Exile's Return: Conclave Of Shadows: Book Three Hardcover – Mar 17 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
This second cowritten installment of Legends of the Riftwar (after Feist's 2006 collaboration with William R. Forstchen, Honored Enemy) finds Rosenberg's engaging mercenary trio, Durine, Kethol and Pirojil, drafted to escort the bed-hopping Lady Mondegreen and her current lover, ambitious Baron Morray, to a summit conference in the city of LaMut. As the intrigues thicken, the Three Swords find themselves permanent guards to the baron, and are soon promoted to captain and tasked with keeping the peace among bored and idle baronial retainers. Then the aging Baron Mondegreen dies, and Morray and Lady Mondegreen are found in bed together with their throats slashed. The Swords, suspicious of everybody-including one another-go looking for the murderer. The numerous characters are well-drawn and use their brains rather than relying on too-easy magic. Fans of the earlier Midkemia books and past adventures of the Three Swords (Not Exactly the Three Musketeers, etc.) will find much to enjoy in this intelligent high fantasy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
The third volume of Conclave of Shadows shifts focus from Tal Hawkins, who has overcome Kaspar, duke of Olasko, and wrought quite thorough vengeance upon him. But the ex-tyrant of Olasko is a survivor, though he first appears to have no other virtues. He makes shift as a farmhand, then as a common laborer, and while looking at the world from underneath, detects a good many things not visible from higher quarters. One, or maybe several, of these is a menace compounded out of dark magic of a sort thought buried too far in Midkemia's past to be threatening. Feeling loyalty to Midkemia, or at least to the portion of humanity living there, Kaspar uses his hard-bought knowledge to begin fighting the menace. The complexity of characterization here may surprise some, though not those who have followed Feist's work over the years and seen steady, across-the-board improvement in it. A must, of course, for rapt readers of Talon of the Silver Hawk (2003) and King of Foxes [BKL Ja 1 & 15 04]. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
This book takes the reader into a much deeper level in Midkemia, and because it focuses on Kaspar (Duke of Olasko) it takes this particular story completely away from 'the usual', it energizes the reader to continue on and reinvents the world yet again by going much deeper into the history and dynamics of Midkemia and the Gods than Feist has gone before.
This is a excellent book, a must have for any Feist fan and I would even do so far as to recommend this series as a gift for anyone remotely interested in sci-fi or fantasy.
Buy it, read it, love it. Its a must have.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Exile's Return" begins immediately after the conclusion of "King of Foxes" with the former Duke of Olasko spared his life, but exiled to some unknown land on Midkemia. Kaspar of Olasko was the primary villain of the previous two volumes: "Talon of the Silver Hawk" and "King of Foxes". This book marks the first time in Feist's work that a villain would end up as the protagonist of a novel. Kaspar, for those who may need a refresher, was the man who ordered the Orosoni tribe to be slaughtered (Tal Hawkins, the hero of the first two books was the surviving Orosoni), and attempting to instigate a war between the kingdoms of Roldem, Kesh, and the Kingdom of the Isles. In short, he was a bad man. But he was also a man who ended up being in the control of the evil magician Varen. Varen had been an adversary of Pug's for years.
With Kaspar exiled, his first need is to simply survive. He doesn't speak the language nor does he initially know where he is. He wishes to return to Olasko, reclaim his Duchy, and seek revenge against Tal Hawkins. But as the days and weeks and months pass he has time to realize how much of a dupe he was of Varen and how many of his actions were actually not his own idea, though he thought they were at the time. He is shamed, but wants to get home. Feist gives the reader a realistic transformation of Kaspar all the while building the threat that is facing Midkemia. In his attempt to return to his homeland, Kaspar discovers something which will threaten all life on Midkemia. This is nothing new for readers of the series, but Feist is able to spin a good enough story that the constant threat doesn't ring false. Feist also manages to raise the stakes enough that we can believe that the incredibly powerful Pug and his company of magicians are not able to simply wave their hands and make it go away. This is essential, for as long as Pug is alive it is difficult to believe that any threat has any chance of succeeding.
