Saturday, May 19, 2007

Into a Dark Realm, by Raymond E. Feist

With Into a Dark Realm Raymond Feist brings his readers the newest novel in his Riftwar series. Into a Dark Realm is the second entry in the Darkwar trilogy and follows on the heels of 2006's Flight of the Nighthawks.

Having stopped the evil magician Leso Vasen and the Nighthawks from inciting a civil was in The Empire of Great Kesh, Pug and his Conclave of Shadows have tracked Vasen to the world of Kelewan and the Assembly of Magicians. While Vasen is a grave threat to the safety of all living creatures on Midkemia there is an even greater threat which must be stopped: The Dasati and the Talnoy.

Pug believes the Dasati, a great warrior race from another realm of existence (not simply another world), are seeking to invade the world of Midkemia. Suffice it to say that this would be disastrous beyond all understanding.

There are several storylines running through Into a Dark Realm: Pug taking a strong cadre to the Dasati homeworld, Pug's grandsons have enrolled in the University of Roldem in order to give them the education they will need when war comes to Midkemia, and Pug's wife Miranda is searching for Vasen on Kelewan, and finally that of a Dasati youth (which means something far different with the Dasati as it would with humans) coming of age. Combined, this is Into a Dark Realm.

While Flight of the Nighthawks was something of a refreshing novel from Raymond Feist as it demonstrated Feist returning to form, Into a Dark Realm was another step backwards. Raymond Feist spends far less time developing characters and developing the story naturally as an extension of situations the characters find themselves in and unfortunately far more time explaining the characters to the reader and explaining what is going on. It is as if Raymond Feist forgot the essential lesson of storytelling which is: show, do not tell. Feist is telling and because of this Into a Dark Realm feels clunky from the start.

There is much to enjoy here for long time fans of Raymond Feist and the Riftwar as Feist explores a new world, briefly revisits Kelewan, brings back the Hall of Worlds and Honest John's, and Pug once again takes center stage. There is a brief sense of adventure as the reader gets to imagine what will happen next. This is only a brief sense, however. The largest issue, besides the storytelling flaw of telling rather than showing, is that somewhere down the road, sometime after Serpentwar, the sense of wonder which was so exuberant in the early Riftwar novels has been completely lost. There is no wonder here. No joy. Just flat storytelling with just enough to keep the most devoted reader looking for the next book but nothing to hook the new reader.

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