A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist
|Book Name:||A Darkness at Sethanon|
|Author:||Raymond E. Feist|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||January 1, 1987|
A Darkness at Sethanon is a strange novel. Whilst it brings the Riftwar Saga to a conclusive close, it truly kicked off the large-scale entity now commonly referred to as the Riftwar Cycle, a vast series of Feist’s world that has solidified itself as a permanent and impressive member of the fantasy genre. Feist made a gamble with this book and it was a difficult one to navigate. How can one bring about a satisfying ending to a cataclysmic tale but still provide room for the continuation of a plot within that world? Let me tell you about what I think worked, and what didn’t.
The thematic nature of this trilogy is up and down like a yo-yo on helium. In my previous reviews I explained how Magician was a world-shattering phenomenon, both in our world as well as the fictional worlds it depicts, whilst Silverthorn was more of a sub-par effort which focused primarily on a personal voyage with slight regurgitations of plot from its predecessor. Sethanon, in a valiant effort, attempts to weave both of these vastly different books into some kind of coherent narrative, with a world-threatening plot intermingled with the extension of personal plots kick-started by Silverthorn. In this case it is far more like Magician than Silverthorn was, which was a good thing. By bringing back characters like Pug, Tomas, and Macros the Black and making them core to the plot, Feist reintroduces a sense of scale to the narrative whilst hailing back to the greatness of the original. These characters were sorely lacking from Silverthorn, and their absence was noticeably felt. Tomas, in special mention, is great in this book. It felt like the setup of his character in Magician was actually coming to something at last and his ongoing understanding of his spiritual link to the Valheru helped us as readers appreciate the concept and the power of this ancient race.
However, a significant amount of page time was attributed to Prince Arutha, and although this was not necessarily a bad thing, the actual progress of the plot suffered because of it. A major portion of the novel seemed to be devoted to a grinding siege at Armengar between the forces of Murmandamus and Guy du Bas-Tyra (who finally makes a physical appearance in this book and quickly became my favourite character, mostly due to his grey morality). The time spent at Armengar dragged and the tension was negligible due to the inconsequential result of the battle. It’s supposed to be the fight before the final showdown at Sethanon, yet Sethanon feels like a mere pittance in comparison. The amount of time devoted to each battle was seriously mismanaged by Feist. It’s like devoting half the story of Return of the Jedi to the siege of Hoth but then only a few scenes to the battle of Endor. It just didn’t work for me, and the climax of the novel suffered for it.
The book makes up for the slog of Armengar by having the amazing adventures of Pug and Tomas as a parallel storyline. There is so much imagination involved in everything they do and each page was real fantasy entertainment at its purest. I don’t wish to go into too much detail but let’s just say it involves dragons, demons, and the mysteries of the cosmos. It’s pretty ace.
All in all, this volume offers a satisfactory wrapping up of sub-plots introduced in Magician and expanded upon in Silverthorn. The novel itself is quite short, and because of this, elements of the plot, as well as the characterisation of many of the different personalities, seem to lack depth. It is rather difficult to feel for many of these people as they do appear to be no more than caricatures, yet the concepts of the magic and the extremity of the situation they find themselves in at the climax contribute a great amount of enjoyment and fun. There was also a great revelation about one of the antagonists that caught me completely by surprise (and made so much sense) which I found greatly enjoyable. This novel was not a difficult read and served as a highly entertaining foray into a wild and untameable imagination. It was a suitable conclusion to the tale even if it didn’t dole any genre-bending plotlines or match the untenable heights of Magician’s ambition.
Yet it has heart, and Feist seems to know that his story is more about the ride than the destination, and more about the fun than any kind of emotional moment or didactic lessons. It is entertainment for those who are looking for a magical adventure and I truly feel that it does create a sense of escapism in its wildly fantastical pages. Truly recommended for those who are looking for light, fast-paced, fun.