Raymond E. Feist

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"Talon of the Silver Hawk"
(Conclave of Shadows, Book 1)

(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JAN 11, 2004)

"Voices shouted, but the sound was muted, and he could not understand what they were saying. For a brief instant, he saw something: high in the sky above him a silver hawk flew in a circle, and to Kieli it seemed to be looking directly down on him. In his mind he heard the voice once again. Linger, little brother, for your time is not yet. Be my talon and rend our enemies.

His last thought was of the bird."

Talon of the Silver Hawek by Raymond Feist

A young Orosini, Kieli, goes up to the mountains on his naming day to gain the sacred vision that will give him his adult name. As he waits, he realizes that there is a fight going on in his village, and so he runs to help. It is then he gains his name, as his attack fails and he is left for dead, and a silver hawk tells him to become his instrument of revenge, for now Talon of the Silver Hawk is the only Orosini left alive. He is discovered by Robert and his man Pasko, who happened to find his nearly dead body by accident. Now Kieli, who has adopted the name Talon of the Silver Hawk, owes his life to the enigmatic stranger...a price that will not be easily paid. Robert takes the young man under his wing and, with the help of Magnus, a wizard of incredible power, Caleb, a hunter of nearly preternatural skill and many others, teaches him everything from swordsmanship to painting. But why? What plans does Robert have for his charge? And will they gain what Talon desires the most...revenge for his people?

This first volume in The Conclave of Shadows series does everything that a first volume in a fantasy series should. First, it gives us a pretty good idea of what the main point to the story will be. The Duke of Olasko is trying to creep his way into certain key points of Midkemia's Eastern Kingdoms, where he hopes to launch a major conquest. Only the Conclave of Shadows stands in his way, which is the second thing the book accomplishes, setting up this group. Their name does not mean they are evil, but rather that they are secret, working in darkness and doing questionable things in order to serve the greater good. Machiavelli would have loved to join, I think, because even though the members of this conclave that we meet for the most part are likable characters, they will not hesitate to kill poor Talon...or even manipulate him into a painful lesson...in order to meet their goals.

The book is mostly concerned with the training of Talon...many years pass as he is carved and molded, turned from a Native American-esq boy who is much more concerned with things of nature and life, to a young nobleman whose concern is more espionage, womanizing, and revenge. Despite the radical change in his characteristics, his character remains the same...a likable, very straightforward, honorable young man whose sense of wonder and love of learning shines through. The book never turns boring, even though you know it's mostly set up, because Talon and his world, and moreover, the way he perceives this world, for his wonder of discovery goes a long with our own, never dulls, but flows freely, broken from time to time with some fairly hairy adventures (Not only does someone want to kill Talon, but we soon discover that Robert plans for him to enter a swordsmanship competition, and it is only there, if he wins it, will he finally learn the ultimate goal Robert has planned for him.) that make the book fairly interesting.

One of the other things I thought was rather endearing was the fact that Feist references the adventures of an earlier saga. Now, usually, this sort of thing is nice only in that it connects past books and adds a feeling of historical depth to the books, but the way he does it is rather funny. "Talon Blinked. He was reading another Kingdom language book, this one a chronicle of the life and times of a merchant of Krondor named Rupert Avery. The merchant before his death had commissioned the tale and had it published, a paean to his own vanity, from Talon's point of view. The story was badly written and improbable to say the least..." You may remember Avery as a major character in The Serpentwar Saga. Any author with the sense of humor to write so about his own books is definitely cool.

In the end, we get a hint at what lies ahead for Talon, and it sounds like things are going to get much more interesting for him. The next book, The King of Foxes, will be out in April, and I look forward to reviewing it for you.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 81 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Talon of the Silver Hawk at HarperCollins

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"King of Foxes"
(Conclave of Shadows, Book 2)

(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer APR 04, 2004)

King of Foxes by Raymond Feist

In the first book of the Conclave of Shadows we met Talon of the Silver Hawk, (and hence the name of the first book) an Orosini boy who lost his whole village to the murderous machinations of the Duke of Olasko. He was rescued and trained to become the ultimate spy. Now he must use the opportunities gained in the last book to earn Olasko's trust so that he can help the Conclave figure out Olasko's larger schemes. Forced to swear fealty to the very man who ordered the slaughter of his people, Tal Hawkins must carry out some fairly horrible missions and bide his time until Olasko betrays him and frees him from his oath. The time is not long in coming, and soon Tal finds himself a prisoner on the island Fortress of Despair.

I rather liked the last book, but it was more preparation than action in some ways. This book is all about action and is really exciting as well as interesting. Court politics, daring escape plans and even more daring invasion plans make this book fly by. Like in the last book, you can delight in meeting some old faces, such as Pug, who was the star of the very first Feist book I ever read.

It's not all adventure, though. Tal is faced with some genuine moral dilemmas. In general, when you have a fantasy/revenge adventure and you go along with the hero, you generally feel justified in everything he does. The people deserve to die for what they've done. Feist doesn't make it that easy for Tal, and while his actions against Raven in the last book are re-justified in this book, he finds himself having a hard time once in awhile. Sometimes he gets kind of close to almost liking or maybe admiring Olasko, and events in the book will force him into an unlikely partnership with the last of the three he is sworn to kill. This, along with the other things he struggles with that go against the teachings of his people, make for some thought provoking scenes. It's hard not to like him, because we understand exactly where he's coming from and exactly where he's trying to go. Even when he does things that are questionable, we stick by him because he's worked so hard to get where he is.

As I intimated in the last sentence, the bad guys are not really all black in this story. Quint comes across well as a career soldier who follows even when he shouldn't, and Olasko has the same sort of charm that I'm sure the Medici or Borgia displayed...and the same ruthlessness.

Despite my wishes to the contrary, this second book seems to really tie everything up for these characters. But it's the sort of offering that you want more of... I'd love to spend more time with Magnus and Caleb, who we barely, if at all, saw in this book, and I hope to explore more of the Conclave proper. If nothing else, Feist has proven that this world has many, many stories left to tell.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 45 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from King of Foxes at HarperCollins



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Stand-alone:

Riftwar Saga:

Riftwar Legacy:

The Empire Trilogy (co-authored with Janny Wurts)

Serpentwar Saga

The Conclave of Shadows:

Darkwar Saga:

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Raymond E. Feist Raymond E. Feist was born (1945) and raised in Southern California. He received a B.A in Communications from the University of California in 1977. He started writing as a hobby in 1977, and started to write seriously in 1978 (after California cut funding on his health and human services job). "I don't write fantasy; I write historical novels about an imaginary place. At least that's how I look at it," says Feist. Whatever the definition, he is a best-selling fantasy author noted for the magical and complex worlds he creates. His works are translated into 15 languages.

Feist has also been involved in role playing games since attending UCSD and was involved in designing two computer games, Betrayal of Krondor and Return to Krondor.

He lives in San Diego, California.

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