...I'll just pretend this thread isn't half a year old.
I seem to be the statistical outlier in terms of reviews again. I fully expected to like this book and was kind of hyped for it (well, as hyped as I could be after waiting and waiting and waiting for it to be released in Germany and finally giving up and getting hold of it through other means). But I found that I could very barely get through it. I'm not even sure if I'm qualified to say I read it. I skimmed a lot
Maybe it's because I've been spoiled rotten reading Pratchett's and Trudi Canavan's stuff lately, but while the prologue with the demons (and indeed the whole storyline with them) was engaging, Feist's writing style has been bothering me more than it used to, so much that I cringed through a lot of the scenes. In a word: Pacing and description. What happened to effective introduction of characters? Feist is still doing infodumps - and worse still, he's interspersing them with bits of dialog or, gods forbid, action sequences. It completely wrecks any sense of pacing. The first chapter is especially atrocious - just read the start of the conversation between Martin, Brendan and Bethany and count how many lines of actual dialog a page contains when showing what's supposed to be a flowing conversation.
I've complained that Feist has utterly forgotten the "Show, not tell" rule, and the problem still persists.
Speaking of those three, I just couldn't bring myself to care for these new characters (or Hal, or Ty) at all. Maybe it's the shoddy writing style. Maybe it's just me. But why do they even need to be there? There's only so many examples of the "young, inexperienced, talented and privileged nobleman/woman" template Feist can use before they become very interchangeable, and borrowing names from previous characters/historical legends isn't helping. The constant attempts to characterise them through references to the heroes of previous books are also tiresome.
Aside from the writing, my problem with this book is pretty simple: about 90% of the screentime belongs to characters I likewise couldn't be brought to care for when they were introduced. Sandreena and Jim Dasher are particular examples - they were both introduced with huge infodumps on their personal history, talents and abilities, and for some reason that makes me distinctly non-curious to keep reading about them. They also came as pretty much complete packages, with an intricate backstory, but one that never happens on-screen, and they change very little since their introduction. Like Jim Dasher's thing with Franzieska. The woman he loves, but can never be with. That's very touching, but I never saw their complicated relationship develop or unfold, never witnessed the moment when it was clear that it wasn't meant meant to be. I have no emotional investment in it. You can't just suddenly conjure up this new facet and expect me to care about it.
Bringing Tal Hawkins back, and giving him a kid to boot (because there weren't enough young noblemen characters already, it seems) also left a bad taste in my mouth, as I consider him one of Feist's worst characters. (In a nutshell, he's perfectly skilled and talented at pretty much everything, in a way that does certain characters legendary for a particular skill much disservice. Also, that arm-regrowing thing. Yeah.) The "Jommy, Tad and Zane" trio similarly - I found them completely un-memorable from the books they were in.
Now, Amirantha, Pug, the taredhel - those are still pretty interesting, but most of them had pretty few appearances and, more importantly, little stuff to do. It's especially weird with the taredhel in general after so much hype over their settlement on Midkemia in RaDL. I couldn't find much interest for reading about Kingdom/Keshian politics all of a sudden. Feist keeps jumping between interdimensional-type stuff and petty court and inter-kingdom politics, and it's kind of jarring. And why would it be Kesh again? Why not the moredhel or the eledhel, who are much more closely related to the entire fundamental struggle of the cycle? The eledhel especially are direly in need of characterisation. Thirty books, and they're still an obscure nation of Mary Sues living in a flawless utopia (as in "seen by the author and thus the narrative as flawless", not genuinely flawless, which is subjective, and ought to be acknowledged in-universe as such) with completely unexplained and puzzling traits. (Why do they have a queen? What do they do all day? How come they're all Lawful Good and never turn evil-ish, if they and the moredhel are the same people? Are they being brainwashed into goodness by the Spellweavers? No wait, that would be controversial. We can't have them being controversial. Plot holes are much better, yes.) Barring that, I'd rather read more of the Tsurani and their resettlement, to be honest. At least they're a culture we've come to genuinely know and love from previous books, one that means
something to us.
Some of the touches were pretty interesting - the Child arc, the foreshadowed loopholy-role of the Hall of Worlds, the role of the Nighthawks, and of course the final chapter and indeed the final line... But that's where it was just getting good, and the book stopped. It felt very short. As in, too little has happened. I liked At the Gates of Darkness, but that one was already
an information-gathering type plot. I didn't feel that the characters moved forward very much - there is the confirmation that 'Le gasp! It's the Dread!' but even a casual reader was aware of that at least in the previous book.
So... I'm hesitant to call it the worst ever book, but it IS the first Feist book I've had major trouble reading. I feel that Feist has been very lazy in creating characters lately and the writing style is shoddy. Even the RPG-like style of the Legacy books was better - at least it was to the point. So I'm kind of puzzled by the comments that the "old Feist" is back and am glad I was lent the book, because I sure would've regretted paying its price for it. Maybe there's something I'm missing?