Friday, June 27, 2008

Buccaneers Ahoy

The King's Buccaneer, Raymond E. FeistThe next book in the series (well, more or less the next book), The King's Buccaneer, introduces us to Prince Arutha's youngest son, Nicholas, or Nicky.

Nicky is described as looking the most like his father, while his brothers look more like their mother, Princess Anita. There is a big difference though: Nicky was born with a club foot, which no amount of clerical magic can heal. Prince Arutha and Princess Anita have had him examined by powerful priests of all the holy orders, but no healing was ever accomplished, and there is no explanation why the healings did not work. Nicky is a young man now, an accomplished swordsman in spite of the limp caused by the club foot. (Arutha and Anita have another child, but we don't learn much about their daughter. She ends up married off to some noble, and we really don't get to know her at all.)

Besides looking like his father (except for the club foot), Nicky has a lot of Arutha's personality. Nicky, like Arutha, tends to "brood" when deep in thought or upset. And Nicky is upset frequently, as he feels that most people talk about him behind his back, making fun of him as "the Prince's cripple son." Nicky definitely has as chip on his shoulder about that, but he takes his role as noble (and his father's son) seriously - he doesn't like it when his friend Squire Harry is a bit too insistent on flirting with the serving women. Nicky and Harry are more friends than Prince and servant, and Nicky rarely orders Harry around, but he makes a point of telling Harry to knock it off.

Nicky is a bit of a spoiled noble, not as bad as his brothers, but he is privileged and knows it. Arutha is more worried that Nicky is too soft and tender to be a good commander - all of his sons are destined to hold strong positions in the kingdom, since King Lyam has no sons of his own. Borric and Erland went off to fight goblins and command troops, and on their trip to Kesh they proved that they were more than spoiled boys. Nicky, however, has never demonstrated the ability to be a leader.

Arutha decides to pack Nicky and Harry off to be hardened on the frontier, at Crydee with Arutha's brother Duke Martin. Arrangements are made quickly, more or less to prevent Anita from developing strong objections and the prevent Arutha from changing his mind. Also going to Crydee are the strange not-magician Nakor, and the mercenary Ghuda, who we met in the last book (Prince of the Blood) as companions of Borric.

At Crydee, Nicky and Harry are in for a bit of culture shock, as there they really have no rank - or at least not the privileged rank they are used to. Martin decides the boys will act as Squires - Nicky for Duke Martin and Harry for his son Marcus. This is a bit more hard work than the work Harry and Nicky were used to in the luxury of Prince Arutha's court.

Still, the boys begin to settle down, and they are learning about the place they live now. While they are out in the forest hunting with Duke Martin and Marcus, Crydee is attacked, and the raiders take a number of common people hostage, plus Duke Martin's daughter Margaret and her companion Abigail, daughter of a noble.

Nicky leads an expedition to rescue the hostages, pulling rank on Duke Martin in the process (a Prince's authority outranks a Duke). He's accompanied by Harry, Marcus, Nakor, Ghuda, the castle magician Anthony, and the half-elf prince Calis. The voyage takes them across the sea to a continent no one has visited, and an enemy that has a horrible use for the hostages.

Nicky not only pulls rank, he grows as an individual through leadership. He has to face what kept him from having his foot healed as a child, and also learn how to lead men. If he isn't successful, then not only will all the hostages die, a lot more people in the Kingdom will as well.

The plot of The King's Buccaneer is where the plot for the arc of the whole series takes off. Unlike the previous book, this one is a major must-read to understand what happens in the next books.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Order of the Riftwar Cycle Books

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the order you should read Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar books is a very hot debate among his fans.

Am I missing something here? Am I not a big enough fan? I guess maybe I'm not emotionally involved enough in the question to cover multiple forums with debates about in what order the books should be read.

I did find a list I thought made quite a bit of sense, so I decided to copy it for my future reference. Unfortunately, I have now forgotten just where I found it (among those multiple forum postings), so you'll just have to take my word that a good number of fans seemed to agree that it was a good order to read the books, so things would follow the storyline more or less correctly.

I say more or less because there are minor details that can vary. Most of the Riftwar Cycle (as Feist calls it), is written in trilogies that deal with the lives of one or two major characters at a time, and then the next trilogy advances the storyline, but also covers maybe the next generation. But sometimes he skips around in time.

Like, x series was written before y series, but y series actually covers a time period before x series. So it can get a bit confusing. and it you accidentally skip y series (like I did), then you get hints (or spoilers) about what happened in the series you accidentally skipped. Also, because x series was written before y series, but y series actually occurs first in the time line, you can get small discrepancies in details. Mostly these are minor, and can be passed off as the differences in points of view, the same way two people will observe an event but never tell the exact same story about what happened.

