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The Paperback Wizard: Annetjie van Wynegaard Chats to Raymond E Feist

By Annetjie van Wynegaard for the Sunday Times

Magician's EndMagician’s End (HarperCollins)
Raymond E Feist
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In 1975 Raymond E Feist and his friends were sitting around at the University of California, San Diego, drinking beer and playing an epic role-playing game called Midkemia, loosely based on the popular Dungeons and Dragons card game, but with their own rules.

The game inspired a book that sparked a lifelong dedication to fantasy writing. Magician, published in 1982, introduced the orphan Pug, his best friend Thomas, and Pug’s first love, Princess Carline.

Feist describes Magician, which is set in a quasi-medieval feudal universe, as an “historical novel about a virtual world that doesn’t exist”. To help readers identify with this new world, he gave his characters modern habits that anyone who picked up the book could relate to.

Magician was the first of three books in the Riftwar Saga, which in turn is the first trilogy in an overall series known as the Riftwar Cycle. (The complete, complicated Riftwar bibliography is available on Feist’s official website, www.crydee.com.)

This year, Feist launched his 30th novel and the final book in Riftwar Cycle, Magician’s End – and appeared at the recent Open Book Festival in Cape Town, where book and author drew crowds that went round the proverbial block. Feist was impressed by the energy and enthusiasm that attended the festival, now in its fourth year.

“You could tell the people who were there loved it,” he says. “They were just great, I really enjoyed it.”

“What I didn’t understand until I got here was the position of fantasy relative to the rest of the market, and the fact that here it’s still a bit of a ghetto,” says Feist. “Whereas in the United States and Australia and Great Britain – especially since Harry Potter – the fantasy genre has been 10, 15, 20 years in the mainstream.”

Feist believes he changed minds about the relevance of fantasy during his panel discussions. “I think I convinced them that maybe bringing down a big-name international fantasy author again next year might not be a bad idea. And I would love to see the genre considered a bit more seriously here.”

Magician’s End concludes the adventures of Pug and all the characters and storylines that sprouted from the first book. In the Riftwar Cycle, Tsurani warriors from the Kelewan realm have invaded Pug’s home world. After so many adventures in so many books, you finally see Pug become the magician he was always meant to be. If the Riftwar Cycle is an epic tale of struggle and war, Magician’s End tells a human tale of compassion and love, and most of all, friendship.

It took over 30 years to see the Riftwar Cycle to its conclusion, but Feist is far from done. He’s already writing The King of Ashes, the first book in his new trilogy, The War of Five Crowns.

The author is, in some ways, the most powerful magician in all the fantasy realms.

Follow @Annetjievw on Twitter

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