First proper post!
Let me start off by showing you all the book copy I'm reading this day. It's a tenth anniversary UK edition, that looks like this:
Thankfully, it doesn't look like this:
If you follow-up reviews of this wonderful book, you'll hear comments like 'the benchmark of fantasy' and other strong proclamations.
On the back, it says at the top:
EPIC HEROIC FANTASY IN THE GREAT TRADITION
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first publication of his classic fantasy novel Magician, Raymond E. Feist has prepared a new, revised edition, to incorporate over 15,000 (reader: sheesh) words of text omitted from previous editions so that, in his own words, 'it is essentially the book I would have written had I the skills I possess today'.
At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician (reader: not another) - and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever. Suddenly the peace of the Kingdom is destroyed as mysterious alien invaders (reader: ooh) swarm through the land. Pug is swept up into the conflict but for him and his warrior friend, Tomas, an odyssey into the unknown has only just begun. Tomas will inherit a legacy of savage power from an ancient civilisation. Pug's destiny is to lead him through a rift in the fabric of space and time to the mastery of the unimaginable powers of a strange new magic...
Now, personally, I consider that one of the best synopsis's that I am ever likely to read. It's straight-forward, it's interesting and it gives you enough to make you want to see what it's all about. The mention of Tomas inheriting a legacy of savage power, while Pug masters magic unlike anything he knows, gives away the plot a bit, which would be my only complaint.
And, of course, blurbs on the back:
'Epic scope...fast-moving action...vivid imagination.'WASHINGTON POST
'Tons of intrigue and action'PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Right, now that that is out of the way, I can open this battered copy I hold - it has been read over 10 times and has been carried as far as Egypt and the Americas.
*skips part concerning the author, assuming people know who he is, and what he has written* (see Alrin's FAQ
Ray starts with dedicating the book to his Dad, Felix, and then embarks on the usual acknowledgements, followed by a special one for the revised edition. He thanks a bunch of people again, Janny Wurts, in particular, co-author of the Empire
trilogy, who helped bring the Tsurani world and civilisation really to life. Thank you, Janny!!
'She helped turn the Game of the Council from a vague concept to a murderously real arena of human conflict.
' - REF
He then begins to talk about the problems with doing a revised edition, in his Foreword, as I have read before with other authors. If anyone here has read both, can they drop some opinions? He finished that Foreword in '91...I just wonder if we'll see a 30th year edition published next year.
Pug and Tomas
A boy's will is the wind's will,
and the thoughts of the youth are
long, long thoughts.
- Longfellow, My Lost Youth
So begins the adventures of a sun-streaked brown haired boy, dancing among the rocks. That would come to prove to be a strong metaphor for Pug's long tumultuous life. He deals with a lot of great difficulty in this opening chapter, struggling to even perform basic tasks, due to the stormy weather. We later find-out that it was, in fact, Macros whom had conjured the storm to begin with (oops! Spoiler)...Winds up injuring himself in the process, and almost dying. I had always assumed it would have had something to do with the Tsurani rift opening and the Great One's magic causing it. Alas.The small trees started to bend before the wind, and Pug felt as if a great hand were pushing at his back,
Hmm. Taken in it's vague meaning, you wouldn't know that there was magic involved, but we know better.
Pug finds small sanctuary, travelling along the King's Road, for nearly an hour...He knew he was in danger now, for the storm was gaining in fury far beyond normal for this time of year. Great ragged bolts of lightning lit the dark landscape, briefly outlining the trees and road in harsh, brilliant white and opaque black. The dazzling afterimages, black and white reversed, stayed with him for a moment each time, confusing his senses. Enormous thunder peals sounding overhead felt like physical blows. Now his fear of the storm outweighed his fear of imagined brigands and goblins. He decided to walk among the trees near the road; the wind would be lessened somewhat by the boles of the oaks.
Recently, I read Robert Holdstock's highly celebrated Mythago Wood
novel, and I'm in strong belief that the writing in this novel is on a par with that book. The descriptive qualities of each pull you in and are powerful enough to keep you there!
Back to the book, Pug is confronted by a panic-stricken forest pig! Pug makes his staff ready, and a sound from the trees sends the boar charging. Who would guess now that Pug's first duel in the Midkemia Cycle
was with a pig! That'd make for a good trivia question. Unfortunately, Pug struggles and the pig sets upon him, only to be saved by an arrow. We're then introduced for the first - but not last - time to a stranger with all the usual hunter/foresters look about him. He takes Pug to his 'Master's cottage in the woods. The Master turns out to be man Pug recognises from the castle, Kulgan, the Duke's magician and adviser.
With his heavyset yellow robes, grey hair and beard, and long pipe, Kulgan fits the picture perfectly of a Magician/mentor figure in a heroic fantasy tale. Raymond describes the first encounter wonderfully, setting the mood with his descriptions of the cottage and sharp dialogue. Ray, through Pug's POV, let's the reader know that while a member of the Duke's court, and a highly important Duke at that, the magician is still thought of as an object of suspicion, held in low esteem by the common folk. Not uncommon in many fantasy tales, yet it remains sound and works in a basic logical kind of way. After all, would you
not want to keep your eye on someone that could do things that you could not believe?
Pug then meets for the first time a small red-eyed dragon by the name of Fantus, that the magician keeps as a pet (reader: madman!) and has domesticated...Pug shut his mouth, which had popped open with surprise, then asked, "Is he truly a dragon, sir?"