After a disappointing middling trilogy based on video games (the "Krondor" series), Feist has hit his stride with "The Conclave of Shadows" and is building a storyline which is actually going to move into this next trilogy "The Darkwar Saga". "Exile's Return" is a very good Midkemia (or Riftwar) novel, and should be thoroughly enjoyed by any fan of Raymond Feist's work. While I do recommend this book, I would also suggest that any new readers would at least start with "Talon of the Silver Hawk", if not "Magician: Apprentice" as an introduction to Feist's work. There is simply a lot of story and background to get through. But this book here features some of the better writing and characterization (of Kaspar anyway, the rest of the characters are given short shrift) that Feist has produced in recent memory. It is enough to please most readers of this style of fantasy. While "Exile's Return" works as a conclusion to a trilogy, it is also an introduction to a new story because it is very clear that this is only the beginning of something bigger. It only managed to whet my appetite and the wait for the next Riftwar novel will be tough.
Tal and Pug convinced the Kingdom of the Isles, Kesh, and Roldem to support an assault on the Citadel of Opardum. While these forces were diverting the Olaskan guards, Tal led his mercenary army through a hidden way into the Citadel and attacked from the rear. He and his troops forced their way into Leso Varen's quarters, killed the magician and broke the wards keeping out the Conclave. Then his troops attacked the throne room and captured Duke Kaspar of Olasko. Since Leso Varen had used magic to wield the duke as his tool, Pug convinced Tal to exile Kaspar rather than execute him.
In this novel, Magnus transports the former duke to the continent of Novindus and releases him there. Soon afterward, Kaspar is confronted by six heavily-armed Bentu horsemen and fights back, taking down five of them; he is stymied, however, by the bow and arrows of the sixth. Knocked unconscious, he is carried back to the nomad camp.
After regaining consciousness, Kaspar finds that his hands are bound behind him and these rawhide bindings are connected to a tent peg at the back of the tent. If he pulls up the peg, the tent will collapse and the nomads will know that he is trying to free himself.
Pretending to still be unconscious, Kaspar listens to the conversations held at the front of the tent, decides that the language is somewhat like Quegan, and begins to recognize a few words. After dark, he works his hands to the front and chews on the lashings until they fall apart. Stealing some food and water, he escapes from the camp and climbs up the nearby ridge.
The nomads break camp and move on without searching for him, probably because of a little message he left in the chief's tent. He travels along the old road on the ridge in the same direction as the nomads. After several days without water, he is very dehydrated. He moves down to the valley floor, looking for signs of water. Finally he finds a damp spot with grass growing around it. Digging down into the soil, he finds water beneath the surface and drinks his fill.
Afterward, Kaspar traps ground birds for meat. Seeing a boy wandering the hills, he tracks him to a small farm tucked away far from the road. Although he severely frightens the boy and his mother, Kaspar uses his small knowledge of Quegan to reassure them and soon starts performing chores that the woman and boy cannot manage. He learns that the woman's husband and their only horse have disappeared on a trip to town.
After a few months, Kaspar declares that he must leave and takes the woman, boy and two steers into town to acquire horses. Since suitable horses are unavailable, they settle on a mule to work on the farm, but Kaspar has to go down the river on foot. He works as a caravan guard for a while, but in Simarah he meets three traders from the Kingdom of the Isles and is forced by a geas to accompany them with a strange armored relic from a recently exposed cache.
The relic leads Kaspar on a weird journey, first to find a priest, then to the home of the gods, and eventually to the Conclave of Shadows. On the way he once again confronts Tal and survives the meeting. He also visits his sister and is pleased with her situation.
This novel describes the mental processes of the former duke as he remembers his past actions. As he grows to better know Jojanna and Jorgen, the farm wife and her son, Kaspar begins to see how his own behavior would have affected the common folk of his dukedom. He also begins to see how Varen had manipulated him with magic and questions his own decisions. He also remembers advice from his father that he had ignored under Varen's influence. He begins to feel remorse for the people hurt by his mistaken efforts. Ironically, the wisdom he gains after his deposal would make him a better ruler.
Kaspar is initially determined to return to Opardum to have his revenge on Tal and Captain Havrevulen. His regained memories and experiences cause him to better understand the actions of his enemies, but he still wants revenge. However, the armored relic begins to loom in importance to the point of reducing his wants to insignificance. While still determined to return, he is primarily concerned with contacting the Conclave of Shadows.
This novel is the last in the Conclave trilogy. But it is followed by Flight of the Nighthawks, the first novel in the Darkwar series. The armored relic will play a prominent role in this next series.
Highly recommended for Feist fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of high adventure, powerful magic and personal enlightenment.
-Arthur W. Jordin
A bit of background: I loved Talon of the Silver Hawk, and thought that King of Foxes was enjoyable. I will also assume that anyone reading this review has read at least the Riftwar and Serpentwar series...and if not, stop reading this and go read those first.
