Flight of the Nighthawks: Book One of the Darkwar Saga Mass Market Paperback – Mar 27 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
This first of a new fantasy trilogy from bestseller Feist (Exile's Return) reintroduces a now ancient but well-preserved Pug (the juvenile hero of Magician) plus numerous generic situations, not the least of which is the return of Pug's old nemesis, the evil wizard Sidi, and a further menace that threatens the land of Midkemia. All the characters talk in completely 21st-century vocabulary, and while some of the inhabitants of the imaginary setting have unusual names suggestive of alien language and culture, we also meet folks named Miranda, Tomas, Magnus, Caleb and Zane. The result does not add up to any sense of a real, other place like Middle Earth or Earthsea, in which mythic events might plausibly occur. Those looking for the numinous wonder of Tolkien or the beautiful language of Ursula Le Guin will have to look elsewhere, but readers seeking to move one step up from adventure-gaming tie-in novels will find this a good starting place. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Feist expands the uber -saga of Midkemia again with a new trilogy, The Darkwar Saga. In it eventual arch-mage Pug (see Exile's Return, 2005) is much younger, his vast powers are still forming, and he hasn't yet acquired the array of family ties that will make him so wonderfully human later on. Right now he is trying to contend with evil sorcery and win the tolerance, if not allegiance, of the emperor. Reinforcing him are two fugitive farm boys, Tad and Zane, and their mentor, Caleb, whose aid proves invaluable as all three youngsters mature, the farm boys with the additional help of another mage's daughters. The boys' growth entails some of Feist's most notable feats of characterization, feats that testify to the substantial improvement he has made as a writer during a career now approaching the 20-year mark. He leaves us curious, even eager, to see what the succeeding two books will reveal about Midkemia's history and what parts Tad and Zane play in it, though perhaps under new and different names. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Finally after many books and decades in the world of Midkemia, the magician Pug is a major focus of the book because now there is a threat vast enough to warrant Pug's direct intervention. The Talnoy are like overgrown suits of armor but are immensely powerful and extremely hard to kill and the Dasati (beings not only from another world, but another dimension) employ these killers in a blitzkrieg fashion and all who stand before the Talnoy will be crushed...and the fear is that Midkemia will fall prey to the Talnoy as there are already dormant Talnoy on the planet. How and why is a matter to be discovered.
The way the story is told here deals with Pug and the magicians of the Conclave trying to discover exactly how the Talnoy will be brought into play and what the deal is with these new rifts that are appearing on Midkemia and Kelewan and their apparent connection with the Talnoy. Also, we are introduced to Tad and Zane, two boys raised in Stardock village and soon to be adopted by Pug's son Caleb. These two boys will also have a role to play.
In all honesty, Raymond Feist is giving us a lot of tell with not much show here (and from what I remember it is supposed to be the other way around). Feist is telling us a lot of what is or may be going on, but we don't really see it happening. He really did hit the high water mark with Magician (as fond as I am about Darkness at Sethanon) and everything else is only trying to measure up. With that said, the fact that Feist is letting Pug and Nakor telling us these details is a treat. Pug has long been my favorite character of the series and I have missed Pug being a major character in the Riftwar novels. Nakor, when he first was introduced, is arguably the most entertaining character Feist has created and he is also far more than has been revealed. So, the prominence of these characters excuses many flaws that might otherwise be obvious.
I was disappointed by Feist's "Conclave of Shadows" trilogy, but I thoroughly enjoyed "Flight of the Nighthawks". It's not a perfect novel, but it is a lot of fun revisiting these characters and this world and see what else Feist can create and show me about Midkemia. When he is actually telling a grand story (such as with the Riftwar Trilogy and Serpentwar...and not the Krondor or Conclave books), Feist rips a good yarn.