So, with that long introduction, here's the list of books, as they fit into the story line, followed by their year of publication in parentheses:

The Riftwar Saga
Magician: Apprentice (1982)
Magician: Master (1982)
Silverthorn (1985)
A Darkness at Sethanon (1986)

Legends of the Riftwar (take place during the events of Magician)
Honored Enemy (2001)
Murder in LaMut (2002)
Jimmy the Hand (2003)

The Empire Trilogy (takes place during the events of The Riftwar Saga)
Daughter of the Empire (1987)
Servant of the Empire (1990)
Mistress of the Empire (1992)

The Riftwar Legacy (takes place 10 years after The Riftwar Saga)
Krondor: the Betrayal (1998) (based on the PC game Betrayal at Krondor)
Krondor: the Assassins (1999)
Krondor: Tear of the Gods (2000) (based on the PC game Return to Krondor)

Krondor's Sons
Prince of the Blood (1989) (takes place 20 years after The Riftwar Saga)
The King's Buccaneer (1992) (takes place 30 years after The Riftwar Saga)

The Serpentwar Saga (takes place 55 years after The Riftwar Saga)
Shadow of a Dark Queen (1993)
Rise of a Merchant Prince (1995)
Rage of a Demon King (1997)
Shards of a Broken Crown (1998)

The Conclave of Shadows (begins 85 years after The Riftwar Saga)
Talon of the Silver Hawk (2002)
King of Foxes (2003)
Exile's Return (2004)

The Darkwar Saga (follows on from the end of Conclave of Shadows)
Flight of the Nighthawks (2005)
Into a Dark Realm (2006)
Wrath of a Mad God (2008)

The Demonwar Saga
2 books forthcoming, presumably in 2009 and 2010

The Godswar Saga
3 books forthcoming, presumably in 2011-2013

So, as you can see by the publication date, there is a bit of jumping around. The original Riftwar Saga books were published from 1982 through 1986. Then it's followed by the Legends of the Riftwar books published in 2001 through 2003, which is followed in the story line by the Riftwar Legacy books published, in 1998 through 2000, then the Krondor Sons books written in 1989 and 1992. Yeah, there's a bit of jumping around going on.

What's even more fun? Originally the Riftwar Legacy stories were not novels - they were computer RPG games, which were then turned into the novels.

If you are one of those forum posters, please send me the link and I'll correct my post to give you proper credit!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Still Plugging Along ...

So, I'm still working my way through the Raymond E. Feist Riftwar Cycle books. It just happens that there are a LOT of them. And Mr. Feist didn't write them in the same order as they should be read.

Which, I have to say, having an author go back and write more books about your favorite characters is not a bad thing, not by any stretch of the imagination.

It just makes it a little difficult to catch up with the story line when you've been away from it for a little while.

I find myself needing to google the proper order to read the novels. Should I read them in the order they were written? or should I instead read them in the order of the story line? Oh, and it turns out that that particular google search is a fairly common one, and also? Feist fans have definite opinions on it. Whole freaking forums debate that very topic.

Anyway, I discovered that I already deviated from the "story line" time line, because I don't have one of the novels. Not sure how that happened, but occasionally I couldn't wait for the paperback and ended up borrowing the hardback from the library. Then sometimes when I next go to the bookstore I forget that I haven't bought that book, and instead just think, "oh, I must have that, I remember reading it already."

Since I've deviated form the storyline a little bit already, I'm going to go ahead and cover Arutha's son Nicky, like I promised you last time, and then I'll go back and cover the important points of the books I missed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fearless in Thousand Oaks, CA

As much as I love books, until Sunday I had never attended a book signing. Partly this is due to not living in the middle of a major metropolitan area, and partly it is due to not reading much from really huge, well-known, New York Times Best-Sellers list authors.

However, just this past Sunday, June 22, Janet Evanovich (um, yeah, she is one of those New York Times Best Selling authors) was in a city nearby, and I attended with my mom and aunt.

Janet Evanovich in Thousand Oaks, CA
Janet Evanovich in Mysteries to Die For, Thousand Oaks, CA

Mysteries to Die For was a really fun bookstore. They don't have a lot of square footage, and in fact they are a very small book store that specializes in mystery novels.

Now, never having attended a book signing prior to this, I was really impressed with the bookstore's system for moving people through the line quickly and efficiently. Janet did not do a "talk," or a discussion of her work, she was there strictly to sign. Apparently, this was not an official stop on her book tour - she squeezed it in because she likes the feel of the small book stores, and wants to support them.

So, since she just sat down and started signing, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly we moved through the line. My mom did most of the leg work for us - she has been to a couple of signings and knows "the drill." This signing had about 300 places in line. You signed up to buy a book, and they would give you a place in line. My mom picked up our books on the Wednesday before the signing, and we were number 86 and 87 in line.

