This is a well-known fantasy title that I was completely unaware of. I picked up my husband’s copy and when I posted that I was reading it, a lot of my friends were excited and told me that I’d like it, so that was an awesome way to start. It is a solid, classic fantasy book and I really enjoyed it. I read “The Author’s Preferred Edition” if that gives me any bonus points. I also just learned that the UK version contains both Apprentice and Master in one edition, which turned out to be a huge spoiler because when I went to look up a character name on Wikipedia I found out a bit about what happens after Apprentice ends. Be warned, Americans!
Review first, summary to follow. There are sort of spoilers here, but I don’t think I’m giving away anything major.
If you’re looking for strong female characters, move along. Princess Carline has a few moments of awesome, but this is a boy’s world.
The pacing at the end of the book felt off. The majority of the book follows Pug and then hops over to Tomas when the two of them split up. Then Pug is captured and the book has nothing to do with him again. I thought this was weird because it was his story, but at the same time I understood that there were major battles happening in Crydee that needed to be covered. Still, it was clear that something major was going to happen with Pug. I’m curious to see how it plays out in Master and if the story split makes sense. I was frustrated that something was set up and then not returned to and I would have given up the major battles to stay with Pug’s POV. I’m wondering if Master will go back in time so we see what was happening with him while we were getting the other parts of the story, or if it will pick up and say something like “For five years Pug had been blah blah blah” and go from there.
The fantasy structure stays true and follows the classic and familiar, but not in a clichéd way. Sure, there are moments where you know what’s going to happen, but it’s a good thing. Fantasy themes work for a reason and while there’s nothing groundbreaking here from other books I’ve read, it’s a great plot and I really like the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything is going to end up, and if there will be heartbreaking loss or if it’ll be sunshine and rainbows.
And here’s my plot summary with sort-of-spoilers again toward the end:
Pug is turning thirteen and anxiously waits for the Crydee ceremony where boys are chosen by masters to learn a craft and serve the court. He is a bit nervous because he’s not sure where he will go, and there is always the threat that no one will choose him and he’ll have to leave the only home he’s ever known to seek his fortune elsewhere.
Pug is an orphan and was adopted by the castle cook and raised with his son, Tomas. The two are the same age and have lived as brothers. Tomas is picked to serve as a soldier and Pug hopes he will be called as well.
The choosing ceremony comes to a close and Pug stands alone in the courtyard. He has not been chosen.
Luckily for him, the court magician, Kulgan, has taken an interest in the boy and offers to take him on as an apprentice, something that has not happened in a very long time. Magic isn’t fully trusted or understood in Crydee, although people like Kulgan and appreciate his council to the Duke. Pug is unsure what his role will be, but is relieved to be chosen and pleased to be apprenticed to Kulgan. They form a very untraditional pairing with Kulgan ignoring the unspoken rules of master and apprentice, and Pug is left to himself to learn and discover what it means to do magic.
Moving to a higher position in the Duke’s court, he is given riding lessons and works with Father Tully, the court’s priest, to further his education. While he is frustrated with his inability to perform even the simplest of magic, he is pleased with his placement within the court, even though his spot is the lowest. He and Tomas still find time to spend together and both of them feel the beginnings of the transition into adulthood.
As part of Pug’s new life, he is often in contact with the Duke’s daughter, Princess Carline. All the boys in Crydee are in love with her, and Pug too finds himself confused and flustered when she is nearby. She inadvertently brings out a hint of his magical ability when the two of them are attacked by trolls. Panicked, Pug somehow sees a spell in his mind and uses it to kill them. In Pug’s world, magic works through scrolls, and Kulgan, Father Tully, and the Duke are astounded and confused that Pug was able to cast such a powerful spell on his own. Saving the Princess’ life gives him another boost when the Duke promotes him to Squire and grants him land. Not too bad for an orphan boy.
Still, Pug is unable to repeat the spell or perform any other magic. He cannot remember how he defeated the trolls and he cannot mimic what Kulgan does. He understands everything, but he can’t make it happen. Kulgan continues to approach him with kindness and patience and he and Father Tully decide the best thing for Pug to do is abandon all plans and simply study. Kulgan provides him with research materials and Pug happily drowns himself in books.
And then the Tsurani arrive. Crydee has never seen beings like this before and Father Tully and Kulgan are puzzled as to who they are and what they want. There has never been reports of them in all of Midkemia, and it soon becomes clear that they are from another world and mean to destroy this one.
The Duke gathers men to head to the King to warn him of the invasion and share their knowledge of the aliens. The elves and dwarves of Midkemia also share information with the Duke and it becomes more and more clear that the world is in danger.
War begins and it is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The Duke is still at the King’s court, Pug and Tomas have been separated, forces are split and the Tsurani seems to have an endless supply of weapons and men. Their magic is strong and no one can figure out how to close their portals.
The battles rage on, the King worries that everyone is plotting against him, the Duke stumbles into a different kind of struggle, Pug and Tomas are thrown into their own adventures, the original baddies of Midkemia are gathering on their own, and no one sees and end to any of this..
I need to get Master and find out how this mess is going to get cleaned up.