Magician: Apprentice (1982)
Spine Front Cover Book Details
Raymond E. Feist
Publication Date 1998
Format Leather-bound (245 x 160 mm)
Publisher The Easton Press
Genre Fantasy
Product Details
Series Masterpieces of Fantasy
Edition Signed Edition
No. of Pages 333
Paper Type Acid-neutral paper
First Edition No
Personal Details
URL This book on
Rating 9
No. of Reviews 225
Frontispiece/Illustrator Don Maitz
Original Details
Original Publisher Doubleday
Original Publication Year 1982
To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry. Yet Pug's strange sort of magic would one day change forever the fates of two worlds. For dark beings from another world had opened a rift in the fabric of spacetime to being again the age-old battle between the forces of Order and Chaos.

The rise of the fantasy genre to widespread popularity among young people (and some not so young) coincided with the creation and broad participation in fantasy role-playing games. It was inevi table, perhaps, that role-playing, much of which was inspired by fiction, would cross-fertilize the fiction itself. Role-playing has produced such science fiction works as Larry Niven's Dream Park series with Steven Barnes, as well as others, some utilizing the convention of human translation into computer worlds. The concept of being trapped into real-life games has spread to films like the 1982 Tron and, more recently, the adaptation of actual games to film. But the influence of games is most evident in the fantasy from which it sprang. One of its most adept practitioners is Raymond E. Feist, who enjoyed a career as a designer of fantasy role-playing games before he turned to fiction.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction traces fantasy games to the late 1960s. It followed on the heels of modern fantasy itself. As David Pringle pointed out in Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels, the U.S. editions of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings came in 1965 and 1966, Robert E. Howard's Conan was revived at almost the same time, Ira Levin'sRosemary s Baby was published in 1967, Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" stories were collected and began to be published in paperback in 1968, and Ursula K. Le Gum's first Earthsea novel and Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn were published the same year. The first important fantasy game, Slobbovia, based on Al Capp's "Li'l Abner," was released in 1969. Other fantasy games followed: Armageddon, Midgard, Battle of Helm's Deep, Siege of Minas Tirith, Sorcerer, and even War of the Rings, based on The Lord of the Rings. The first fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, developed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arenson, came out in 1974, and soon proliferated into a variety of games, often based on particular novels or mythologies, and a number of money-making spin-offs, such as rule books, character packs, special dice, posters, CDs, magazines, and other products, including novels based upon the games. These, in turn, have branched into gamebooks with decision trees, story telling games, board games, and, most recently, collectible card games, which have made Wizards of the Coast in Seattle so profitable that it has bought TSR, the owners of Dungeons and Dragons and its publishing empire.

Some of the companies that rode the role-playing game wave branched out into general publishing, like TSR, White Wolf, and, for a while, Wizards of the Coast. And the creators of these games, which often consume years of effort, have sometimes turned to the similar, but less exhausting, challenge of writing fantasy novels.

Among them was Raymond E. Feist. His first novel, and still perhaps his best, was Magician, published in 1982 and subsequently, in paperback, in two volumes in 1986 as Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master. Ian Nichols, in The St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, compares Feist to mainstream author James Clavell; where Clavell researches his historical novels in great detail, Feist imagines his fantasy worlds with equal detail.

Magician is part of a Riftwar series that continues with Silver- thorn (1985),A Darkness at Sethanon (1986),Prince of the Blood (1989), The King's Buccaneer (1992), Shadow of a Dark Queen (1994), and Rise of a Merchant Prince (1995), all placed in the same fantasy world whose major event is the invasion of a world by armies and magicians from another dimension. The "rifts" between dimensions serve as portals between worlds.

The land of Midkemia is medieval, encompassing the castle of Crydee, where two young friends, Tomas and Pug, are apprenticed to the sword master and the court magician, respectively, until they are separated by the invasion from the oriental, militaristic Kelewan. In some ways it is a typical Bildungsroman , as Tomas learns to be a hero and Pug, to be a wizard, and both learn that they must play vital roles in the upcoming battle, but it also is a struggle of realities, as the reader learns that underneath the immediate conflict is an ancient war between the Valheru and the gods who have established their own domains upon Midkemia.

