Publisher: Harper Voyager (Hardcover – 5 July 2022)
Series: The Firemane Saga – Book Three
Length: 515 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
One of the leading authors of fantasy fiction, Raymond E. Feist, brings his Firemane Saga to an end in a big way with the impressive and deeply entertaining Master of Furies.
I was recently in the mood for some classic high fantasy awesomeness, and few people do high fantasy better than one of my all-time favourite authors, Raymond E. Feist. I have been a massive Feist fan for years, ever since I stumbled upon his epic Riftwar Cycle in my youth. Made up of around 30 connected novels in a massive, multi-world universe, including his epic debut, Magician, and the fantastic Empire trilogy (co-written with Janny Wurts), the Riftwar Cycle contains so many fantastic stories and it remains one of the seminal pieces of fantasy fiction out there. Feist appeared to finish the Riftwar Cycle off in 2013 and after a break he started working on a different fantasy series, the Firemane Saga.
Set in a new fantasy world, the Firemane Saga followed several great protagonists as they found themselves dragged into a series of conflicts that threaten to tear their continent apart. This series started in 2018 with King of Ashes, an excellent book that served as a brilliant introduction to the setting, story and characters. This series was continued in 2020 with Queen of Storms, which continued the various character-based storylines, expanding on some existing elements while also throwing in a ton of new enemies and some surprising changes. This second novel included a pretty fantastic twist halfway through, as one of the major settings of the series was completely destroyed and various supporting characters were killed off. I have been eager to see how this series would continue and I was pretty excited when I saw that the third and final book in the series, Master of Furies, was set for release this year (it was one of my most anticipated releases for the first half of the year). I ended up grabbing this book the day it came out and I swiftly got drawn into its fun and action-packed story.
War and death have come to the Barony of Marquensas after unknown raiders from across the seas arrived and laid waste to everything before them. Their most savage action saw them destroy the town of Beran’s Hill, which resulted in the death of Gwen, Declan Smith’s beloved wife. Now determined to get revenge, Declan has become a soldier and allied with Baron Daylon Dumarch, whose family was also killed in the raid. As the Baron gathers a new army around him, Declan travels to the desolate far south of Tembria to recover rare materials that will allow him to forge the best weapons and armour for them.
At the same time, Hava, former spy for the shadow nation of Coaltachin, has drawn first blood against the mysterious forces attacking her friends. After capturing the enemy ship, Queen of Storms, Hava has become a notorious pirate captain, raiding ships from across the waves to find out who or what is threatening Marquensas. Her investigations will eventually lead her to the hidden continent of Nytanny, where a powerful group holds sway of a vast population of warring nations.
As Hava, Declan and Baron Daylon prepare their forces to fight whatever lies within Nytanny, the fate of the world may rest in someone else’s hands. Hava’s husband, Hatushaly, the last living member of the Ithrace royal family, has finally discovered his legacy as a legendary Firemane. Under tutelage on the hidden island Sanctuary, Hatushaly works to hone his destructive magical abilities. But as his powers grow, Hatushaly will find himself thrust into events beyond his control. A new darkness is rising within his world and Hatushaly will need all the help he can find to stop it.
This was another awesome book from Feist that I felt was a great end to the excellent Firemane Saga. This third and final book takes the character-driven story in some fantastic directions, and I think that Master of Furies was one of Feist’s better recent novels.
I had an outstanding time getting through Master of Furies’ clever and compelling narrative and I really enjoyed the elaborate and exciting third part of the series. Now, I must admit that I initially had a bit of a hard time getting back into this book, mainly because it had been two years since Queen of Storms’ release and I had forgotten some of the story details from the preceding novels. I probably should have done a bit of a reread of the series before starting Master of Furies, and this is one of those cases where interested readers should really check out the first two novels first. Master of Furies immediately dives back into the plot lines from the last book, and while a lot of elements are recapped, it does help to remember how the series has unfolded.
Master of Furies is told from multiple character perspectives as all the protagonists from the first two novels are featured here. There is a good mixture of different storylines throughout the novel, including the mystical training of Hatushaly, the adventures of Declan in a hostile desert, political intrigues occurring with Marquensas, and Hava’s nautical and espionage activities as she sails from location to location, attempting to find out who they are actually fighting. All of those storylines are spread out evenly through the book and they played off each other well, coming together into an exciting and expansive narrative. I particularly liked Declan’s storyline, not only because it was a very good example of a classic fantasy adventure but it also expertly showcased the character’s grief and anger after the events of Queen of Storms. I liked the balance between action, world-building and character development contained in each chapter, and this book had an amazing flow to it. The action scenes are particularly well written, and Feist features multiple epic battles and fights that really get the reader’s adrenalin pumping. The resulting story is very well paced out and there are no slow spots in the story at all. Each of the separate stories start coming together a lot more towards the centre of Master of Furies as Feist starts to prepare for the big conclusion.