We commence in bucolic bliss as Caleb, the non-magical son of Miranda and Pug finds himself apprenticing the son and foster-son of Marie, Tad and Zane, two eager lads who have not much to do and an eye for trouble. After they save him from death at the hands of a bandit ambush, we then travel with them as they are turned from soft layabouts into hardened Conclave soldiers and we then learn of a series of murders of Truebloods in the Empire of the Great Kesh. The resulting concern finds Tal and Kaspar and Caleb entering Kesh at different social levels to track down the infamous lair of the Nighthawks, whom they believe responsible for the murders that seek to place Kesh in a state of civil war as the current Emperor nears the end of both his life and reign. In the meantime, Nakor has discovered greater powers are rumbling as he finds the tiniest spark of the Nameless One in the darkly Herculean Bek that promises that there could be a return for Ishar.
Political intrigue, sewer ambushes, tavern brawls and magical intervention that are all the hallmarks of a great Feist effort all follow as the Conclave discover that the inviolable magician, Leso Varen is behind the mayhem that seeks to disrupt Midkemia and move to deal with the threat.
Feist is one the finest fantasy authors produced in the late twentieth century and his works on the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan remain at the peak of the genre. Characterisation is well drawn, we have an excellent mix of old, familiar and lovable characters with new youthful, impetuous ones that engender empathy. Old traditions hover in the background where needed without overshadowing the new bloods making their literary mark. The plot is crisp, the dialogue exciting and the old thrill of looking forward to a new great Feist series rears it's head.
Roll on the second...
Flight of the Nighthawks is a continuation of Feist's "Conclave of Shadows" trilogy, but it has its own series name: The Darkwar Saga. I didn't understand this at the time I read Exile's Return, but now I do. Feist has changed the focus to make it much broader. The back cover copy emphasizes the two brothers, Zane and Tad, but it truly covers the entire Conclave. While I don't mind a limited viewpoint, as in the previous series, it was nice to get information from a bunch of sources this time around. We have not only the boys, but Caleb, Pug, Kaspar and Talwin Hawkins, all involved in the plan to bring down the Nighthawks. The variety of viewpoints gives the book more of an epic feel that I really enjoyed.
While once again Feist avoids any potential misogyny charges by not featuring any female characters, the men he does populate the story with are well-drawn and interesting. He gives us some of the boys' training, but doesn't concentrate on it as much as he did Tal's in the previous series, and he intersperses these chapters with events elsewhere in the world, so that the training sequences don't slow the story down. The wide number of characters also helps in the fact that the boys just weren't the interesting. They were the only shortfalls in the characterization, though, and they could get better once they are on their own a bit. In Flight of the Nighthawks, it seems that their main purpose is to get in the way and to rescue Caleb a time or two.
I also liked the tension that was in this book. Yes, we all know that the good guys are probably going to win (though maybe not right away, as this is book 1), but Feist gives us the action with the possibility that not everybody's going to come out alive. Our heroes aren't perfect, which is also unlike the Conclave books. Talwin is still the best there is in this book, but since he's not the only character, it's mitigated. The other characters do make mistakes, and it's nice to see.
Unfortunately, this brings me to the faults in the book. The writing is kind of simple, very suitable for a young age (though some of the subject matter might not be). This is not a problem. However, sloppiness is, and there is a bit too much of it. First, Pug and his wife Miranda are described twice within the span of ten pages, both their physical appearances and the nature of their relationship. Both times it's as if Feist was introducing them, not describing them as they currently are because there has been a change. That's not something I'm used to from Feist.
Secondly, Caleb and Marie have differing memories of how they got together for no particular story purpose (there is no memory manipulation or anything like that). By differing memories, I'm not talking a detail here or there. I'm talking about how they met, when they became lovers, whether Caleb knew of her husband before he died, major things like that. Both instances are when the character in question is musing about his/her situation, so it can't even be a lie told from one character to another.
Finally, there a bit of internal continuity that Feist gets wrong. At the end of one chapter, Caleb mentions how hard it will be to tell Marie that he'll be leaving with their two boys *without her* the next morning. Then, the next chapter that features them, he has taken her to the Sorcerer's Isle and gotten her settled, spending a few days there with her, and *then* he leaves with the two boys. These are all instances easily avoidable, and I'm surprised they're included here. I do have a review copy of the book, but I have checked it with a published edition and these errors are still there. All of them threw me out of the book when I noticed them, and it took some effort to get back into it.
