Well, it's finally done. After toiling through three volumes of dubious quality, I have now read the Conclave of Shadows series. Most of you are well aware that I found the first two volumes to be of mediocre quality. Thankfully, Exile's Return is a little better. Yet it's not as if Feist set the bar very high with both Talon of the Silver Hawk and King of Foxes.
In the end, what it comes down to is that Raymond E. Feist never had enough material to write a trilogy. All those storylines should have comprised a single volume acting as a prequel to Flight of the Nighthawks. As a series, however, it ranks as one of the worst written by a "big name" author that I've read in quite some time. As such -- a veritable milking of the author's popularity -- I feel that Feist is no better than Terry Goodkind for taking advantage of his fans in such a manner. My only consolation is that Flight of the Nighthawks is considered a very good yarn, proof that Feist can still spin a good tale.
The ending of Exile's Return let us catch a glimpse of events to come. It also marks the return of old favorite characters such as Pug, Tomas, Nakor and a few others. But it's too little too late. The damage has been done -- irrevocably so.
The characterizations are once again deficient. Only in the latter portion of the novel, when the old characters become part of the story, do they improve a bit. But the fact that this entire story must be carried by Kaspar, former Duke of Olasko, proves to be its undoing. An uninteresting and two-dimensional villain in the previous volumes, I found it impossible to really get into his quest for redemption.
I was reading Exile's Return at work, while tackling Steven Erikson's House of Chains at home. Let's just say that Erikson makes Feist -- a world-renowned and NYT bestselling author -- look like a clumsy amateur. The gap in quality of enormous. And almost insulting. . .
Although the ending is interesting and shows that Feist is not done yet, it is not enough to save this series. Truth to tell, I never thought that Feist -- who has been one of my favorite fantasy writers ever since I was introduced to the genre -- could fall so low as to write something like the Conclave of Shadows.
For more information about Exile's Return: Canada, USA, Europe
The final verdict: 6,5/10