While I was initially worried that Feist was going to rush the conclusion too much (I had some doubts with 150 pages to go, as there seemed to be too much that needed to get wrapped up), this ended up coming together really well. The established character arcs ended on an awesome (if slightly predictable) note and most of the open storylines are resolved in a satisfying manner. It was great to see some of the fun characters you have grown to like over the course of the trilogy finally get what they deserve, while others start new adventures that will lead to some interesting storylines in the future. Feist also works to set up some interesting storylines for the future and it is pretty clear that he has intentions to produce some form of sequel trilogy or series in the future. An overall strong and exciting story, I absolutely powered through this book and I was extremely entertained and happy the entire way through.
There was some interesting world-building in Master of Furies that I quite enjoyed as Feist sought to expand on his already established new fantasy realm. Not only did Feist take one of his main characters to the previously unseen harsh deserts at the lower part of the main continent of Tembria, but we also got our first real look at the rival continent of Nytanny, where most of the antagonists originate. I found both areas to be fascinating and detailed as Feist does a great job of building up both settings in this novel, ensuring that the reader gets an idea of geography, culture and history. I had a great time exploring both, and the fantastic landscapes of south Tembria were particularly cool, especially as one of the main protagonists spends half the book facing off against every enemy and threat he can find there. I did think that the focus on Nytanny came too late in the trilogy, as Feist has deliberately kept this continent and its people obscured from the reader and the main characters. While this did enhance the mystery surrounding their actions, it did mean that their sudden reveal in this book felt a tad forced and you did not care as much about who they were or savoured the eventual counterattack against them by the protagonists. Likewise, some of the political situations in the rest of Tembria that were featured in the earlier books, such as the impacts of the corrupt Church of the One and the politics of the other kingdoms of Tembria, are somewhat ignored here in favour of focusing on the characters in Marquensas. While I do not think this took away from the narrative too much, it might have made for a more elaborate and complete universe if more of these missing elements had been explored in more detail (I reckon Feist could have turned this into a four-book series to properly set up this world). Still, I really enjoyed the rest of the world-building and the change in the settings in this book, particularly surrounding the impacts of the massive raids from Queen of Storms which have devastated not only the Barony of Marquensas but also the various other kingdoms and lands featured in the book. I really hope that we get to see a lot more of this world in Feist’s future novels as I really want to see how it progresses and changes as it faces more dangers.
For the final thing I wish to discuss about this novel, I think I’m going to have to put a Spoiler Warning into effect as some of the details I’m about to discuss are significant and one of the more surprising things about Master of Furies.
This feature was the intriguing connection that Master of Furies, and by extension the entire Firemane Saga, has with Feist’s established Riftwar Cycle. I was pleasantly surprised when, seemingly out of nowhere, one of the most entertaining characters from the Riftwar Cycle suddenly appeared in the narrative and started helping Hatushaly learn how to control his magic, revealing that this new world is set in the same joint universe as Feist’s previous series. While I really should not have been too surprised, (multiple alternate fantasy worlds are a staple of Feist’s writing), I honestly did not see this coming. In hindsight there were some subtle hints in some of the previous books, but I did not realise to what extent the author intended to bring everything together. Feist really goes to town on the connections in this third book, and soon several additional Riftwar Cycle characters appear, referring all the existing books. It soon became very clear at the end of Master of Furies that the author was intending to substantially combine the Firemane Saga with the Riftwar Cycle, especially when an established malevolent presence was discovered on this new world. The book ends on a very interesting note, with the main characters of this series meeting with two of the biggest characters from the Riftwar Cycle, and it looks like Feist’s next trilogy is going to combine these two universes together in even more substantial ways.
Now, bringing the Firemane Saga into the larger Riftwar Cycle is a bit of a double-edged sword for Feist, although it is one that I personally enjoyed. I loved the surprise at seeing some of these favourite characters come across each other, and every single new connection or reference brought a thrill for me, Feist nerd that I am. However, I know that some readers are going to be disappointed, especially as people who were hoping for something new from Feist suddenly got thrown back into the author’s established universe and characters. This connection also means that those readers unfamiliar with the entire Riftwar Cycle might get a little lost here, especially if they do not fully realise the significance of events or characters. While Feist does a good job of highlighting who these characters are and why readers should care, I can see some people getting confused about what is going on. As such, I can understand if some readers are frustrated, but I think it was a great choice by Feist and I loved seeing the author bringing everything together. If nothing else, this is probably going to inspire me to do a big Feist re-read at some point in the future, especially if all his previous novels are going to come into play in his next series (can I read all the Riftwar Cycle novels before Feist’s next book? I don’t know, but I’m willing to try).
Spoiler Warning End
Raymond E. Feist continues to shine as one of my absolute favourite fantasy authors with the outstanding third and final entry in his awesome Firemane Saga, Master of Furies. Containing an epic and deeply entertaining narrative that cleverly concludes this fun trilogy, Master of Furies has an excellent blend of story, setting and characters, as well as some cool connections to some of Feist’s more iconic works. While there were a few issues with how this book came together, I honestly had a fantastic time reading Master of Furies as I was so wrapped up in its outstanding story. Overall, this book comes highly recommended, especially for those established fans of Feist’s work.