Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E Feist (The Demonwar Saga #1)

A lost race of elves, the taredhel or 'people of the stars', have found a way across the universe to reach Midkemia. On their current home world, these elves are hard pressed by a ravaging demon horde, and what was once a huge empire has been reduced to a handful of survivors. The cornerstone of taredhel lore is the tale of their lost origins in the world they call simply 'Home', a place lost in the mists of time. Now they are convinced that Midkemia is that place, and they are coming to reclaim it. Ruthless and arrogant, the taredhel intend to let nothing stand in their way; but before long, Pug and the Conclave realise that it's not necessarily the elves, but the demon horde pursuing them where the true danger lies. And hanging over Pug always is the prophecy that he will be doomed to watch everyone he loves die before him...

I realise this might get Feist fans' ire to rise but the last series have come across as footnotes to the grandiosity of Magician, Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon. Not that I am complaining. If I could write a fraction as well as the master of fantasy I would depart this life extremely happy.

The opener in his latest series follows swiftly on from Wrath of a Mad God. About ten years have passed, the same protagonists appearing in a supporting role in a manner that has become prevalent in Feist's decision to take Midkemia into the universe of demons. Kaspar, Magnus, Miranda et al serve good purpose in introducing us to a story that promises a greater evil than the preceding novels hinted at. There is a darkness now, but it is shadowy to the point of nebulous. As we are taken on this new voyage we are learning much about the demon realms. Learning, I suspect, as Feist himself is learning.

The premise is simple. The demons are no longer a mindless horde, but one which appears to be structured. Without wishing to give overly much of the story away, Feist opens with the somewhat charlatan, Amirantha and Brandos, meandering their way around Kaspar's current demesne charming their way out of gullible township gold. An unexpectedly difficult encounter leads us to realise the former is one of a set of three brothers - one being Nalnar who has made a previous appearance as Leso Varen, the other the imminently more dangerous Belasco - who are somewhat responsible for (or agents for) a darker power of the Demon Legion.

Mixed in with this is Sandreena, Knight-Adamant who provides a new feisty (excuse the pun) heroine sent to investigate the dark summoning and wholesale slaughter of villagers around Akrakon. Inevitably, she finds herself mixed up in more than she can readily handle but as the novel grows, so does she into her role.

Meanwhile, a rift away, we meet the Elven Laromendis and Gulamendis, demon masters of the elven taredhel, the branch that had fled Midkemia (The Home) before the last of the Valheru, Ashen-Shugar had given them freedom. Fled to Andcardia where now their millions have become thousands under the onslaught of the Dread Legion.
The return of the taredhel to Midkemia brings Aglaranna and Tomas into the mix before a very lengthy meeting on the Sorcerer's Isle of all concerned parties leads to a rapid denouement with startling consequences for all concerned.

Rides a Dread Legion actually reads like a prologue to a new chapter in Midkemia's history. The narrative is as taut as ever, the plot extremely tightly focused on a few places, a few people. There is no sense of a wider world or universe in here but you get the feeling that as this series is published we are about to be subjected to a power well beyond those that we ever dreamed Pug and Tomas (all those years ago in Crydee) would ever know about, let alone be instrumental in.

It is simple. It is Feist.

9/10 It is simple. It is Feist.

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