Raymond E. Feist’s Magician: Apprentice was one of my favorite books in the mid-1980’s — I read it over and over. If I have read this book less than 20 times I would be completely amazed. The wonderful part of re-reading it recently and having 20 years plus of fantasy literature experience is that I can appreciate something sublime.
Pug and Tomas are best friends raised practically as brothers at the Keep of the Duchy of Crydee. Tomas’ parents are in charge of the kitchens and the boys have lived a fairly happy childhood. Pug is an orphan who has lived at the grace of Duke Borric. It’s a wonderfully typical beginning for a fantasy novel.
During the course of the story, Pug is selected as the Apprentice to the court Magician, Kulgan and has a lot of interesting experiences as he learns to harness his gifts. Tomas, the stronger and more charismatic of the two, is selected to be trained as a soldier so he can serve in the palace guard. Both boys have dreams of a future full of promise and excitement.
The plot of Magician: Apprentice centers on the imminent threat of invasion from another world. Naturally, Pug and Tomas are caught up in the momentous events that lead to the crisis of the story. Their experiences give them aspirations for lives far greater than they had even imagined. It is classic coming of age material complete with boyhood infatuations for both boys.
What really continues to set Magician: Apprentice apart from the other clutter in coming-of-age fantasy is the well-rounded cast and the compelling storytelling. I find characters who amuse me, plot themes that inspire and excite me, and above it all there is a constant feeling of curiosity about what is going to happen next.
Feist relies heavily on many of what are now stereotypical elements for a fantasy novel, but back in 1985 this was great stuff. In 2012 after the harsh, violent advent of the likes of Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie and George R.R. Martin, the RIFTWAR saga is a softer, less graphic reminder of a time when fantasy didn’t need blood and guts to entertain, and when the story of normal kids growing up to be heroes was stuff we would all dream about.