Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist is the third book in the Riftwar Saga and together with A Darkness at Sethanon forms a kind of duology within the series. This first part tells the story of Prince Arutha’s search for the magical silverthorn plant to cure his beloved Anita from magical poisoning and of the growing threat of Murmandamus,
I consider Feist to be one of the master storytellers of his generation. Let me tell you a story to prove it. I studied language and literature at university and after four years of deep literary analysis sucking all the enjoyment out of reading I refused to read anything more complex than a Cosmopolitan for many, many years after graduation. Not until, that is, a colleague loaned me Feist’s Shadow of a Dark Queen, the first in his Serpentwar saga. I completely DEVOURED it and the rest of the series. I was immediately drawn into Feist’s world of Midkemia and it reignited my love of reading that I’d all but forgotten. When I bought my first Kindle and made the switch to ebooks, a book by Feist was also the first book I bought to ease my transition to the new format.
So, onto Silverthorn.
What I liked
Worldbuilding. Feist has been writing in his world of Midkemia for over 30 years and knows it inside out. Each of the nations in his world has its own distinct character, flora and fauna and customs. The world feels real. The magic system is what Brandon Sanderson would call a soft magic system in that it’s not always fully explained to the reader. Feist is good at avoid using magic to create a deus ex machina which can be a strong temptation of a less well defined magic system.
Characters. The characters, too, feel real. While Arutha is the hero of Silverthorn and displays many heroic qualities he can be a really moody son of a gun which keeps him real. The young Jimmy the Hand too, could be annoying, but his occasional moments of real vulnerability keep him endearing to the reader. Admittedly, in Silverthorn his female characters aren’t my favourite. Carline comes across as shrewish and Anita is your stereotypical damsel in distress. We don’t have a kickass Brienne of Tarth or Egwene al Vere. Still, Silverthorn is one of Feist’s earlier works, and his female characters are better written later on.
Pacing. Feist knows how keep a story moving along at a brisk pace and to keep narrative tension. In Feist’s books there is always something going on; always an obstacle to overcome or an enemy about to try to kill our protagonists.
The humour. I adore Feist’s writing still with its not infrequent humour. it is a rather dry, understated humour which is often expressed in quips by the characters and really appeals to my British sense of humour.
What I didn’t like
Not available in ebook format. Here I have to have a rant. It seems that the publisher for the English version of Raymond E. Feist’s Silverthorn in North America doesn’t have the rights to produce an ebook version. The only ebook version available to us Canadians is the French version. I see that the UK publishers to have an ebook version available, but can we Canadians buy it? Nope. We can easily buy hard copy books from Amazon.co.uk, but not ebooks. Grrrr. I look forward to the day when digital rights are less restrictive. I started reading Silverthorn in French as ebook, but in the end I found I was missing too much of Feist’s nuance and humour so switched to the paperback version. (Note, the links above are to the French ebooks.)
Few female characters. See above.
All in all I loved Silverthorn and gave it four stars out of five.