Sunday, February 23, 2014

Robbie & de Kruiper - Raymond E. Feist

In May last year Magician's End, the final book in Feist's long running Riftwar series, appeared. It was the final chapter in a series that had been going for over thirty years. Earlier that year, Feist published the novella Jimmy and the Crawler to tie up a loose end in the series. As usual with Feist, I read it in Dutch translation. One of the earlier translators of Feist's works, I think translator Mat Schifferstein is the fourth to have a go at Riftwar material, has decided to rename the character Jimmy the Hand, hence the Dutch title Robbie & de Kruiper.

This novella is part of the Riftwar Legacy subseries, which is tied to the PC games Betrayal at Krondor (1993) and Return to Krondor (1998) which are based on Feist's Midkemian setting. Three full novels have appeared in this series, two of which are novelizations of the RPG storylines in the computer games. Originally two more full length novels were planned, with working titles Krondor: The Crawler and Krondor: The Dark Mage. Due to a conflict wit Sierra, the developer of the computer games, these novels were never written. Feist has alluded to events taking places in these novels in several places in his other books, leaving an obvious hole in the series. It seems clear now that the novels will never be written but this novella does attempt to tie up the dangling story lines.

Jimmy and the Crawler is set some time after Krondor: Tear of the Gods. The precious artefact has been recovered but the mysterious Crawler still hasn't been taken out. Arutha, Prince of Krondor, is worried about this threat and puts his thief-come-nobleman Jimmy the Hand on the case with. To make sure he lives though the assignment he is accompanied by William, soldier and son of Pug the Magician and court magician Jazhara with him. The trail leads to Durbin, a port city nominally part of the empire of Great Kesh and notorious for the slave trade and pirating that goes on in the city. Jimmy soon reaches the conclusion that everything they thought they knew about the Crawler is incorrect.

The Riftwar Legacy series features some of the poorest novels in the entire Riftwar cycle. Most of them read like a poorly worked out scenario for a role playing game, with a strong emphasis on action at very little room for such things as characterization and overarching story lines. I guess, given their origins as RPG computer games it is not entirely surprising but they still disappointed me at the time. Jimmy and the Crawler doesn't really escape this. Feist is obviously in a hurry to finish an constantly refers to earlier books to keep from having to elaborate too much. I have a feeling that some continuity errors creep up in this book as well. Since the later books are riddled with them, it shouldn't bother the reader who has stuck with Feist for this long too much though.

Feist usually uses multiple points of view to tell his story, enabling him to depict events at several locations and tell the story from the mundane level al the way up to the gods. This novella focuses entirely on Jimmy's exploits. His point of view is dominant. Feist switches once or twice when he needs to depict events taking place outside Jimmy's line of sight but for the most part we stick with him. The multi-layered approach is entirely sacrificed. It results in a very straightforward tale with a rather high dungeons and dragons level.

It doesn't help that to the reader who has already completed most of the other books in the series, what needs to happen in this story is obvious. There is very little surprise in it. To make matters worse Feist reuses one of the more important plot devices in the first book of the Darkwar Saga, Flight of the Nighthawks (2005). He attempts some twists and turns but nothing the experienced Feist reader hasn't seen before. With all the references to other books it's is not a good place to start the series either.

In the end, Jimmy and the Crawler feels like a novella Feist felt he owed his readers but was not particularly inspired to write. While I could enjoy and appreciate Magician's End at some level, this work reminded me again why I was so disappointed by the earlier Krondor books. It's so straightforward, hasty and uninspired that only the completist will want to read it. Maybe with a bit more fleshed out plot it could have been a worthwhile addition but as it is, it achieves nothing other than plugging a plot hole.

Book Details
Title: Robbie & de Kruiper
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Publisher: Luithingh Fantasy
Pages: 155
Year: 2013
Language: Dutch
Translation: Mat Schifferstein
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-90-245-6288-6
First published: 2013

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