We got there early (so did most people), and there was a table set up in the parking lot to sign in and get your book and line number, if you didn't pick up your book early. Having the table in the parking lot was great, because it kept people out of the store once the line started moving through the store to the signing table. Could you imagine a line of impatient people, being cut off because some late arrival wants to sign in? Yeah, this system was much better.

Once you had your line number, you just waited around until they called your number. The store staff posted a dry-erase board about 6 feet off the ground, and they wrote the numbers they were calling up on the board, so everyone down the line could see what numbers were up (no outdoor paging system). This white board system was great, because we could just look up at any time and see the numbers they were calling.

Once they put "85-95" up on the white board, we moved to the waiting area, and then one of the employees would move people in a few at a time. As people came out, we moved up until we were finally inside the store. Then we stopped at a podium where another employee asked you what you wanted Janet to sign, and then she wrote it on a post-it note in clear printing, and opened the book to the proper page so Janet's time wasn't wasted with unnecessary page turning (hey, with 300 fans in line, and some of them bringing 5 or 6 of her previous books for her to sign, that's a lot of pages to flip!).

Fearless Fourteen, Signed by Janet Evanovich!
Fearless Fourteen, Signed by Janet Evanovich!

My aunt had her book personalized to her. I decided that I would go for the more generic "signature and date" format because my real name has an odd spelling, and I didn't want to do the "no, I spell it this way", "but you said that", "yes, but I spell it this way" conversation. I have had a lot of those stupid back-and-forth-name-spelling debates over the years, and I mostly do whatever I can to avoid pointless time-wasting.

All-in-all, it was a really fun morning. The line moved really quickly, due in large part to the streamlined process the store employees put together. The signing started at 10 AM, and we were signed and done by 10:30. Almost a hundred fans in 30 minutes, not bad (and, like I said, some people brought bags of her books for her to sign!).

Oh, and a really nice young girl (someone said it was Janet's daughter) was going around to the fans asking, "OK, Ranger or Morelli?" and depending on what you said, she gave you a post-card sized sticker.

I (heart) Ranger

Yup, Ranger's my man.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Princely Behavior ... Or Lack Thereof

The next book in the series, Prince Of The Blood, doesn't really fit into the Riftwar Series, or any of the other Raymond E. Feist books that followed. Which is odd, because Feist seems to have a master plan that involves a very convoluted overall story.

Prince of the Blood is fairly close to a stand alone book, although it introduces us to characters who show up in later books. The basic premise is that it is many years after the events of A Darkness at Sethanon, and Prince Arutha now has several children. Unfortunately, the oldest two, twins Borric (elder) and Erland, are close to the typical noble's sons - spoiled, privileged, and a bit out of control.

Arutha has tried everything he can think of to keep them in check, but it isn't working. Compounding the problem is that the King, Arutha's brother Lyam, has no heir, the crown prince having died at 15 in an accident, and only daughters since that time.

Lyam is approaching the age where men (in this medieval-age world) is being considered "old," and Arutha is not much younger than him. Arutha and Lyam have decided that Arutha will not inherit, and Borric will be named heir. Unfortunately, spoiled children are not what the kingdom needs for stability.

In an effort to convince his eldest sons of their duties to the kingdom (duties Arutha has always taken very seriously), Arutha and Lyam have decided to send Borric and Erland to the neighboring Empire of Kesh as ambassadors during the Empress' Jubilee Celebration (with a great deal of supervision!).

Prince Of The Blood

Plots to kill the princes pop up before they even leave on their journey. However, they can't back out of travel because the intelligence forces (spies) fear that someone in Kesh is trying to frighten Arutha into keeping his sons home in an effort to incite war between the two countries. Basically, backing out now would be a grave insult to the Empress of Kesh, now that they have accepted her invitation.

While I enjoyed this book, I keep coming back to the thought that the main purpose of the story is to set the stage for the introduction of a couple of characters, who pop up in the next book, featuring Arutha's youngest son, Nicholas.



New Cover Art, Prince Of The BloodOn a side note, don't you love the cover art on the versions of the books I have? I love the detail, and how as you're reading the books you can flip to look at the cover, and imagine exactly who is who in the picture. The newer, "Anniversary Edition" books just aren't the same, for some reason. I stole this image from Amazon, so the big arrow at the top was added by them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Shark!

So this was fun!

Every year, husband splorp!'s good friend spatula either rides or volunteers for AIDS/LifeCycle. The route runs right through one of our our neighboring cities, and since spatula is basically camping for the week with mediocre food, splorp! and I like to take the opportunity to treat spatula to great crab at a well-known , really good seafood chain.

