I've waited quite a while to begin Raymond E. Feist's Conclave of Shadows series. The reason for this is quite simple: Even Feist fans unanimously agree that it's his weakest effort yet. Hence, all three hardcover volumes remained on my shelves, untouched. And because of that negative feedback, I was in no hurry to read them.
However, last fall something occurred which more or less forced me to move up the trilogy in the batting order. When Feist's newest installment, Flight of the Nighthawks, had a stronger debut than George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows in the UK, I knew I needed to get through this series before I could tackle this latest addition in Feist's Midkemia universe. And since I require something "light" to read at work while I go through Steven Erikson's Malazan novels at home, Conclave of Shadows appeared to be just what the doctor ordered.
But even as forewarned as I was that the series was not up to the author's standards, Talon of the Silver Hawk was still a major disappointment. It's not that it's that bad. It's just that it's not good. And since Feist has always been one of my favorite fantasy writers, I could not help but feel that this novel was a serious letdown.
Almost every book in this long saga adds a little more to the world of Midkemia. Over the years, this universe has proven to be quite a piece of work when it comes to worldbuilding. Talon of the Silver Hawk allows us to catch our first glimpse of the Eastern Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Roldem. Yet instead of delving a little deeper to truly catch our interest and capture our imagination, Feist's rendering of this portion of Midkemia is static at best.
Very few characterizations are okay. Most leave a lot to be desired. Talon showed some potential at the beginning of the tale, but the manner with which he was built up sort of dashed all my hopes that he could become a fully realized character. Magnus and Caleb also showed some potential, but we'll have to wait and see. . . Brief cameo appearances by Pug, Nakor and Miranda were clearly not enough to save this one. Truth be told, we are a world away from Arutha, James and company! In addition, the dialogues made me cringe at times. . .
There is no problem with the pace of this book, other than the fact that very little actually happens. In some instances, you can see where the storylines are headed from a mile away.
After writing what became the classic Riftwar saga and the enjoyable Serpentwar saga, I never thought I'd see Raymond E. Feist sink so low. If I was to sum up this novel with one word, it would have to be "uninspired."
At times clichéd, predictable and unimaginative, Talon of the Silver Hawk is unmistakably Feist's weakest book to date. Hopefully the sequels will show a little more depth. But I'm about a hundred pages into King of Foxes and if it's any indication, I should not get my hopes too high.
The final verdict: 6,5/10