Magician: Apprentice & Master

Magician: Apprentice & Magician: Master are two books in a series (originally one volume) that started the career of fantasy author Raymond E Feist. They are also the most recent books I’ve undertaken to read.

When I was in grade school and high school I read quite a lot. I’d say I pretty much always had one or another books going at any given time. Once I was out into college and video games became really engrossing and took over a lot of my former reading time. Then later movies and TV became available on the internet and sci-fi and fantasy became standard topics and my reading took a permanent nose dive.

None the less I do crack a novel from time to time. On this occasion my wife and I were playing Ingress (an augmented reality game where you sort of do virtual tagging of real world landmarks) and the game led me to a kind of tiny roadside library. They are something like a large mailbox that invites you to trade books by taking and/or leaving one in the box. Since I was there and smitten with the notion I had to grab a book. I picked out the only fantasy in the box, Magician: Apprentice.

What is it about and what do I think of it?

A young man discovers he has magical powers just as the kingdom in which he lives comes under attack by invaders from another world. There is nothing too revolutionary about it but what I like is that it doesn’t waste time being fancy or artful, it just plows forward with lots of meaningful events for the characters and interesting bits of world lore.

Despite the title there are actually a few main characters that the story follows, the titular Magician Pug as well as his boyhood friend and some of the local nobility. The structure is a bit unorthodox, as the author admits in his foreword to the revised edition, but honestly it works to hold your interest as they chapter out between the main characters stories weaving together a picture of the war between worlds.

I’m now about halfway in the second book Magician: Master and admittedly its bogged down just a bit, but I’m still eager to find out how things play out for Pug and the gang as they face off against a mixed bag of interesting foes. In addition to the brisk plotting the author shows a knack for larger than life characters. Everyone in this book has D&D character written all over them.

Speaking of D&D

One thing that jumped out at me was a plot devise where one of the heroes is slowly transformed  by some magical artifacts into a being of another ancient race now long dead. I had a game master use this exact same plot device on me in a memorable D&D game back in my college years. Seeing what was very likely the inspiration for it brought back some fond memories.

If you are an RPG grognard or historian you will find that likewise Feist borrows heavily from Tekumel, the setting from the Empire of the Petal Throne for his invading army from another dimension. The borrowing was apparently inadvertent but since it is a fantasy setting that is not often copied or imitated it still feels pretty original here.

Creativity is a large part borrowing from others and adding some twists of your own.

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