It is, quite literally, the end of an era. Raymond E. Feist’s thrilling epic fantasy opener – MAGICIAN – introduced to us the engaging character of Pug, who starts life as an orphaned kitchen-boy only to be apprenticed to a magician, captured as a slave and taken as a prisoner through a rift between worlds, ending up as a fully-fledged magician himself.
That was 31 years and 29 bestselling books ago: even before I started work as a publisher. I was already well aware of the phenomenon that MAGICIAN had been before I joined HarperCollins in 1991. Coming from a small independent publisher (George Allen & Unwin) I wasn’t used to sales in the hundreds of thousands (except, of course for the Master himself, JRR Tolkien). Working on the sf and fantasy list at HarperCollins was quite daunting: for alongside Ray Feist there also sat Stephen Donaldson, David Eddings, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, all titans of the genre.
I have to admit to being quite scared at the prospect of meeting Ray for the first time, at the WorldCon in San Francisco in 1993. Everyone had told me tales about this leviathan of an author. He was a global megastar, selling millions of copies worldwide. He was used to a certain level of pampering from his publishers; he liked a good steak and was a connoisseur of fine red wine, my bosses told me, packing me off to meet him. Nervously, I asked the convention hotel to recommend a good steakhouse. They conferred: not easy apparently, since we were in the business district and all the restaurants were shut for the Labour Day weekend. They gave me a contact number and I booked a table, confident all would go swimmingly. I met Ray at the restaurant. Well, I say restaurant. More of a burger joint, actually. It did have tables… but that was about the height of its sophistication. It was, shall we say, no River House. I asked for a wine list. They laughed in my face. The food was terrible. I wanted to die. But Ray was a total gentleman throughout the entire excruciating experience, determined to put me at my ease, and from that day to this we have gone from strength to strength as author and publisher. And we’ve more than made up for that lapse in San Francisco with some mighty fine meals and wine in the intervening years.
But now we really have something huge to celebrate when Ray visits the UK this month. For MAGICIAN’S END – the 30th book in the Riftwar Cycle – marks the epic conclusion to this phenomenal series. And a truly worthy final volume it is, too.
When he delivered the huge manuscript last year I stayed up till 1am to finish reading it, with tears running down my face. Through the past three decades I have watched the ebb and flow of gods and dark elves, of kings and queens, knights and squires; spies and swordsmen, dragons and the Dread. War, love, magic, heroism, treachery and rifts between worlds: it’s made for a gloriously epic combination all these years.
MAGICIAN’S END brings together all the characters fantasy fans have loved all their adult lives, and which new readers are discovering with a sense of awe and delight every day, and delivers a truly cataclysmic, yet inspiring, ending for them. As a reader and a fan, I feel bereft: but as a publisher…. What a marvellous event it is going to be for us all, publishing this extraordinary final volume. I do hope you will turn out and help us to make the occasion a really special time and help us to celebrate in style with our brilliant and charming author.
Jane Johnson, HarperVoyager UK Publishing Director