Writing errors aside, however, Flight of the Nighthawks is a very good continuation of the Midkemia stories, Feist's bread and butter. It's exciting and it begs you not to put the book down, but to continue with one more chapter. Storywise, I think it's stronger than any of the Conclave books. It's too bad the writing issues make it harder to read. I'm holding out hope that the next book will continue with the strengths and leave the weaknesses behind.
Can the supposedly powerful magician Pug stop having nightmares about life-size Dasati toys coming to kill him on the beaches of Crydee?
Will Pug ever find out Miranda is having an affair behind his back like she was in the Serpentwar Saga?
Will anyone realise Jommy and the boys are pale imitations of Jimmy the Hand and should be killed off ASAP?
Will somoene explain where Magnus and Caleb came from after popping out of nowhere in Talwin Saga?
Will anyone see that Feist is messing up his own character history for the sake of the Comic Book?
These questions establish some of my problems with the series, but where should I really begin?
Well, let's start with the lack of character development throughout this over priced book
Magnus-who is he? Besides being the son of Pug, why should we care about him like we cared about William? We never saw him grow up like William and he has no distinct personality for us to get a feel for him. He has potential from the confrontation with the Death Goddess, but he isn't the powerful figure of Tomas and Pug from the Riftwar. Just cardboard.
Caleb-same as Magnus. Except he has no magical powers, so we care about him even less
Jommy and the boys-more cardboard cut outs with none of the feel we got for young Jimmy the Hand
Miranda-less attitude, which is good, but more useless than ever, which is very bad. Since when did she get on Pug's power level? In Serpentwar, she was way above average, but way below Pug. When did she get the power to stand toes to toe with his Arch nemesis? She doesn't say much in this book, which is good since she was a smart mouth with a big head, and lacks the character complexities from Serpentwar, which is also good because her role was divided between Calis' bed and Pug's bed at the same time, and we all know that means. If she keeps quiet she can stay for a while, but otherwise she is a poor replacement for the lively slave girl Katala and should be disposed of in a timely fashion.
Erik Von Darkmoor-good to see the last well developed Character Feist made. Doesn't do much as an old man, and his questioning of Nakor is out of character from their adventures in Serpentwar, but as the last desperate man he's allowed some flaws.
Tomas- in good form as a warrior-god, if a little wooden compared to the complex Valheru/Man shaped by Macros during the riftwar. He puts down Ralan Bek, which is a damn good thing since he's a psychopath with the Nameless One in him.
Ralan Bek-has a fragment of Nalar in him....does evil for evil's sake. No firm grip on his character yet, kind of simplistic, but then with the Nameless One in him that's okay
Sidi-this guy is Pug's archfoe and the best he can come up with is black fire that kills a few dozen people. Earlier in the book he was said to have the power to level the whole city.
Pug-Successor of Macros. Is in poor form in this book. Has been since the end of Darkness at Sethanon.(DAS) At the end of DAS, has the bulk of Macros' knowledge and power from their Mind Meld but his mistakes and limitations since then are
1. can't do any thing Macros could do, even though he received his knowledge from him during DAS
2. tries to blow up the Dark Queen's fleet with a fireball that gets reflected back at him and roasts him(he couldn't move?)
3. can't time travel, even though Macros showed him how in DAS and he did it again in Rage of a Demon King
4. can't block Sidi's rifts, even though in DAS he was able to block the Valheru's attempts to create one to Sethanon
5. can't make small rifts but he can make big ones?
6. doesn't know about the demon invasion in Serpentwar even though the old seer at the Inn tells him about it
7. can't duplicate the Wards shielding the Talnoy beacons from the Dasati, even though he had a mind meld with the maker of the wards Macros
8. is impressed by mind magic of another sorcerer in the Conclave, even though he was once confronted the oracle of Aal in a young girls shattered mind and helped heal Nicholas son of Arutha in a Mindscape. He also pulled Macros out of the Mind of Sarig the God, a fact that impressed Macros and left Miranda, who supposedly is his equal in awe. He also mind-spoke with Gamina from across the Universe. While he could acknowledge skill in another member of the Conclave, it would take more than just a mind magic ability to impress one that had done these feats.