The Magician laughed, a rich, good-natured sound. "Betimes he thinks he is, boy. Fantus is a firedrake, cousin to the dragon, though of smaller stature." The creature opened one eye and fastened it on the magician. "But of equal heart," Kulgan quickly added, and the drake closed his eye again.
Pug goes on to ask if he can breath fire, to which Kulgan informs him that he can manage to belch out a flame or two, if the mood suits him. Not unlike myself.
We're formally introduced to Meecham, the franklin that saved Pug in the forest. He informs us that the storm will pass afore dawn - job done, Macros.
Ray, through Kulgan, reveals to we the readers that velvet is an expensive material, when he uses it for covering, for the magician's valuable orb of crystal. A gift from Althafain of Carse, 'a most puissant artificer of magic'. Kulgan informs Pug that it was during a testing of the orb, that he discovered a sight of the troubled boy in the woods.Pug fixed his eyes on the ball and tried to follow the flicker of firelight that seemed to play deep within it's structure. The reflections of the room, multiplied a hundredfold, merged and danced as his eyes tried to fasten upon each aspect within the orb. They flowed and blended, then grew cloudy and obscure. A soft white glow at the center of the the ball replaced the red of firelight, and Pug felt his gaze become trapped by it's pleasing warmth. Like the warmth of the kitchen at the keep, he thought absently.
Ahhh. This is Pug's first experience (reader: lot o' firsts) with a magical object. Pug shows apt skill at gazing into the orb and getting a reading. His mind was on the kitchen at the keep, and as chance would have it, that's what he saw. Fat Alfan the cook licking his fingers of sweetcrumbs, only to have the head cook, Megar, come down upon him. Oops. A familiar scene that Pug has witnessed many times before, but viewing it through the magical object tires him.
Kulgan picks up on the boy's success, alluding that he is more than he first appeared. Aha! A common fantasy trope, yet a comfortable one, set in this scenario, I feel. Bearing in mind the copyright on the inside flap says 1982, I'm letting it fly. Since then, however, the sheer amount of similar themes used for the burgeoning character is enough to near put you off the genre all-together. But we'll forget about that, for now, and focus on this warm scene.
Pug then shows small skill at reading, when Kulgan catches him eyeing up his collection of books. The punk! The boy can read a little and knows numbers, too. Numbers! "Well, you are something of a rare bird." Who knew kitchen-work was good for ones education, growing-up - let's keep the kids there. Screw school.
Kulgan pulls out a book and gives it to Pug to read. The boy attempts it, and succeeds mostly. Kulgan informs him the curious lad that it's a history of the land, given to him by the abbot of an Ishapian monastery. A translation of a Keshian text, over a hundred years old. Ray then let's the reader in on some, what we'll call, hard facts
A long time ago, Pug, all these lands, from the Endless Sea across the Grey Tower Mountains to the Bitter Sea, were part of the Empire of Great Kesh. Far to the east existed a small kingdom, on one small island called Rillanon. It grew to engulf it's neighboring island kingdoms, and it became the Kingdom of the Isles. Later it expanded again to the mainland, and while it is still the Kingdom of the Isles, most of us simply call it 'the Kingdom'. We, who live in Crydee, are part of the Kingdom, though we live as far from the capital city of Rillanon as one can and still be within it's boundaries.
Once, many long years ago, the Empire of Great Kesh abandoned these lands, for it was engaged in a long and bloody conflict with it's neighbors to the south, the Keshian Confederacy.
Damn those pesky neighbors! Kulgan goes on to tell us about the Confederacy, and wraps by tieing in the Duke's grandfather who brought the army westward, and winded up forming the Duchy of Crydee, that they now live within.
Kulgan enquiries into the boy's plans once he reaches manhood. Pug tells both Kulgan and Meecham that he hopes to take service with the Swordmaster Fannon, on this Midsummer's Day. They react with varying degrees of surprise, bringing into account his small frame, to which the boy let's them know that he's an orphan (reader: not another one!), so no one knows where he comes from, or to what they should expect body-wise. He was left by the Priests of Dala, by a woman who found him on the road, and the Priests bring him to the keep.
Eventually, Kulgan recalls the time, and remarks that the Duke is the only reason he is a freeman today. Meechan: "A good man, the Duke." Pug has heard this all before, so he begins to nod off. Meecham helps the boy out, and prepares a sleeping pallet, which the boy falls asleep on. With the firedrake Fantus curled up next to him. Ahhh!
And that brings the chapter summary to a close. Thank Dala! Now that I've saved you all the effort of shuffling your feet, while you collect your thoughts, come: let us discuss this opening chapter.
What do you think of Pug's meeting with Kulgan? Do you recall what you thought of during your first time of reading? Did you already guess that the boy would be apprenticed with the Master Magician?
What did you make of Meecham? Some have already commented on this forum about his strange relationship with Kulgan. There really is no proper explanation, as to why a grown man would spend all of his time in the hold of Kulgan. No mention is made as to a debt needing to be paid, nor are there any kinship ties mentioned. You could just conclude, like I like to, that they're just close friends.
I'm sure you can think of more questions to answer, and things to talk about, but I'm off for the next chapter!
P.S. The following chapters will not be as detailed in information as this one, no doubt. There may be no summary at all. Time and mood will tell.