GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ A Kingdom Besieged: Good First Act | I Smell Sheep

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Kingdom Besieged: Good First Act

Raymond E. Fiest has been writing his Riftwar Cycle books for nearly thirty years and has established a long and fine tradition of fantasy storytelling. At least that's what I'm told from various sources on the intertrons, and considering he's produced over thirty books since 1982 I am genuinely impressed. Sadly, I have not been made aware of Mr. Fiest's work until A Kingdom Besieged which came out this year and heralds the end of his Riftwar Cycle. From the information I could find, A Kingdom Besieged is the first of a planned trilogy that will mark the end of Fiest's Riftwar writings. I am on the one hand sad that I am only now learning of this interesting series, however I am glad that I know have the opportunity to delve into Fiest's vast writings.
A Kingdom Besieged reads very much like a first act, fitting in with the three-act structure of a trilogy. We are introduced to our main characters and given an idea of the overall setting. The conflict is established and our protagonists make a few initial victories. However by the end of this book the victories are eclipsed by significant losses and the overarching conflict. The very last pages of the book reveal previously unseen elements that will factor heavily in the coming conflict and leave tantalizing questions for the next novel. Overall a very solid first act.

Now, I have to admit as a singular book
A Kingdom Besieged does not do very well. It leaves too much unresolved and introduces a ton of characters that, at least initially, are seemingly unconnected. However, once I considered it as part of a planned trilogy I felt it a strong act. All the seemingly needless character introductions are important so that their individual plots can weave together and come to fruition in books two and three. I'm certainly looking forward to the other books to see what happens in the future. I'll admit it wasn't as and immersing experience for me as I had with A Song of Ice and Fire, but the storytelling, plot and characters are solid enough to make it a good read.

I do have one point I want to harp on which is initially I had a little eye-rolling about this book. There is one continent where most of the plot takes place for this novel. In the north we have a Kingdom populated entirely by white people who act and look a lot like the standard European fantasy setting. Castles, knights, princesses, coats of arms, all the standard paraphernalia. In the south we have a great Empire with a vast desert, vaguely Arabic-sounding names, and overall representing a general
western misunderstanding of Islam. I was afraid this book would be succumbing to a predictable plot device, especially with no characters from the Empire. It's fairly common for a Kingdom to be undeniably good in fantasy while and Empire is undeniably evil. Nevermind that the Kingdom of the Isles in A Kingdom Besieged more accurately resembles an empire in the political sense. However, certain points later in the novel have convinced me enough that there are forces behind the scenes and the plot is not what it initially appears to be. Despite my original concerns, I ended up not being disappointed with this book and give it four sheep.


Adventurer's Rule #25: Don't eat it if you can't identify it.


  1. I actually have this sitting on my shelf but probably won't read it for quite some time. Because every review I've read says it's pretty weak as a novel, I'm in no hurry to get to it and can catch up on his books that I've missed. Personally, I don't care if it's the first volume of a trilogy, a novel should stand on it's own. It should be enhanced and brought to new heights when paired with the other two books in the series, but should not require them, or their events/conclusions, to be a whole, complete and satisfying story.

    All that aside, I HIGHLY recommend that you pick up and read what started it all for Feist: MAGICIAN: APPRENTICE, MAGICIAN: MASTER, SILVERTHORN, and finally A DARKNESS AT SETHANON. Some of the best, yet fairly simple, fantasy I've read. My all-time favorite being Robin Hobb's work.

  2. Thanks for the look-see at Feist's work. I've been aware of it, but never picked one up. Good to know that the first book can't stand alone -- that would really bother me if I didn't know that going in.

  3. To be fair, yeah it kind of bugged me too that it leaves so much unfinished and spends so much time developing the characters and conflict. However, I personally think that taking the effort to work a story over multiple books is a really great accomplishment. Again, just my opinion and we all know how crazy I am.

  4. This sounds like a smut free book to me.....

  5. Thank you for sharing today. I read one of Mr. Feist's novels many years ago and for some reason, had forgotten about them and I am not sure why. Will have to dig it out again.

  6. This website is turning out to be a great source of reading material. i find that I'm adding nearly every book reviewed here to my reading list. Keep it up and I'll be busy for a while...

  7. Thanks Prime! We love having you and so happy to help with the cook selections. :)

  8. Thanks so much for posting this review. I grew up loving Raymond Feist but I am massively behind on my reading. This is incentive to get reading again. Also, you must pick up the beginning of this series! It's wonderful.