Spatula and splorp! indulged in a really big drink each, which was aptly named the "Shark Bite."

This was the garnish:

Shark Bleeding from Mouth!
Shark with grenadine "blood"


Mmm, tasty!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Darkness Grows

A Darkness At Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist really seems to find his groove with these characters.

Arutha was fun, and we get to see a lot more of him in A Darkness At Sethanon, but we also get to see more of Jimmy the Hand again.

While I didn't have quite the crush on Jimmy that I had on Arutha, I really enjoyed Jimmy. The idea that a boy born to the common people (a boy who was a thief until he royally pissed off the guild of thieves) could become a noble, and learn to rise above his poor beginnings ...

Don't we all kind of wish for that?

A Darkness At Sethanon is still very much Arutha's story, but Jimmy is a bigger part of it. You get a real sense that Jimmy has no idea why he is doing it, but he has dedicated the remainder of his life to this Prince, and whatever Arutha asks of him, Jimmy will do with no hesitation, no questioning. The real meaning of unshakable loyalty.

We also get to learn more about the great magic users, the magicians, sorcerers, and other beings we have met in passing in this ongoing saga.

The history of the Dragon Lords, the Valheru, is revealed, we get up close and personal with a dragon, the magicians play around with time, and we see the beginning of the universe through their eyes. How much better can it get?

Big armies, big wars, big explosions, if this was a movie it would be full of so much fire and blood it would definitely be rated 'R' for violence. And yet, there's no sex, no foul language, and the story is gripping. The evil is evil, and the good is good - all very black and white.

Isn't that the best way to have a fight between good and evil? Black and white?


Friday, June 6, 2008

Thorny Situations

Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist
The next book in the Riftwar saga, by Raymond E. Feist is Silverthorn. Nifty name, huh?

This book introduces us more to Prince Arutha. We saw a bit of him in the Magician books, but this is a whole book dedicated to just him. Which was fine with me, because when reading Magician, I was half in love with Arutha.

He just seemed, I don't know ... so dashing. Young, handsome, with dark hair, a great swordsman, and a tendency to "brood" upon heavy matters.

Unfortunately for me (fortunately for husband splorp!), Arutha is only a character, so I couldn't get too attached to him.

Anyway, in Silverthorn, Arutha is about to marry the woman he loves, the Princess Anita. Technically she's a distant cousin, but you know how these royals are, they all inter-marry so the powerful positions stay in the family.

So, Arutha and Anita are about to be married, when the young thief, Jimmy the Hand, saves Arutha from being assassinated, but causes the assassin's crossbow bolt to hit Anita instead. But, uh-oh! Not only was she shot, the crossbow bolt was poisoned with a strange exotic poison. Enter the magician from Magician, and Anita is semi-saved. Basically she's frozen in time, so Arutha has time to find the antidote and save her.

Arutha was a great deal of fun, but we also got to learn more about Jimmy the Hand, a character who was only barely touched upon in the Magician books.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Feist-y Storytelling

Magician Books by Raymond E. Feist
Lately I have been raiding my bookshelves looking for something that I haven't read in a while. I go through phases where it seems like I've read everything a million times, and there's nothing left in the house to read.

This inspires feelings of despair, but they're generally short lived.

To move past the despair, I picked up a book I haven't read in a while, Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar series. This story spans two worlds, and is one of my all-time favorites.

The story begins with the book Magician, which is usually found as a two-parter, though it was originally written as one. Publishers knowing best, it was broken into two books to make it more appealing to the consumer.

This is the beginning of a story that covers two worlds, a huge war, and has all the best elements of any fantasy story: Elves, Magicians, Princes, Thieves, Dragons, and much more.

The best part of this story is that it is only the beginning of an ongoing series, and it just seems to keep getting better and better.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Developing Character

One of the reasons I love to read so much has to do with reading about the lives of the characters.

A really good author can make you feel like you intimately know the characters in the book.

This is not something that movies can do in their relatively short 2 hours or so. A very few TV shows can do it, but it frequently takes multiple seasons before you know enough about a TV character that you feel like they could be your sister. TV shows can live or die based on whether they can pull you in enough that you care about the characters.

When it comes to books, authors have a much more expressive medium. Sure, maybe it takes two pages or so, but you have a much more complete picture of what motivates the character do take certain actions. It's hard for an actor's facial expressions to convey the full back story of why a character hates his mother, while a book can fully explore the fact that the mother was abusive and belittled the boy all his life, while his father did nothing to intervene, and the character is now gazing at a little old lady while contemplating how he would like to murder her to avenge his lost childhood.

The eyes are the window to the soul, but there's a lot that can't be said simply by passive watching. Actively reading and imagining the story is a joy that can never be replaced.