So, appparently back when this was first published, Raymond E. Feist was told to make it shorter. However, after he became famous, he expanded it and it was republished - much to my dismay. 841 pages of dismay.
So, the plot is interesting enough: a rift is opened between two worlds and a war-mongering empire invades the relatively peaceful kingdom (which of course, has elves and dwarves). There's a magician's apprentice, his adopted family, his friends who all get separated and fight in the war (some getting captured but return home again). It's all fine and good. I liked the idea. It was a decent enough aventure story (though the Empire is a bit too much like pre-World War Japan and the dwarves and Elves are caricatures.)
However, when you get down to it, it's about a young man of indifferent origins, who faces many trials and eventually becomes a man (and important). BORING.
The writing was good though, it was engaging and a pleasant read - none of the kind of terrible prose that I saw in some other books (Gardens of the Moon springs to mine). Was it 841 pages good though...well...
At times it felt like the author was just padding things out. Like in some books, entire subplots didn't really need to happen. Everything had such a nice outcome as well. Only one person that you really care about gets killed. Everyone else is a bit of a non-entity or a right git. The entire last forty pages with this lead up to a contestation over the crown was kind of the last straw. It was just a bit pointless. All hype for lots of let down.
That again was an entire mini-subplot that went nowhere (maybe it will in the billion other books that come in the series, holy shit there are so many, who on earth has the time to read them all?!) But again, the willingness of authors to sacrifice the current story for future plots really seem to be the laziest of writing.
But then, the major and fucking massive blight to the book was that every single character who was a woman did not need to exist in that book. Most of the named women were all princesses or queens - they solely existed to be fancied by the male characters. Since none of them actually did anything that mattered to the plot (and I include getting married or not getting married as the case may be) they could have just not existed. Everything would have happened regardless. They had no purpose other than to fill words. I don't think it passes the test - even though there is an Elf Queen, she is rapidly supplanted by her male consort and does relatively nothing (other than worry about her boyfriend).
Not only that but it's the same trick played about 4 different times throughout the book. Fucking ridiculous. Here's the sum total of what happens to the women:
- Pug (the magician of the title) fancies Carline (a princess) but he's captured and taken to the alien world for years
- Roland, a minor noble, also fancies Carline (he eventually dies making that entire subplot completely fucking pointless)
- Pug fancies and eventually marries another woman (Katala) a former slave
- Aruthra fancies another princess named Anita (apparently the entire second book is about these two, in the sense that she's hit by a poisoned arrow and he sets out a quest to save her, fuck all that shit)
- the Queen of the Elves is fancied by Tomas (who through the medium of enchanted armor basically becomes elf-like and they get hitched)
That's about it. There's nothing else. They are there to be fancied. What the absolute fuck. This is why, despite it being a fairly good read, I'm resentful of the 841 pags. In a place where there are magicians and rifts in space and entire other civilisations, men are the only important characters.
Fuck. That. Shit.
I'm going to give it a 3/5 as it's an okay read. But don't read it. This is the height of why fantasy novels need ruthless editors. That book was ridiculously bloated and despite being a fun enough read, isn't terribly original in it's characters or story.