Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist
|Author:||Raymond E. Feist|
|Release Date:||May 7, 1985|
This one was a strange one. When someone reads a sequel, they, in perhaps a blind state of expectancy, naturally believe the latter to be alike to the former, at least in feel. With Silverthorn, the very idea that is was the official sequel to Magician never really hit me. It didn’t feel like the continuation of the breath-taking story that came before; on the contrary, it seemed to take on the role of an expansion pack, rather like what one might see released for a computer RPG, or, better yet, like some unnecessary padding applied to classic films of the 70s or 80s by directors that just can’t let their masterpieces go. Silverthorn maintained the series’ characters, it kept the same world and environments, it even added some more depth to relationships only previously touched upon, but the mood and themes were entirely different. The soul of Magician was gone.
The biggest and most obvious difference is the scaling back in terms of the plot. The Tsuranni war is over and so all the epic, world-changing events are now a thing of the past. Instead, Silverthorn is an atypical quest plotline. A drastic circumstance has occurred and now a group of protagonists have to find a plant so that a dying person (that you’ve barely spent any time with) can live. That is the story. And so, the majority of pages in this book are consequently dedicated to the adventures of Arutha, Martin, Laurie, and Jimmy the Hand (who gets a major promotion from his very minor role in the original). They come across some new friends along the way and ultimately have a whale of a time marching across Midkemia, coming across enemies at every turn and ultimately succeeding (with almost everything going their way). There is no climax as such, and very little difficulty involved in their quest, but these elements are not necessarily sins. The problem for me here was the lack of originality in the storytelling.
Whereas Magician introduces incredible concepts, wild world-building, and a host of characters each with their own individual stories; involving political double-dealing, major warfare, and enough seismic-scale magic to break two worlds, Silverthorn, in contrast, is a simple run and fetch mission. Where was the depth I had come to appreciate from Feist? Where was the real danger? There was nothing on that level until well into the novel’s plot, and by then it felt like little more than an after-thought.
Pug, the major character of Magician, is left out of this novel (in any significant capacity) for a considerable amount of time. An odd choice for Feist to make in his first direct sequel. He receives much less page time than Jimmy the Hand (who gains an unprecedented amount of love from the author) and when he finally does come back onto the scene properly his parts are the best bits, even if his time on Kelawan felt like a quick re-hash of his actions in Magician. (*SPOILERS* Instead of showing the world how to defeat an oppressive Warlord in one long magical moment, he shows the world how to defeat an oppressive Warlord in one quick easy step with his hands tied behind his back, whilst he’s asleep. *End Spoilers*)
It was at the moment when Pug began to be included in this book when I finally had a revelation. I knew what this novel truly was. It’s a bridge, no more, no less. With Arutha’s plot you have a current storyline to appease and to tide things over until the third novel, whilst with Pug’s you have the implications of a stronger foe and the foreshadowing of events to come. The new villain, an almost non-entity of an antagonist, is a dark elf (or Moredhel) called Murmandamus. He isn’t really much of a character but the ability of his forces to come back from death and be almost indestructible was, quite honestly, an exciting addition to the plot. Murmandamus himself doesn’t appear to do much however, and it seems almost obvious that he too is being built up purely for a climax at the end of the trilogy.
Because of this evident stringing out of plot threads – in a way to connect Magician to A Darkness at Sethanon – Silverthorn struggles as a novel on its own merit. As a medium with which to explain and explore how characters have got from the point A at the end of Magician to the point B of the beginning of Sethanon it is perhaps incredibly necessary, but I can’t help but wonder why Feist didn’t see the need to flesh the story out a little bit, to make it feel akin to its predecessor. Instead what we receive is a rather weak middle act of a trilogy that probably could have worked better as a duology. If Feist wanted to make this book stand out he could have included Tomas, a major character of Magician, in it a bit more rather than relegating him to about three pages of activity in this volume. Alternatively, he could have retained and expanded upon the original and mind-bending concepts and storylines that made Magician so great.
It’s a shame really. Silverthorn is not a bad novel. Yes, it does suffer from its rather basic and underdeveloped storyline, but it is still a rather enjoyable read with fun character moments and good action sequences. I did not dislike it and that is of major importance to me. However, it does struggle to exist independently in the shadow of its older brother. I can only speculate that a number of the original readers of Feist, waiting with baited breath for the publication of Magician’s sequel, must have been rather disappointed with this entry in the series. It is really nothing like what has come before what with its merciless narrowing down of scope as well as its lack of significant consequences. Instead it functions as a ‘What happened next’ narrative with a promise of more of what we loved from the first novel to reappear in the third.
I hope that this promise is not lacking and that A Darkness of Sethanon can recapture the quality of the original. In the meantime Silverthorn works as an unmemorable bridge between the inception and the climax of the trilogy’s narrative, with Murmandamus now a real burgeoning threat and Pug developing into the character he needs to be.