Now the fate of two worlds will be decided in a titanic struggle beneath the walls of Sethanon, as the link between Kelewan and Midkemia is revived.
A Darkness at Sethanon is the concluding volume of the Riftwar Saga, the first trilogy set in Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia. It’s an epic ending to this part of the story and has some very cool locations, action and twists to the story. With the return of the dreaded Nighthawks to Krondor, Prince Arutha and his companions must once again figure out who is sending them and move to defeat them. They return to the North to deal with the threat once and for all. This description makes it seem like just another quest, but while the politics and intrigue are far less intense than in Silverthorn, the need to defeat the evil that was responsible for the dispatching the Nighthawks to Krondor was never more important to the safety of Midkemia.
The characters in the book are mostly similar to Silverthorn, with some notable additions later on in the book. I loved the cunning ruse Arutha came up with to leave the city unseen, but I loved the fact that Jimmy saw through it even more. For me this book was all about Arutha and Jimmy once again. Jimmy’s emotional response to the idea that he’s lost Arutha was quite touching and his grief hit me harder this time around than it did last time I read the book. I just felt so sad for Jimmy, who’s finally allowed himself to trust and care for someone, only to be seemingly left behind once again. I loved the fact that he just bounced back though and accepted what happened without being angry at the deception, which is typical of his character. A pleasant surprise was the return to form for Pug and Tomas whose storyline I found far more compelling in A Darkness at Sethanon than in Silverthorn, I liked that Pug and Tomas return to more active roles this time around. We also get the first truly non-damsel-in-distress female character in the form of Briana. Unfortunately she’s not exquisitely beautiful, like Anita and Carline, but just handsome or rather plain-looking with a striking manner. It would be nice to see an exquisitely beautiful woman with as much competency and agency as Briana displays, as so far it seems the two are mutually exclusive in Midkemia. Still, the romance between her and Martin is sweet but also rather reminiscent of the insta-love trope, it might even be considered an early rendition of the trope.
One of the strongest elements of A Darkness at Sethanon was the development of its locations, especially Armengar and The Garden at the City Forever. The city of Armengar and its populace were fascinating, though ever since the Two Towers film was released I imagine the city looking like Helm’s Deep, which is rather distracting and not completely correct. The development of the free-thinking ways of the Armegarian people was well-developed and I liked Jimmy and Locky’s shock at its more liberal approach to relationships. The battle at Armengar is epic and its conclusion literally earth-shattering. And the fact is that this isn’t even the climactic final of the book, which means that Feist manages to top it not once but twice in the rest of the book. My other favourite location in the book is the City Forever and its adjacent Garden. The way Pug and Tomas travel there, following the river of time to its source and what they find there is amazingly cool, even if it smacked a little of Macros ex Machina. But Pug, Tomas and the dragon Ryath’s battle to gain the Garden was fantastic and well-done.
The final battle of the book decided the fate of Midkemia and it was epic in scale covering a multitude of realities and needing all the power, prowess, and wit our heroes can muster. It was a fitting and thrilling conclusion to the trilogy and while some elements of the book, such as the gender politics and the romances included in the story, didn’t hold up very well, A Darkness at Sethanon proved and still proves that Feist can tell an exciting tale with a grand sense of urgency and adventure. Of the three books in this trilogy, Silverthorn may have been my favourite one, but Magician and A Darkness at Sethanon are not far behind.
This review is part of my Midkemia Reread, in which I read all the books Raymond E. Feist wrote, set in the world of Midkemia. For more on the why and how of this series of reviews, check out Midkemia Reread: An Introduction.