Flight of the Nighthawks: Darkwar by Raymond E. Feist

There has been, over recent years, a fair accusation that Raymond E Feist’s constant delving into the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan have become somewhat tedious and repetitive. However his last three books; Talon of the Silverhawk, King of Foxes and Exile’s Return, were a welcome return to form for one of the longest on-going fantasy series. This fresh lease of life in Feist’s writing continues with a new trilogy of books based around the events that occurred in the last three books. For anyone who has yet to pick up a Feist book you’d be advised to start earlier in the series, for those regular readers there is a whole lot to look forward to.

Entitled Flight of the Nighthawks: Darkwar, Feist offers the reader a combination of old and new. No book based in Midkemia will ever, at least for the forseeable future, not include the magician Pug and his ongoing battle against the servants of the Nameless One. Nor can we expect to see the servants of the Namesless One simply disappear, so from the core aspect of the storytelling the reader will know what is coming, how it comes though is a different matter.

Feist’s work has always been epic in nature; the Serpentwar and Riftwar Sagas are prime examples. Both painted fantasy in broad brush strokes of  large armies and even larger, more powerful forces. In contrast what made Talon of the Silverhawk so appealing was the closeness, the intimacy as we followed Talon from tribulation to retribution and vengeance. Much more akin to a David Gemmell piece, Talon of the Silverhawk altered Feist’s successful formula to encompass the minutiae in conjunction with the epic. This pattern has become more evident as we followed Talon into the second book King of Foxes and, in an intriguing and well-written twist, Tal’s original enemy, Kaspar of Olasko, in Exile’s Return.

What is also evident in this subtle change of style, is the material drifting away from the Kingdom of the Isles and their monarchy (who dominated his early work), toward a larger and more varied exploration of Triagia and Midkemia itself. In doing so the reader no longer suffers having to work out who each member of the Royal family is and what relation they have with the old favourites Arutha, Martin and Borric the first. This can only be welcomed to a point because Feist’s work still relies so heavily on readers knowing who the main players are. As I mentioned at the start – if you’ve never read a Feist book, I’m at a loss to tell you where to begin. If a few interesting tales are what you’re after, start with Talon of the Silverhawk. If however your looking for a ride spanning multiple generations and worlds then begin, as Lewis Carroll suggested, at the beginning with the classic Magician.

Which leaves one question: What about Flight of the Nighthawks?
If you have read the preceding three books, then it’s more of the same only more frenetic and exciting with a touch of intrigue. Plots involving Leso Varen, the Talnoy and the Gods involvement, particularly the Nameless One, all come to fruition. Some with agreeable conclusions, others with yet more threads left open for the next two books in this trilogy.

The ‘ending’ to this book is a bit annoying but if you read Feist regularly you know what to expect.Nakor’s presence in recent books has been a boon, he is as good a character as Feist has created and his presence alone redeems some of the shortcomings. Interestingly we begin to learn more about how Nakor does his tricks, even though he now no longer sleeps with the codex. This as well as a deeper introduction to Pug’s son, Caleb, keeps Flight of the Nighthawks relatively fresh as the storyline slips into top gear and pounds along at a hectic pace. Effectively this is an in-between book, it answers some of the questions left over from Exile’s Return whilst setting the stage for an even larger battle that will almost certainly consume the next two books. With so many open threads that promise significant danger to not just the Conclave but also both worlds, Kelewan and Midkemia, things are about to get exciting.   

Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005

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