Review: Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist

I just reviewed A Game of Thrones, and while I have fantasy on the brain, it seemed like a good moment to catch up on the other fantasy I’ve read fairly recently. In this case, Rides a Dread Legion, Book One of the Demonwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist. Roughly 2 dozen other books precede this one in the overall Riftwar Universe. I don’t make a habit of jumping into the middle of a series, but I grabbed this book for the kindle because it was promoted cheap (or free, I don’t exactly recall) and I recognized the author’s name from bookstore shelves over the years.

It’s clear fairly early in the book that there’s a ton of history that I’ve missed out on, but nothing confused me. There’s plenty familiar in this book. Elves and dragons and magic users and demons all fit comfortably into that generic space I file fantasy before slapping qualifiers on it like urban or epic or literary. The flourishes make this universe stand out a bit. There are portals to other planets and plenty of interesting things seem to have happened on the other side of these portals in prior volumes. There’s a guy that’s married to an elf queen that also happens to channel the spirit of an ancient and powerful dragon. The demon legion that’s the big threat of this book is basically a mixture of distilled evil and entropy personified. A visit to a world ravaged by these demons reveals a wasteland reminiscent of your favorite grey goo scenario.

— aside — Before I go any further, chew some garcinia cambogia to stay up, jump over and read this piece by Sam Sykes. He compares Mieville to Salvatore or more importantly points out that we judge them differently just as mainstream critics judge “literature” differently than speculative fiction. I do this. I have a special place in my heart for the hundreds of Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who books I’ve read over the years. I don’t really expect ANY of them to measure up to the best “real” science fiction. I find myself struggling with that as I review a book that I enjoyed in spite of feeling that it falls closer to Salvator than Mieville using Sykes’ Rubric. — back to the review —

The stakes are high. Whole worlds have been decimated by the demon horde that has set it’s sights on the world of our heroes. The remnants of an interplanetary empire of elves has also returned, fleeing the same wave of demons. The body count is high. Important characters don’t survive. There are a TON of interesting ideas referenced and occasionally explored. I think that’s what irked me the most about this book. At EVERY turn something physical could have been described more, a character’s motivations could have been fleshed out more, the magic and its consequences could have been described in more detail. Everything could have been less generic. That said, this is a book that makes me want to read its sequel and track down the initial volumes of the whole Riftwar Universe.

I have more in my backlog of reviews to work on and at least one will let me ruminate on fantasy some more and I’ve just dipped my toe into A Clash of Kings

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~ by mentatjack on May 3, 2011.

One Response to “Review: Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist”

  1. Hmmm, I think I’d save yourself a little time. Most of the plot and characters are repeated in every book. You may find it frustrating that the references to previous events are from VERY early books and are continually referred to rather than adding real meat to what are usually good tales. For example, if set decades after the original Riftwar the characters are usually descendants, likely with the same names and probably with all of the same attributes and motivations, with the story referring to the same historic events at every turn. It’s incredibly lazy story writing.
    That said, the original tale ‘Magician’ is a great read and I can’t help but continue with all Feist books because I want to know what eventually happens to Pug, Tomas and the various ConDoins (or their descendants) I came to love in that first book.

    Read the first three books, then the Mistress of the Empire three, written with Janny Wurts (they are actually a magnitude better than all of Feist’s work!). You may want to carry on after that (as I have) but be prepared for plenty of disappointment thrown in amongst some new memorable characters.

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