Within the last week, I finished a set of fantasy books which I have been reading through for literally the last thirteen to fourteen years of my life, the Riftwar books by Raymond E. Feist- and honestly, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about being done with the series.
Some background here- back towards the beginning of the year, having seen other people I know commit to reading 52 books within the course of a single year, I looked at my own reading habits- and I didn’t like what I saw. Too often, I was either not reading at all, or I was reaching for books I already knew to return to stories I already knew rather than seeking to stretch myself through exposure to new stories. This, I decided, had to change, and so I chose to take up that same challenge of 52 books (or more) in 52 weeks- delving into some of the piles of books that had been accumulating, unread while I preferred to return to worlds both well known and well loved.
However, there was the little issue of my wanting- as part of this- to finish off at least one or two series’ of books that I had previously begun but never finished. In doing this, much as I wanted to focus on expanding my literary horizons, I recognised that I was going to have to accept that I would be doing at least a little re-reading- if only so that when I was finishing a series, I would be going into each book with a full and up to date understanding of what had come before, rather than a handful of half-remembered plot points that would no doubt turn out to be wrong. To that end, I had about eighteen books of the riftwar set that I ended up re-reading, placing me firmly at the end of the darkwar trilogy to make a final assault on the culmination of the series as each set of books dramatically upped the stakes on those before, bringing you finally to a point where the entirety of the known universe was at stake.
That’s the other thing about Raymond E. Feist’s work, being based on a world that was- at its most fundamental level- a spin-off from Dungeons and Dragons, the story does feel very much like the records of an ongoing campaign from a pen and paper roleplaying game- evoking images in my mind of the revolving-door afterlife, in which characters of sufficient power don’t tend to stay dead for terribly long, of players so invested in the characters that they have built thatthey end up creating entire lineages of basically the same character archetype (for example Jimmy, son of Jimmy, grandson of James- all of whom are approximately the same character thrust into slightly different circumstances at different stages in their lives) and indeed the idea that “there’s an elf for that” with new tribes of elves introduced into the story as the plot created a demand for them.
But, having now finished the series, there’s a part of me that wishes it were still ongoing- even if it weren’t trying to outdo itself with bigger and bigger threats to life itself (because there’s unequivocally no room, nor any foreshadowing to give it scope to do so), there’s a part of me that still wants to be a fly on the wall in the world of Midkemia, watching the cut and thrust of politics between Roldem, Kesh, Queg, the Free Cities and the Kingdom of the Isles- and yet, on the other hand, I’ve often held to the view that the best writers are the ones who know when to end a story rather than keep going- and all things considered, I think this is one of those cases, no matter how much I wish this were not the case.