The world of Midkemia was born in the minds of some role-playing gamers. Author Raymond Feist was one of them. Feist has been developing and expanding his Midkemia universe in book form since 1982's outstanding Magician (subsequently reprinted in two volumes titled Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master), predominantly in three-book sagas which share a few perennially-appearing central characters (in roles that vary widely in importance) but are generally complimentary rather than interdependent stories. A minority of these sagas are co-authored (well) by other writers, and accordingly achieve a unique voice. The Darkwar Saga initiated with Flight of the Nighthawks is Feist's alone.
Risking endless digression, I believe some background information regarding this complex universe- developed over more than 20 novels- is necessary for those unfamiliar with this material.
Midkemia is an approximately medieval human world, with different countries, continents, cultures and political entities. In all of these, magic plays at least as important a role as technology. There are many interrelated forms of magic employed by different practitioners in different ways. A hierarchy of lesser and greater gods exists, some of whom appear occasionally as active participants in the stories. Midkemia is one of many planets known to exist, and travel between them is possible through magical means. In addition to multiple worlds there is a spectrum of planes of reality, on one of which Midkemia exists.
Pug, the titular central figure of the original Midkemia novel, once again plays a central role in this saga. One of the most powerful human practitioners of magic in all the known worlds- and extraordinarily long-lived- he heads a secretive, apolitical organization called the Conclave of Shadows, wielding considerable powers and resources both magical and mundane to combat threats posed by the forces of evil.
Another recurring character that figures prominently in this saga is Leso Varen, possibly the most dangerous evil magician in existence, a practitioner of a particularly vile form of magic called necromancy, which has allowed him to escape numerous seemingly certain deaths. Though the Conclave has foiled many of his fiendish plots, an ultimate victory over Varen continues to elude them.
In Flight of the Nighthawks, the Conclave uncovers evidence of resumed activity by the Nighthawks (a fanatical, centuries-old guild of assassins) toward some purpose. Suspecting Varen's hand, they set about discovering this purpose, work toward defeating the Nighthawks once and for all, and ultimately discover an even greater danger.
This danger, the central premise of the Darkwar Saga, is the imminent invasion of Midkemia (and other worlds on Midkemia's plane) by occupants of one of the lower planes of reality. The nature of beings on lower planes is such that simply entering a higher plane causes them to draw life energy from it, wilting the grass where they stand, etc. It's not enough to attempt to defeat them on the battlefield; they can cause the destruction of a world on a higher plane simply being there in numbers. The Conclave must find a way to prevent that from happening- while necromancer Varen does everything in his power to see that it does.
These books are page-turners of the first order. If you don't like them, you probably don't like fantasy novels. They aren't literary masterpieces by any means, but Feist has a knack for quickly establishing characters with which readers can easily identify, and these are no exception. His characters are always memorable, especially those he's fleshed out over the course of many books. Many of these characters feel like old friends to me, having read more than 20 of these books, and when Feist finally puts his pen down (likely not for quite a while) I'll be disappointed.
Though all the Midkemia books are good, some are simply outstanding. Generally the first books of any Midkemia saga are enjoyable, but not the best of the series, and since I've also recently finished the second book in this saga, I know this to be true here. (I actually re-read this book, something I rarely do, to get back up to speed with the plot after a long absence.)
As with all Feist's Midkemia sagas, these books are intended to be read in order. I'd strongly recommend reading Magician (the re-published, expanded single volume, or the two volume reprints) before continuing on with any of the subsequent sagas. (If you never read another Feist novel, read that one; it's outstanding.)
It's also a good idea to read the sagas in the order they were published. It's not strictly necessary, as they stand up reasonably well on their own, but readers would be missing out on a lot of excellent prior character development, and some of the passing references to events would lose a lot of their relevance. The Darkwar Saga immediately follows the events of the Conclave of Shadows saga, so those are especially recommended prior reading. Apart from those reasons, the world of Midkemia is worth reading from the beginning. A comprehensive list of Feist's work, including the recommended reading/publishing order, can be found on his official site.
I read the Eos paperback version of Flight, and I must report noticing some editorial mistakes, which (inevitably) yank the reader out of the fantastic world they're in and drop them right back in the real one, every time.
more information and reviews at amazon.com
Feist's site has a pretty extensive cover art section. Here's some of the best ones for this book:
This one, from Hungary, is my favorite. It shows (half human/half demigod Dragon Lord) Tomas, a recurring character that plays a very minor role in this particular book, examining one of many dormant Talnoys (mindless soldiers from another plane of reality, comprised of empty suits of armor animated by unknown means):
1979 480p a perfect circle accountability ADSR adventure age progression AIDS AIG alfred molina alternate geography alternate history america animation anxiety apology apprentice array instruments art crimes attention spans audioslave avatar bad weekend bailey's bailout beach beavis being broke benefits beverage big three bill the cat bitching black and white blogger blogging blue screen bob marriott book bored brinsley schwarz bus schedule butthead c.s. lewis cable coiler car crash car repair carolan's cartoon cate blanchett charles darwin charles van doren chloe moretz choir chores chowder chris cornell christians christina ricci christmas christopher mintz-plasse chrome cigarettes cinnahoney cinnamon class envy coding coffee comcast comedy commuting contact list cooking crime da vinci code dakota dan brown daylight savings time deconstruction display resolution dodge dog park domino dozer dream dreamworks drinking driving e.t.a. economy edmonds edmonds marina electricity elvis costello email england epic escape ethan everett chorale evolution fabricate facebook fantasy fiction film trailer first post fitness test flag flash flickr font ford fotomorph free hugs free market freedom freedom of speech freeware friends futility galapogos geology GFHS girl glitch GM good will google gratitude green screen hallmark version handwriting happiness harley harry potter harry thompson harry turtledove HD headache healthcare hershey hershey's syrup hip hop history of knowledge HMS beagle hollywood lights honey hosting HTML human rights IE immigration indispensable opposition intelligentsia internet explorer interview Ira Glass irish cream irish whiskey it got big jakob dylan jason jenny lewis job hunting journalists julia navarro junk kalimba kansas kick-ass kitty knights templar la fete nationale lacking motivation last airbender lego lineman live looseworld loren love m night shyamalan malacandra malaguena manifest destiny mark millar marriage martha stewart mbira mcafee megamind melissa memorial mickey microsoft monotony montreal music music video my life my music mystery natural philosophy naturalist new car new chair new computer new TV new zealand nick lowe nicolas cage NSFW obama old friends opening atlantis opinion opus organ out of the silent planet overheat peace performance pic post picasa polygons PUD puget sound quebec qwest field racey radiator random realD 3D realism recipe redletter media reggie watts reginald veljohnson repairs reunions ridley scott robert fitzroy robin hood robin williams robot rockstar russell crowe sarcasm science fiction sea voyage seahawks shroud of turin sick puppies siphon smoking sorceror's apprentice soundclick south america special effects speech spring starling stats suicide summer sundome syntax error syphon taking offense tesla test the atlantic the bus This American Life thriller tim hawkins tokyo plastic toni basil trade-marx train trouble turning 40 TV UAW understanding unemployed unions vacation video vimeo virus vundo W3schools walter lippman water pump wayward son web design weekend whiskey white house windows 7 windows live mail windows vista wordpress work writing xmas xmas spirit XP yakima yourfonts zoey deschanel