When my coworker saw me scurrying off to lunch, our doorstop-sized copy of Magician tucked under my arm, she gasped, "Is this your first time?"
Ah, yes, the unintended reading innuendo. Why yes, it was my first time. And I liked it.
So here's the deal with Magician: it is basically fanfic for every fantasy story ever with a heavy emphasis on LOTR. If you read it with that in mind, you can surrender to the run and just go with it. If gentle ripoffs (or as I often think of it, subconscious rewriting of archetypes that you personally admire) bother you a lot, I'd skip Magician. However, you'd be skipping a lot of fantasy fun.
For me, high fantasy books are like cozy blankets to wrap around my soul when it is sad and cold and tired. I was having a sad, cold, tired time and Magician gave me a place in which to lose myself.
Magician is the story of Pug, an orphan in the keep of the Duke of Crydee, and his friend Tomas. Growing up, the boys want nothing more than to become warriors and gain fame and glory. Pug thinks that the Duke's daughter, Carline, is beautiful, but when he's assigned to protect her on a horseback excursion, he realizes that she is vain, stuck-up, and cruel. At this point, Pug's become the apprentice of the local wizard, as it turns out that this orphan has some pretty interesting abilities. Unfortunately, he can't make any of the spells work. Not until Carline is in mortal danger from some trolls does Pug perform magic ... but in an inexplicable way. Meanwhile, Tomas develops a serious crush on the Queen of the Elves.
The isolated existence of the inhabitants of Crydee is shattered when a boat appears one day, shipwrecked on the rocks. Tomas and Pug investigate, and find that the soldiers resemble no one from either the Kingdom of the Isles or the Empire to the south. After the local priest performs a Vulcan mind-meld on a dying, captured soldier, the people realize that they are being invaded from another dimension. The invaders' ship shot through a portal, or rift, in space-time, and these people, the Tsurani, mean to conquer the Kingdom and plunder it for precious metals.
Suddenly, Tomas and Pug become key players in the battle for the freedom of their Kingdom, and begin to realize destinies they never dreamed of having.
While Feist's writing can be a bit uneven (it was his first book--I understand), and he tends to kill off characters in a sentence or two instead of giving them their due, he also keeps things moving at a quick pace. The siege and battle sequences are all particularly well-done, and my favorite character has to be Arutha, the younger Prince of Crydee. Dark, brooding, and brilliant? Sigh.
Once I get through the upcoming batch of ARCs and new YA books, I'll be heading back to the Riftwar Saga books to learn more about Pug, Tomas, Carline, Arutha, and the future of this world.