A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E Feist

Rating 8.9/10
It has taken Feist twenty glorious years to produce a novel of the breath-taking quality of Magician

The Darkness is coming… The Kingdom is plagued by rumour and instability. Kingdom spies in Kesh have been disappearing - either murdered, or turned to the enemy side. Information has become scant and unreliable; but one thing appears clear. Dark forces are on the move… Since Pug and the Conclave of Shadows enforced peace after the last Keshian invasion, the Empire has offered no threat. But now factions are rising and Jim Dasher reports mobilizations of large forces in the Keshian Confederacy. As the men of the West answer the King's call to muster, Martin conDoin - left as caretaker of Crydee Keep - will suddenly be confronted with the vanguard of an invading army. He reminds himself that he is a year older than his legendary ancestor, Prince Arutha, was when he stood firm against the Tsurani invasion, but Arutha had an army to command, and Martin is left with old men and young boys.

Having followed Feist since Magician turned up in 1982 it is fair to admit that this reviewer has found the Darkwar and Demonwar Sagas not to the same par as the Riftwar and Serpentwar Sagas. I had a growing disquiet that Feist had entered the twenty-first century with a little less enthusiasm than during the previous fifteen years. Midkemia also suffered from similar symptoms as Jordon's Wheel of Time - namely, a desire to expand a series that was neatly coming to a conclusion due to the pressure of fans and publishers alike who demanded (rightly) more from the author. Feist achieved this through Pug and the concept of multiple dimensions (a theme that drew closely to Weis & Hickman's flirt with The Deathgate Cycle) by expanding into a realm of Demons and inter-dimensional travel through Pug, his family and associates.

The books came out yearly like a smooth conveyor belt and they lacked that... something... that brilliance that makes Magician one of the stand-out fantasy novels to date. With "A Kingdom Besieged" Feist appears to have taken a hard look at what has made him such a powerful author of the genre and delivered a new novel that spends most of its time in that world. Namely, a move away from the pure fantastical of inter-dimensional demonic creatures and back to Crydee, Krondor, LaMut, the great Kesh, Roldem et al… We are back with "real" characters such as Ty, Talwin Hawkin's son, the new Duke of Crydee - Hal - and his two brothers, Brendan and Martin. A fiery Bethany pulled straight from the ever-influential Maid Marion with these four mean we have a new set of eyes that witness an assault on the Keep and an audacious plan by Kesh that sits comfortably and, more importantly, familiarly with the world of Midkemia.

Jim Dasher is racing around the rest of the world to understand how the Keshian Empire has managed to gear itself silently for the greatest colonisation effort the pen of Feist has ever envisioned. In the background a demon known as "Child" grows to maturity and seeks her own quest to get back to Midkemia with Belog at her side - it was with huge delight this reviewer understood what Feist has done with this pair - and by the end of the opener of this trilogy we find Pug is come full circle with the truth behind the previous sagas revealed. An ancient enemy is back to menace the existence of everything. It's almost like turning on Doctor Who after so many years away and seeing the Daleks again. That shiver of a wide-eyed child reading enthralled through the night is remembered once again.

It has taken Feist twenty glorious years to produce a novel of the breath-taking quality of Magician, Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon. Nostalgia aside this latest isn't quite at those levels but this saga promises to get to the same heights. I cannot wait for "A Crown Imperiled" because we are back where it all started - Crydee - and we have a new generation who have the same dignity and nobility that a young Pug and Tomas once brought to Midkemia. The anticipation is delicious...

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