This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
It finally happened. I’d known that Ray Feist was deeply unlikely to radically improve as a writer for some time now, but I’d honestly intended to see these reviews of the Riftwar Cycle through to the end just to see how stupid they got. I was rewarded with a brutal reminder of a bitter fact: the more you overlook small transgressions from an author, the more likely it is that they will eventually come out with something abhorrent to punish you for your indulgence.
I had long ago written off Feist’s ability to write female characters. Whilst it isn’t true to say that the women in his books – those who aren’t vilified, at any rate – are defined solely by their capacity to give succor and comfort to the men in their life, Feist does have a marked tendency to cast women in support roles – see Miranda, who does sweet fuck all for the entire Conclave of Shadows and Darkwar Saga series until everyone else who could potentially do the job is literally in a different dimension. It is also notable that when Feist presents one of the obligatory bildungsromans he feels obligated to include in all his novels, it’s always that of a young man or group of boys; Feist writes over and over again about young men growing up and discovering, amongst other things, the pleasure of sex, but more or less never gives women the bildungsroman treatment. (The major exception is the Empire Trilogy, but Mara in that doesn’t exactly have the same enjoyable and risk-free and fun introduction to sexual activity Feist gives his male characters.)