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Krondor: The Assassins by Raymond E Feist
(HarperCollins Voyager, £16.99, 352 pages, hardback, published 6 September 1999; trade paperback, £10.99, 352 pages, published 20 March 2000; mass market paperback, £5.99, 352 pages, published 4 September 2000.)

Raymond Feist has been playing in the fields of Midkemia for a long while now (since 1982, in fact, when Magician was first published), and seems to have perfected the art of the serial fantasy. Unlike his fantasy-writing compatriots Eddings, Goodkind, Jordan et al, Feist has figured out that modern fantasy readers actually like books which, while still being part of a larger whole, have stories with a beginning, middle and end. (This is in contrast to Jordan, say, who struggles indefatigably with middles without ever showing signs of stumbling over an ending.) As a result, you can pick up a Feist with some hope of enjoyment, even if you haven't read the previous volume.

The latest volume in the Rift saga, Krondor: The Assassins, is the second part of The Riftwar Legacy, signifying that it follows the earlier Riftwar Saga books. It certainly contains characters from the earlier books, like the wizard, Pug, who was the main protagonist of Magician, though he only appears in this volume in the prologue. Other characters plainly carry-over from Krondor: The Betrayal, which I haven't read.

This volume is competently written, has some appealing characters and a nifty plot assembled from stock fantasy situations. It holds no surprises, but then Feist readers aren't in the market for surprises. They want more of the same, and the author supplies that. This book is product, not literature. It's not bad product, perfectly serviceable, enjoyable even, in small doses. But it's designed to fly off the bookshop shelves at a steady rate to fans of the author, not win any prizes for originality. For that, you have to look elsewhere.

Review by John D Owen.

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© John D Owen 16 October 1999