Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Feist, Raymond E

(1945-    ) US writer who has largely concentrated on three sequences set in the same complicated Fantasyland. The first of these – the Riftwar Saga sequence, comprising Magician (1982; vt in 2 vols as Magician: Apprentice 1985 and Magician: Master 1986; the whole rev in 1 vol 1992), Silverthorn (1985), A Darkness at Sethanon (1986), Prince of the Blood (1989) and The King's Buccaneer (1992) – shows the influence of REF's earlier work as a designer of role-playing Games, for both good and ill. The fantasyland is made up of two neatly contrasted worlds: medieval Midkemia, beset by Dynastic-Fantasy disputes, and Oriental militaristic Kelewan. The "rifts" between them serve as Portals constructed to allow convenient shifts of personnel when the underlying rules of the Gameworld-like narrative so demand. The Ugly-Duckling protagonists are also conveniently dual, and follow similar patterns in their individual Quests. Pug becomes a great Wizard and Tomas becomes a mighty Hero, with the aid of a friendly Dragon. Both worlds offer Companions galore – from Elves to Robin Hood clones, and in the second volume a Trickster thief – for the protagonists to choose from.

The underlying structure of the sequence gradually reveals itself to be a continuation of an age-old Chaos War between the Valheru, who are themselves intrinsic with Being, and the Gods, who have created domains upon the world. Tomas is by essence (it turns out) a Valheru, and his search for a master sorcerer who will answer certain questions conflates with more secular conflicts, engaging a rightful king against the forces of the Dark. The conclusion of these quests and battles, which comes at the end of A Darkness at Sethanon, occasions a shift in focus in following volumes, which are essentially Heroic Fantasies set in the pre-existing Fantasyland.

The Empire sequence, with Janny WurtsDaughter of the Empire (1987), Servant of the Empire (1990) and Mistress of the Empire (1992) – is likewise adventurer fantasy. It involves the female protagonist in an intricate gamelike set of conflicts (military and financial) with various families who oppose her own betrayed House of Acoma. Eventually she wins through, gaining wealth, husband and heirs, and even copes with a loose cadre of magicians, who refuse to obey the laws of the game but fortunately disagree among themselves.

REF's third series, the ongoing Serpent Wars SagaShadow of a Dark Queen (1994) and Rise of a Merchant Prince (1995), with further volumes projected – is again set in the same basic universe, 75-100 years after the climactic events that close A Darkness at Sethanon. Once more it combines heroic-fantasy routines with potentially world-changing plot events. On that larger stage, a Serpent-like race threatens to invade Midkemia, but is opposed by the young protagonist.

REF's only singleton, Faerie Tale (1988), is a Dark Fantasy whose protagonist and family move into a house, Old Kessler Place, which turns out to be a Bad Place: denizens of Faerie are warring here, and they oppress and assault the entrapped humans in the course of their quarrel. The action eventually shifts to one of the protagonists' children, whose Twin has been abducted into Faerie and substituted by an unpleasant Changeling, and who must undertake a quest to the Erl King's court in order to retrieve him. He is there subjected to the usual Quibbles, but successfully transacts the Rite of Passage and regains his brother.

REF is an adept manipulator of standard material. [JC]

Raymond Elias Feist

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.