Ok, overall, the book was very good, as shown by my four star ranking. The book is the story of Kaspar's quest after being exile by Magnus on Novindus. I loved the idea of the antagonist of the past two books becoming the protagonist of this book. Feist once again does a wonderful job of slowly moving along the "bigger" story while giving a lot of depth to one of the characters by focusing on them. The overall plot of the Conclave does not progress that much, and one problem that I did have with the book is that a lot of that progression seems a bit forced into the last 25 pages or so. But, don't get me wrong, the first 95% of the book takes its time and is quite enjoyable.
Other than the forced ending, it was interesting to see the changes that come about in Kaspar now that he is not under the control of Leso Varen. In fact, I wish that this would have been delved into a bit more, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.
I also feel that some people may want the plot to move along faster, but I feel that in the future, the conclave series may be seen as Prince of the Blood and King's Buccaneer are today: as "in between" two major series. On that note, I personally find the Conclave series much more intersting than those two books, and believe that are doing a wonderful job of setting up characters and the scene for the upcoming Darkwar saga.
Overall, this book would have received 5 stars if I had not been bludgeoned to death with developments in the last 20-30 pages. With all that happening, I really wanted to continue on in the series, but will probably have to wait another year... However, the rest of the book is quite enjoyable, and the new developments are extremely interesting. So, if you are a fan of Feist, keep on reading, this will not disappoint.
Lastly, this is to the person who wrote about the "deus-ex machina" ending. First, he dropped a spoiler which I find annoying, and second, he should go back to his college-sophomore-writing class and remember what a deus-ex actually is. It was in Greek tradgedies when the writer had no idea how to save the hero, so he would be lifted off the stage by a machine (machnia), which meant he was being saved by intervention of the gods. Well folks, don't worry about this, there is no intervention by the gods in this ending, and there is, I believe, actually a bit of self-deprecating humor by Feist in the line that follows this alleged deus-ex. The gods in Midkemia stay consistent with their typically passive style in the rest of the books.
So, don't worry about people comparing this to Magician (I feel that Feist is more of a writer now instead of a story teller as he was with Magician), and just go out and read this book and enjoy yourself, and when it is over, begin anticipating the next installment which will hopefully start a wonderful new series.
As others have noted, there seems to be a lot of interaction that has no obvious purpose other than to fill pages. Usually these interactions weave the ambience of the world into the story but it seems somewhat artificial in this novel. Having Kaspar run through what amounts to little more than a Who's Who directory of Midkemia had too forced a feel - did every previous character from the earlier novels still alive just have to be involved? It left things feeling rushed, not the usual buildup seen over a series of books. Things also seemed too coincidental (as the main character Kaspar pointed out several times) and made the story seemed contrived, almost formulaic.
It's kind of a weird placement for the book as well. A trilogy that changes main characters? The third book in this series is really only loosely associated with the first two and serves as the introduction to a new series, its part of both series while being part of neither. The effect leaves me feeling unfulfilled on the finale of Conclave of Shadows but less than enthusiastic about the next series. The story is just kind of 'there'. I think it would have been better to simply make this the first book of the Darkwar Saga and leave Conclave of Shadows a two book series.
That being said, it is a Feist work and even some of his lesser work is better than most author's best. If you've read any of Fiest's earlier novels, you know you're going to read this one because a trip through Midkemia with Feist as your guide is too good an oportunity to pass up. Here's hoping the Darkwar series will see a complete return of Feist's storytelling.
Kaspar has no plans to travel with his hosts, but like them he touched the armor and no longer is free; the wickedness inside the armor controls Kaspar though he fights it with his every breath. Kaspar learns that the armor is a weapon of mass destruction from another plane that will ultimately devastate this world if not stopped. Feeling a need to defeat an essence even wickeder than he ever was; Kaspar puts aside his thirst for vengeance to return home to confer with the Conclave of Shadows' sorcerers who expelled his wickedness across the globe. Together, if they can learn to trust one another, they must find a way to stop the armor.
This is an exciting Conclave fantasy in which the villain of the first two novels returns from exile having learned the hard way during his trek and his battle with a greater evil the wickedness of his former ways. The story line is action-packed, but it is the metamorphosis of Kaspar from avenging devil to world savior that makes the tale work though the audience and the Conclave sorcerers wait for him to revert. Raymond Feist provides an entertaining tale with a fine twist that his fans will appreciate.