Sunday, September 17, 2017

The King's Buccaneer

The King's Buccaneer
by Raymond E. Feist
Recommended Ages: 14+

Nicholas conDoin is the youngest son of Arutha, Prince of Krondor and brother of Lyam, King of the Isles. Overshadowed by his older twin brothers, one of whom will be king after Lyam, he has also been allowed to lead a relatively soft life by dint of his deformed left foot. As he approaches the age when his father started to do heroic deeds, Arutha decides to do something to make a man of him - like, sending him to the remote duchy of Crydee, to serve as a squire to his Uncle Martin and maybe rack up some leadership experience. Nicholas gets more than his father bargained for, starting when a horde of the darkest villains in all the world of Midkemia sneak into Crydee, taking captive everyone young and healthy, and killing pretty much everyone else. By chance among those who survive the raid, Nicholas leads an expedition across a seemingly endless ocean to rescue those captives, including his cousin Margaret and her lovely lady-in-waiting, Abigail.

If you've guessed Nicholas is impelled partly by his attachment to Abigail, you're not as dumb as you look. But before he finds her and the other captives, things happen that draw his heart in another direction. Meantime, he becomes the captain of an increasingly diverse group of sailors, soldiers, mercenaries, and more - including two notable wizards, and possibly the only half-elf/half-human ever to exist in their world. They endure heartbreaking disaster, struggle against deadly conditions, battle enemies as powerful as they are ruthless, and sustain terrible losses. They visit an alien continent, witness a conflict between legendary forces, and end up racing against a terrible plot to destroy the world.

I'll confine my review to these sweeping generalities, but believe me: the fun in this book is in the specifics. Characters like Nakor, the cheerful wizard who swears "there is no magic," and Anthony, whose love for a woman above his station shines bright enough to steer a ship by; villains like Lady Clovis, whose seductive power can drain a man's life force in minutes; romantic interests ranging from a girl who haunts the streets of a pirate hide-out to a bossy-pants princess who has been marked for death; and above all, Nicholas himself, who faces his own deepest fear and grows as a man beyond anyone's expectations - all these and incidents galore fill this book with excitement, surprises, and satisfying emotional arcs.

Depending on how you slice up Feist's Midkemia-related output, involving 30-some books written over 30-some years, either this book is the second of two stand-alone companion novels to the Riftwar trilogy (or quartet), which begins with Magician (or at least Magician: Apprentice); or it is the second book of the Krondor's Sons duad, following Prince of the Blood; or both books are a continuation of the Riftwar saga. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and the author's views on the matter don't seem to feature much in the debate. But I reckon the next book to read, in following the multi-layered Midkemia canon, seems to be Daughter of the Empire, book 1 of the "Riftwar: The World On the Other Side" trilogy with co-author Janny Wurts; though that book was published before Prince of the Blood and this book. Just be quiet and nod your head. Good.

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