For nearly a year peace reigned in the enchanted kingdom of Rillanon. But new challenges awaited Arutha the Prince of Krondor when Jimmy the Hand – youngest thief in the Guild of Mockers – came upon a sinister Nighthawk poised to assassinate him.
What evil power raises the dead and makes corpses do battle with the living at the behest of the Guild of Death? And what high magic can defeat it? The new King of Midkemia is threatened – and a life-or-death quest must be undertaken for an antidote to a poison that fells a beautiful Princess on her wedding day…
Silverthorn is Raymond E. Feist’s second novel set in Midkemia and in the Riftwar Saga—not to be confused with the Riftwar Cycle, which is the name for the entire 30 books-spanning series. While I love Magician, Silverthorn is where I really lost my heart to this series, largely due to the focus on my favourite characters, Arutha and Jimmy the Hand. Of course, the cast of characters we met in Magician mostly returns as well, but for the main part this is Arutha’s and Jimmy’s story.
On the face of it Silverthorn is a straightforward quest narrative: a Princess is poisoned and our intrepid heroes journey to find an antidote. On the road they collect numerous allies to their party and despite the perils encountered along the way, they return triumphant. But of course that isn’t all of it. Not by a long shot. There is the political intrigue, both at the Kingdom court and in the halls of Tsurani power, and of course they need to identify the mysterious antagonist who is sending the Nighthawks to claim Arutha’s life. The journey Arutha and his friends undertake also allows Feist to continue to expand the world of Midkemia. There’s the amazing Abbey at Sarth where all the knowledge in the world is collected – yes of course I was going to like that one, I’m a librarian for heaven’s sake – the northern parts of Midkemia, with its clans and border lords and the Northlands, where the Moredhel dwell.
The characters that return from Magician are developed further, especially Jimmy and Arutha, and there are some wonderful additions in the form of Locky and Baru. From the first time I read Silverthorn and encountered the insouciant Squire Locklear of Land’s End, known as Locky to his friends, I’ve had a soft spot for him. He’s the perfect foil to Jimmy’s world-wise demeanour and often somewhat callous acceptance of the less pleasant aspects of life, as he’s still a young, somewhat sheltered country boy who has newly come to court when we first meet him. The banter, friendship, and trust that build between Jimmy and Locky are seemingly lovingly crafted and an absolute joy to read. But we also get to see Locky grow up, something we’ve missed with Jimmy as we met him when he was already a rather jaded thief. We also get to take a closer look at the broody Prince Arutha, whom we know is a case of still waters running deep, but in Silverthorn we discover just how much he cares for those he lets penetrate the walls he’s built around his heart, not just as regards Anita, but also his brothers and Jimmy. Unfortunately, there is again a dearth of female characters in this book. There are the various female conDoin relatives and obviously there is Princess Anita, but they don’t really play a large part in the narrative, other than to be poisoned or left behind. And we meet Aglaranna again, of course, but even she seems to defer to Tomas more than she did before and gives up some of her independence and agency to him.
Silverthorn‘s scope is ostensibly far smaller than Magician’s was, even if it is the set up for a far larger conflict in the following book. In some ways, Silverthorn‘s held up better to my greater familiarity with the genre and its tropes than Magician, because even if it D&D roots are more apparent in the plot, I didn’t have the equivalent of my ‘Dude, Moria!’-moment I had in Magician. As a second book in a series, Silverthorn is a great bridge from the large-scale epic that was the first book to the following book in the series, without losing a sense of action and momentum, but bringing it down to a more intimate scale. I loved the time spent with Arutha and Jimmy in this book and it made me pick up A Darkness at Sethanon post-haste, even if I already knew what would happen.
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.