9. Marries Miranda, even though she is sleeping with the son of his best friend. Basically, allowing her to jump on the gravy train.
10. Couldn't save his own daughter and son when Krondor was attacked by the Dark Queen's army.
11. Couldn't confront the Demon King without Macros' help, even though Macros himself was impressed by pulling his mind out of the essence of Sarig, the God of Magic.
12. can't tell Jommy and the other boys are cardboard cutouts of Jimmy the hand
Storyline Inconsistencies within Flight of the Nighthawks. This may escape newer readers, but people who have been with this since Magician can see what I'm saying.
1. The Assembly has 3 members studying the Talnoy artifact when there are thousands of members of the Assembly, which may or may not include girls now. Feist didn't deal with that. Maybe he forgot.
2. Where is the Interaction between Pug and the Assembly, which he is still a member of in spirit, if not in body. He has ties to these guys. What would they think of his great powers and how he has lived so long when his running buddies Fumita, Hocho, and Shimone are dead? What ties does he still have with them? Why do they refer to him as Pug and Milamber when he was only known to them as Milamber?
3. If they need wards to bock the beacons, why not talk to the Choja at chakaha, the best ward makers in Kelewan according to Mistress of the Empire?
4. Why didn't Pug consult the Oracle of Aal, the oldest known prophetic consciousness in the universe about the Dasati.....the old dragon under Sethanon might know something. Maybe Feist forgot about it in a rush to put out this substandard book.
5. What are the Moredhel doing? Did they just disappear into the North of the world?
6. Why does Pug need help to confront Sidi, whom he looks at as his responsibility to defeat? Scared?
7. How can Miranda stand up to Pug's main foe when she was far below him in Serpentwar in terms of knowledge, skill, and power?
8. Pug can't teleport without a pattern or device? He learned how to traverse worlds at will during DAS.
9. He can't time travel? What was that whole business in the City of Forever then?
10. Why doesn't he go to the city of Forever to augment his powers? Macros went there to do it.
11. Where did all the powerful magicians on Midkemia come from in between Magician and Flight of the Nighthawks. Supposedly, there were only small time lesser path guys during the times of Macros and the like. How did powerful ones at Stardock appear and people like Miranda pop out of thin air?
11. Why would they let a fragment of Nalar exist when they won't even speak his name themselves so great is there fear of them
12. Pug displayed for more power in Magician when he destroyed the Arena than Sidi did when he attacked them. It's over a century later and his power has grown greatly and yet it's all he can do to stalemate the guy. When are we going to be given concrete evidence on Pug's power or will he go through the same fluctuations the post-crisis Superman did since the Magican Comic is coming out now?
All these questions hopefully to be answered at a later date. But probably not with the poor plot and character development in this one. The Riftwar saga was full of suspense and towering, dark villains along with the noble, valiant heroes that rose against them. Now I wish for a villain as dark and as evil Murmandamus with an insane, cackling antagonist like Sidi around. But in truth, I don't think we'll get it. I mean Serpentwar had a good beginning, suspenseful and powerful. A demon horde poised to destroy the universe under the cover of an invading foreign army.
Then it descended into utter stupidity with senseless, ineffective attacks on the enemy by Pug and characters defined as little more than dreams of a Mad God as the main villains. Pug showed a level of ineptitude far below his performance in a DAS and couldn't deal with the enemy decisively without help due to his POWERED DOWN status.
All of this, despite having received the mantle of Macros in DAS.
I can at least understand that. It keeps Feist from having to think of good opponents and enables him to put in formulaic mad men with no character to them at all. Our visit to Kesh in this book was a little more eventful than the very pointless and very boring Prince of the Blood, but at least that had Jimmy the Hand at his finest, even Locklear and the Macros-Pug that Sethanon had come into his own. Not this uncertain, indecisive man shown since the Serpentwar
A Riftwar saga this is not. For long time fans, I suggest picking it up when it goes paperback in a few months or maybe buying it used from someone whose already kicked it to the curb as a disappointment. It's not worth the hardback cost.
