Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
ISBN: 978-0553564945
Spectra, 1993
512 p.

Plot Summary: Pug is a boy who lives in a medieval fantasy world with kings, knights, trolls, and castles. He, like all of the other boys, must become an apprentice when he turns thirteen. At first, it seems there's no hope as all of the soldiers, handymen, and knights have been chosen. But then, an old wizard decides to take Pug under his wing to teach him magic. Pug's studies lead to him saving a beautiful princess from some river orcs, which in turn makes Pug official royalty. Now that he is a proper magician and is a part of the royal kingdom, Pug learns that mysterious blue warriors have been coming through interdimensional portals and are quickly invading his kingdom's land. Pug, the king, and a few others will journey through mountains, mines, and forests to meet the mysterious blue warriors and battle them for the sake of the kingdom.

Plot Analysis: I found this to be a great crossover title for teens. It features a teenage protagonist, the prose is not too thick to get through, and it moves quickly. Though the book is lengthy at 500+ pages, I think this would prove to be a great summer read for a teen. Magician: Apprentice is also a part of the Riftwar Saga series, so if a teen gets hooked there are many more similar books to enjoy.

Feist's descriptions of otherworldly beings and dwarves inside murky mines help the reader's imagination along, but do not weigh the book down with unnecessary detail. Feist's characters are simple, but he allows them to grow naturally. For example, Pug starts out as a self-doubting pre-teen and ends up as a mature and loyal King's magician. Feist also interestingly avoids any foreshadowing in the story. He mentions the interdimensional beings only in passing until it becomes necessary to the story. I found this to be an interesting literary choice, as it allows the story to focus on developing Pug instead of the ever-growing threat to the kingdom.

I do have to criticize Feist for falling into almost every fantasy genre cliche. He makes up for it by writing it well, but the presence of wraiths, orcs, dwarves, and a fellowship-like team leading Pug off to battle felt very familiar. With authors like Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, and Gene Wolfe moving the fantasy genre into new unexplored territory, Feist's derivative-but-entertaining storylines give his books an entry level feel, which can be a positive for a teen just starting out in the genre but tiresome for others.

Reader's Annotation: When an old magician took him under his wing, Pug never imagined that just years later, he'd be journeying through mines, forests, and mountains to save his kingdom from complete chaos!

Author Information: Feist is quite a prolific fantasy author, with many series that became of Magician: Apprentice and a few other offshoots. He is an author that is very responsive to fans, often replying to message board threads on his official website. Magician: Apprentice was one of the first books he wrote. He is also an avid fan of video games and has stated more than a few times that he'd be interested in being involved in a video game.


Genre: Adult/Young Adult Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Magic works a bit differently in every fantasy universe. Compare how Pug's magic works versus other popular fantasy titles like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings.

Why did the old wizard pick Pug to be his apprentice in the first place? Did he know something about Pug that we don't?

Reading level/interest age: Adults, ages 15-18.

Challenge Issues: N/A

Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.

Why I included this title: This is one of the first fantasy books I read and I think it's a great gateway into the fantasy genre. I find that many teens just need that one good book to convince them to move into a certain genre or reading level. This is the perfect adult fantasy gateway novel.

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