Feist's narrative technique is to feature several protagonists rather than one and to follow each in turn to a cliff-hanging conclusion at the end of each chapter. It is a technique older than its earlier master, Edgar Rice Burroughs, but nobody does it better than Feist. The fantasies also feature many of the characteristics classified by John Clute in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

Much of what Clute has to say about fantasy is drawn from the example of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which Clute considers "the paradigm 20th-century text." Clute writes, "When set in this world, [which] tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive it; when set in an otherworld, the otherworld will be impossible, though stories set there may be possible in its terms." Clute traces the "otherworld" concept to a statement on "The Fantastic Imagination" by George MacDonald in his 1893 A Dish of Orts: "The natural world has its laws, [which] themselves may suggest laws of other kinds, and man may, if he pleases, invent a little world of his own, with its own laws." The "natural venue" for what Clute calls "the self-coherent impossible tale" is "an internally coherent impossible world in which that tale is possible."

In his 1939 essay "On Fairy-Tales," Tolkien himself described fantasy as a tale set in the enchantment known as Faerie, and which tells of marvels. He laid down four elements he considered essential to the fairy tale (i.e., fantasy): Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, and Consolation. "Fantasy" involves the "secondary world" that Tolkien did so much to establish as the primary place of fantasy and whose creation in The Lord of the Rings provided the modern example that shaped so much of what has subsequently been published. "Recovery" includes "recovery of freshness of vision," which Clute interprets as "a capacity to see things as we are meant. . . to see them." "Escape" is the "escape of the prisoner'.' - that is, from the modern world into the secondary world. "Consolation," Clute says, means the "eucata strophe" or happy ending.

Clute differentiates fantasy from those categories often associated with it, supernatural fiction and horror. "Fantasy stories are defined here as stories which require completion, and which can be distinguished from their siblings. . . by this requirement." Supernatural fictions and horror have plots that "often terminate - shockingly - before any resolution can be achieved." "Genre fantasy," he points out, "is normally structured so as to defer completion indefinitely, to lead readers into sequel after sequel..."

In a sense Feist fits Clute's definition of an author of genre fantasy, and Clute concludes the entry on Feist in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy with the description of Feist as "an adept manipulator of standard materials." In the sense that almost all of Feist's novels have been placed in the secondary world established in his first novel, this judgment has some validity. As Ian Nichols has pointed out, "The initial triad of the Riftwar series, Magician, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon, remain Feist's strongest works. Perhaps this is because these were the works which introduced the twin worlds of the Tsurani and Crydee to us, and in which Feist's imagination was given freest rein." But a richly imagined "secondary world" is like a good fantasy role-playing game; the players can produce an infinite number of satisfying variations upon their individual adventures. And Nichols continues: "In the first series, Feist challenged some of the prescripts of the Fantasy genre, and this contributed to the interest which that series held."

While the novels placed in the Riftwar series are mainly about Midkemia and its inhabitants, the books of the Empire series, written in collaboration with Janny Wurts, are about the world of Kelewan: Daughter of the Empire (1987), Servant of the Empire (1990), and Mistress of the Empire (1992). In this trilogy, a female protagonist must battle various families to win wealth, husband, and heirs. The central theme of the story is the "Great Game" which the nobles play, a constant struggle to maneuver for greater power. Feist also has written a stand-alone novel, Faerie Tale, about a house haunted by warring supernatural forces, the abduction of a child, and the quest of his twin to the land of Faerie to obtain his release.

Feist, born in 1945, continues to produce significant work that has reached a sizable audience. As Nichols observes, "What remains to be seen is whether Feist can pull off the trick of creating a fascinating world more than once. He has certainly done so with what he has written so far."

James Gunn
Lawrence, Kansas
January 30, 1998