Feist and Pug were good in their day, but I think time and age and money has killed the life of this series. If you want a new outlook on the fantasy genre with well developed enemies and complex heroes, I suggest Ferrenzano's Against the Summoner or even Aaron Mccarty's Empire Lord Saga, Andremmon against the Abyss. For even with the editing problems in those books, it's a new place start over from the Deader and Deader world of Midkemia.
Has Feist matured over the years? Silly question.
Even my version of the book has on the cover, `File under guilty pleasure' - so at least the publisher is acknowledging that this really isn't something to proudly endorse.
This book is almost insulting in the clichés it throws up. It's beyond the trappings of the genre - swords, sorcery, faux-medieval setting - and deep into stereotype and transparent techniques. To get really condescending for a minute, it's highly adolescent: oooh, look, here's two teenage boys who link up with a hero, so they get trained to be great fighters, have adventures, and meet beautiful promiscuous girls whose clothes keep unaccountably falling off. The daydream also includes lovely mummies and daddies that pause now and then to give everyone hugs and say how wonderfully they've done.
The baddie is the laziest aspect of a lazy book. He has no motive, could be anyone, has unexplained ludicrous powers, and, here's the best bit, is always available for the next book because when you kill him in a big climax he comes back to life! Since he'd already done this a couple of times before in this book they imply that this time they've actually found out how to kill him for good. No, actually, they don't imply it, they downright say it. So, this climax must be really important, not like the other ones in earlier books that didn't turn out to be. But, gee whiz, who would have thought it ... he does pop up again so you'll have to buy Book 21b. How transparent is this??
Meanwhile you've also got lots of glib dialogue - reminds me of the sort of thing you hear on NCIS (classically adolescent), or in books by Guy Gavriel Kay or the appalling Terry Goodkind. You know, grandiose empty threats, impressive sounding but ultimately stupid observations (eg. "We'd be dead by now if they wanted us to be," said by the heroes about the supposedly supreme assassins, the `Nighthawks', but:
a) Ah, they *do* want them dead, there is no advantage to them leaving them alive, and they try to kill them a few times;
b) Whenever we do meet the Nighthawks they tend to fall down as easily as any other faceless body-count enemies, being slain, for example, by two kids who've never actually had combat against trained fighters.)
It's not as utterly horrible as some other attempts, but there's the ubiquitous practise of describing people as extremes of intelligence or sophistication or wit or insight or whatever, but never actually having them say anything to justify such praise. For example, we have bit of philosophy from the leading thinkers of several worlds - all about how good and evil need each other. Riiigght. Nobody quite delving into the implications, "So you're saying, for example, that someone who looks after their kids really needs the occasional paedophile to come along when their back is turned. Uh, OK."
Many of the personalities are interchangeable, perhaps understandable for some of the minor characters, but Nakor, for example, is supposed to be key and intriguing. Feist sets him up as this keenly incisive detached observer. How? Did you notice that he says just about every line, `with a grin'. Not even occasionally, `with a smile', or `amused', but always, `with a grin'. This wears a bit thin after the first few times.
Plotwise, of course, anything could happen any time: gods, bandits, war, hugs. You might even bump into an Irishman or an Aussie. It happens because it feels nice, not to be part of something particularly cohesive. But the nice feeling isn't ultimately satisfying - the guilty pleasure idea does work if you think of it as a fat bloke on a couch having too many doughnuts - to a point where even the doughnuts don't give him that much pleasure any more (and, to stretch this metaphor even further, not as much pleasure as someone with some more discernment has sitting down to a rich meal).
Feist is pleasing a market, and ably - doubtless this sold by the tonne. Maybe he's aware how superficial these things are, but who's to argue with a guy paying his bills - I know I do some pretty bland things in my day job. Still, it would be nice if he pushed himself to a higher level, I think he'd still sell even if he did write something as good as David Gemmell's The Legend of Deathwalker (Drenai Tales, Book 7) or Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1).