classic because, not only is it one of the first, there is more there than just being that. It has a richness these don't. This is fine epic fantasy, but it is not anything more. That being said, however, the second book in the saga feels less like I've seen it all before. Feist does take the two main characters in interesting directions.

Unfortunately, there were other things to irritate me. The treatment of the female characters, for instance. Carline, who has some really great moments in the first book, is reduced to being stoic and mourning in the background in this. The queen of the fucking elves loses all ability to think for herself as soon as she starts sleeping with Tomas.

But worst, worst of all was poor Pug's lover in the other world. I am not sure if I can express how angry this storyline made me at Pug, who we're supposed to like, and how pissed off that the measure of a woman's worth is that she didn't sleep with anyone else even when her old lover left her alone and knocked up and she didn't know if he were alive or dead for five years. Right, that's how you show your worth. Taking up with someone else would be a betrayal! Go fuck yourselves.

This is literally how they tell Pug that she is a "good woman" when he deigns to show up for her again after five years. She didn't sleep with anyone else! Let's just gloss over the part where he has been free and autonomous and fucking powerful for four of those years, but left the woman he says he loves in slavery, literal slavery, for all that time, because he doesn't know how to broach the subject with her. Oh, four more years of slavery while he's trying to figure out the right wording for "will you marry me?" That's romantic!  A little slavery is nothing while you're trying to get the setting just right, obviously.

Of course, she wasn't at risk of being sexually abused during slavery because that would probably have made her less of a good woman, and anyway, she belonged to good slave owners. It was just the custom! My eyes have rolled so far back into my head that I may never get them back out.

The rest of it? It's fine. But oh, the treatment of the women characters made me so angry. I rarely get this angry, even when they're mostly background characters or damsels in distress. But this was really appalling.

Other than that? Pug and Tomas become all powerful. The war comes to an end. I don't care.


  1. Hmmm, the book never bothered me that much until now. And yes to the treatment of the Queen of the Elves, it's really rather frustrating. Yes, the rest of 'em also have issues ignoring Tomas, but still, grrrr.

  2. Hah! Really great point, I'm glad someone else felt my frustration. Really annoying to seek katala and Caroline so little developed. In fact nine of the romantic aspects seem at all fleshed out... could you possibly recommend some books that do this better in the fantasy genre? I'm pretty new to this.

    1. What sorts of books do you like generally? There's a lot of really wonderfully inventive fantasy coming out these days. I was blown away by N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season recently, and it's unlike everything I've ever read. A difficult read at times, but so worth it.

      For fun fantasy, that nevertheless goes right for the feels at the right moment, I'd recommend Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora.

      I'm also very enthusiastic about Elizabeth Bear's alt-Mongolia fantasy trilogy that starts with Range of Ghosts.