This is an amazing book.
(Note that initially it was released as the one novel, Magician. Later, in America, it was re-published in two volumes – Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master.)
Written in 1982 by American author Raymond E Feist, it was a standout bestseller at the time, and still sells well today. You’ll often see it featured on lists of ‘most loved books’ or ‘world’s best ever books’. Magician is a novel in its own right but also the start of a series of books called the Riftwar Cycle – and these have been so successful they make it onto the Wikipedia page for the bestselling books of all time – with sales of approximately 15 million.
Magician is intended as a book for adults but the family friendly content and relatively simple vocabulary mean it is also ideal for younger readers. It is particularly suitable for good readers in their early teens – the depth of scope and imagination compared to the children’s books they are used to will leave them wide eyed in delight.
The 800 odd page novel (broken into two books in the USA) is set on the fictional planet of Midkemia. In the grand tradition of fantasy novels, Midkemia is in a medieval age and knights castles, bows and arrows and royalty abound. Also typical of the genre, (and as given away by the title), magic is very real and powerful.
If you are not a fan of fantasy, fear not. The characters and plot are real and believable, with the more exotic elements simply enriching the story rather than making it seem silly or strange.
It starts very simply. A young orphan, Pug, aged thirteen, is stumbling upon manhood in a small seaside town. He is liked well enough but is small of stature and heartbreakingly when every other young boy is selected for a profession in a large public ceremony, he is left standing unwanted. At the last moment, and to the surprise of all, Kulgan, the town’s magician and confidant of the Duke, chooses Pug, having spotted a certain something about the boy.
Pug grapples with magic unsuccessfully, and it appears Kulgan may have been mistaken about the boy’s talent and might have to let him go. But then the young boy saves Carline, the Duke’s daughter, from a violent attack. In order to do so he recites a magic spell from memory, something considered impossible (the power of spells is thought to be in the parchment from which they are read).
Readers then have the tantalising prospect that this young boy may be a magical prodigy, and, just as excitingly, the young princess Carline now seems to be infatuated by him. This description cannot possibly do justice to these first few scenes – they are as captivating as they are simple, and the novel’s opening hundred or so pages must be in contention for the greatest start to any book ever written.
The plot moves on epically, with the threads of half a dozen or more stories intertwining. By the end, the reader is left bursting with excitement, desperate to share the joy of what they have read with someone else, and eager to move on to the sequel, Silverthorn.
For young talented readers, this series forms a neat bridge between children’s books and more advanced and complex literature. However much they subsequently go on to enjoy this literature though, it is doubtful if any of it will be able to give them the same excitement, wonder and delight as Magician.