Jimmy and the Crawler by Raymond E. Feist
In May 2013 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, and 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 with 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. To make sure he lives though the assignment, he is accompanied by William, soldier and son of Pug the Magician, and court magician Jazhara. 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 roleplaying game, with a strong emphasis on action and 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. Jimmy and the Crawler doesn’t really escape this. Feist is obviously in a hurry to finish and constantly refers to earlier books to keep from having to elaborate too much. 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 all 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 Dungeons & Dragons feel.
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 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.
The Riftwar Legacy — (1998-2000) This series takes place about a decade after The Riftwar Saga and is related to the Krondor computer games. Raymond E. Feist has written two more Riftwar Legacy books (Krondor: The Crawler and Krondor: The Dark Mage), but they have not been released due to copyright issues. It is uncertain whether they will be released and, if so, whether they will be combined into one novel. Publisher: It is nine years on from the aftermath of Sethanon and news is feeding through to the people of the Kingdom of the Isles that deadly forces are stirring on the horizon. The bringer of the latest grim tidings is Gorath, a moredhel (dark elf). The bloodletting has started. Nighthawks are murdering again. Politics is a dangerous, cut-throat game once more. At the root of all this unrest lie the mysterious machinations of a group of magicians known as The Six. Meanwhile, renegade Tsurani gem smugglers, a rival criminal gang to the Mockers led by someone known only as The Crawler, and traitors to the crown, are all conspiring to bring the Kingdom of the Isles to its knees.