Publisher: Harper Voyager
Australian Publication Date – 5 April 2018
World Publication Date – 8 May 2018
For over 30 years, one of the most reliable cornerstones of fantasy fiction has been the books of Raymond E. Feist. Starting with the 1982 fantasy classic, Magician, Feist has produced 30 books, all set in the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan, as part of his long running Riftwar Cycle. King of Ashes is the first book Feist has written since he ended the Riftwar Cycle in 2013. It is also the start of The Firemane Saga, a new series which is set in a completely different universe to the Riftwar Cycle and introduces the reader to an exciting new story.
The continent of Garn was once home to five kingdoms, the greatest of which was the Kingdom of Ithrace. Ruled by the red-haired Firemanes, Ithrace was known for its culture and creativity. However, following a great betrayal, Ithrace was destroyed and its king executed. In order to avoid any retribution, the power-hungry King of Sandura ordered the deaths of every member of the Ithrace royal family, and not even their legendary affinity for fire could save them.
Now, 17 years later, war is returning to Garn. Ancient pacts of peace are failing, and the four kingdoms are out of balance. As the kingdoms and the independent baronies prepare for a new conflict, rumours of a hidden heir to Ithrace’s throne begin to surface.
In the previously peaceful Covenant Lands, Declan, a young and talented blacksmith, is forced to flee slavers raiding his village. Carrying the rare knowledge of crafting the legendary jewel-steel, Declan flees to the Barony of Marquensas, where he hopes to create a new life for himself.
Meanwhile, in the feared and hidden island nation of Coaltachin, three youths, Donte, Hava and Hatu, are being trained in the way of the Quelli Nascosti assassins, learning how to spy, steal and kill. All three of the young agents are eager to explore the world outside of their island home, but they quickly find themselves under attack. The mysterious group of assailants seem to have been trained in a similar way to the assassins of Coaltachin. Whoever these attackers are, they are unafraid of the young assassins and have a particular interest in capturing Hatu, an orphan with red hair and a fiery temper. As events transpire, these young people find themselves in the heart of events that will transform Garn forever.
Feist delivers a fantastic and absorbing read that once again illustrates why he is one of the preeminent writers of fantasy fiction in the world today. His latest book is a classic fantasy tale set within another unique and memorable universe and is one of the most thrilling and addictive releases so far this year.
King of Ashes is the first book in a brand new trilogy that has definite potential to expand out into another long-running series. As a result, Feist presented this book as a set up for the rest of the series, rather than a stand-alone book. Substantial time was spent establishing the characters, world and overall story, and introducing elements to be further explored in future instalments of the series. While some questions are answered towards the end of the book, a number of mysteries still remain. King of Ashes proved very hard to put down—an impressive feat, considering it was 545 pages long in the hardcover edition.
Feist has done a lot of work building up this new fantasy location, producing some amazing settings and locations. The characters venture to large cities, small towns, fortified keeps, grasslands, forests and various islands. There are also several scenes set on the ocean, which allow for some intricate sequences involving ships and naval combat. It also appears that, despite how far many of the characters travel, they have only just brushed the surface of the continent mapped out in the front of the book. This area of land appears to be less than half of the entire continent of Garn, which indicates wider adventures in future books. There were also some brief mentions of other continents existing on this new world, which may be a possible indication of plans to expand this series past its initial trilogy.
While Feist introduces a number of new kingdoms and peoples throughout his story, many readers will really enjoy his inclusion of the Quelli Nascosti assassins on the island nation of Coaltachin. In the story, the nation of Coaltachin, also known as the Invisible Nation, is ruled by the Quelli Nascosti assassins, who work throughout the continent as assassins, spies and informants. Feist spends a significant amount of time focusing on this group of assassins, displaying various aspects of their society, operations, influence throughout Garn and varied training techniques. As a result, they are the most fleshed-out group of characters within King of Ashes and are a definite highlight of the book. Readers will really enjoy the significant focus Feist puts on this group, as this results in a number of high-intensity scenes with covert activities and exciting action.
Feist tells most of the story through three prominent characters, Declan, Hava and Hatu. All three of these characters have fascinating and unique accounts to follow, although all of them could be considered to be coming-of-age stories. Hava and Hatu are both members of the Quelli Nascosti, and it is through their eyes that we see most of the secretive nation and their actions. Hatu is involved in action throughout the continent, encountering mysterious foes and discovering his hidden destiny, while Hava’s story focuses on more specialised training and a secret side mission. Declan’s story is a classic fantasy story of a young man trying to find his way in life while overcoming destructive elements. There are some more classic fight scenes in this storyline, and some very detailed descriptions of blacksmithing. Each of these storylines is extremely enjoyable to read and provides different insights into this exhilarating new fantasy universe.
King of Ashes is the latest book from fantasy legend Raymond E. Feist and represents an outstanding start to a fantastic new series. Featuring multiple coming-of-age stories, this is a pure fantasy tale set within an intriguing and detailed new universe. This is mandatory reading for fans of Feist’s previous work and comes highly recommended for all fans of the fantasy genre. I cannot wait for the next book in this series.