Saturday, September 10, 2016

Another Riftwar book bites the dust (spoilers)

Boy howdy, am I ever on a roll! I kept forgetting to post about it, but I started Silverthorn almost immediately after finishing Magician: Master and finished it just the other day.

A poisoned bolt has struck down the Princess Anita on the day of her wedding to the Prince Arutha of Krondor.

To save his beloved, Arutha sets out in search of the mystic herb called Silverthorn that grows only in the dark and forbidding Northlands, home to the moredhel, the deadly Dark Elves.

Accompanied by a mercenary, a minstrel, and a clever young thief, he will confront an ancient evil and do battle with the dark powers that threaten the enchanted realm of Midkemia.
So how was it? Better than what I had been lead to believe. I actually owned a copy at one point, but got rid of it because I had read some posts on the blogosphere about how it wasn't worth reading and I was easily swayed. I regret that now because Silverthorn was pretty good.

Some thoughts:

Jimmy the Hand is one of the best characters in the entire series, 'nuff said.

I liked how Arutha's quest for the eponymous Silverthorn didn't start until like sometime after page 100. Up until then, the story focuses on him, Jimmy the Hand, and the others trying to flush out the conspiracy against Arutha before his wedding to Anita. The build up towards the assassination attempt and Arutha's quest was exciting and intense and added a lot of emotional weight to what happens to Anita.

I'm not afraid to admit that I got a little emotional in the aftermath. There's a scene where Arutha and some of the other characters are in a room together awaiting word on Anita's condition and Arutha is openly crying. If you've read the books, then you know that he's not exactly expressive with his feelings, so the fact that he's crying in front of people is a big deal. That's not what got me, though. It was Jimmy's breakdown that did me in. The poor kid falls to his knees at Arutha's feet and just bawls his eyes out not just because of what happened to Anita and how he inadvertently caused her to be shot while attempting to foil the assassin, but because he feels like he failed the one person whose opinion really matters to him.

Seriously, the relationship between Arutha and Jimmy is one of the best things about Silverthorn. You can tell that the latter sees the former as an big brother and I think as the story progresses, Arutha sees Jimmy as a little brother. So anyways, Jimmy bawling and what gets you is that Princess Carline (Arutha, Lyam, and Martin's sister), Laurie (the minstrel in the above summary), King Lyam, and even Arutha himself all end up consoling. Feist probably went a bit overboard with having the King consoling a former thief turned squire, but hey, mushy is sometimes okay.

The whole sequence involving Arutha, Laurie and Jimmy sneaking out of Krondor in the dead of night is pretty good. It involves a good bit of misdirection and it was rather disappointing when it all proved pointless when the big bad's goons found them almost immediately. There's an explanation for how they were able to, but it makes all the effort put into the Prince of Krondor's flight from the city seem pointless.

Contrary to what the back of the book says, Arutha's party is more than just a mercenary, a minstrel, and a thief. Initially, it's just him, Laurie, Jimmy, Martin Longbow/conDoin (the Prince's older half-brother), Jimmy, and Gardan. After Gardan is injured battling what is honestly one of the freakiest goddamn monsters I have ever heard of and sent back to Krondor, the party picks up two members: Roald, the aforementioned mercenary, and Baru, a Hadati hillman on a bloodquest to kill the Moredhel warlord who slaughtered his village.

There are either two main plots or two branches of the same one. Arutha is chiefly concerned with finding the Silverthorn plant in order to save Anita and even he admits that he's ignored the greater threat to the Kingdom and the rest of the world in his determination to save her. He then continues to ignore said threat. Pug, meanwhile, focuses entirely on the greater threat to the point of traveling back to Kelewan once he figures out how to open a portal to that world.

Yay, Kelewan is back! I'm not being sarcastic, I really do love that world and the Tsurani culture.

Pug's part of the main plot is actually more interesting than Arutha's quest. The problem is that the former's arc is more fraught with dangers and intrigues and does a better job of putting how big the danger and stakes are in perspective compared to the latter.

Honestly, my biggest gripe about the book is how easy Arutha has it. Yes, he and his party run in dangerous spots, but not often and for the most part, it's easily dealt with. Mostly, they just travel from place to place, talk to people, then sneak to where the Silverthorn is supposed to be, then back out. Sure, he faces some trials, but compared to Pug, it's a breeze. I mean, Pug travels to another planet, poses as a poor missionary, is captured and tortured by the new Tsurani Warlord and his goons, unlocks a new source of power, then spends weeks traveling alone to Kelewan's barren North to try and find a group of people/creatures who might know how to defeat the big bad of the Riftwar Saga. Oh, and he also inadvertently brings about a fundamental change in how the Tsurani Empire is governed. So yeah, it's a bit uneven.

Having said that, I still think Silverthorn is a good piece of fantasy. Not the greatest, but still really nice.

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