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Exile's Return: Conclave of Shadows Book Three    by Raymond E. Feist order for
Exile's Return
by Raymond E. Feist
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This 3rd in the Conclave of Shadows (set in Feist's familiar Midkemia) takes an interesting turn. The first two in the series, Talon of the Silver Hawk and King of Foxes, followed the adventures of Orosini Kieli as he morphed into minor nobleman Tal Hawkins, and worked for the ruthless enemy responsible for the slaughter of his people, Duke Kaspar of Olasko. At the end of the second episode, Tal defeated the Duke, who was then magically exiled half way across the world.

Now, Kaspar becomes the protagonist, and we watch him gradually understand what he has done, now that he is no longer under the influence of malign wizard Leso Varen. He escapes capture by nomads, struggles to survive in a harsh desert environment, and eventually joins a group of traders from the Kingdom of the Isles. They carry treasure and a cursed, magical suit of armor, which will not let any of them abandon it. Along the way, most of the original group have died. They consult priests who send them west to the City of the Dead Gods and the Keepers of the Gate. Kaspar meets Hildy, the echo of a powerful goddess. She offers him the chance 'to do something selfless and heroic ... because it will restore some rightness to a world you've done your best to make wrong.'

Kaspar goes on to meet a god, Kalkin, who explains the nature of the thing he alone now transports, a Talnoy, and shows him its harsh world of origin, one where the aggressive Dasati are amused by pain and suffering and applaud cruelty. Kalkin assigns Kaspar an urgent task - to get the Talnoy to Pug's Conclave of Shadows before its existence creates rifts between Midkemia and the Dasati world, through which demons will pass and create carnage. The remainder of the story shows the exile's return to Olasko, where he must convince his past enemies, including Tal, to help him reach the Conclave. When this is achieved, Midkemia fans meet many old friends once more.

In Exile's Return, Raymond Feist embellishes his usual exciting fantasy adventure with an involving tale about the recognition of past crimes and redemption. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, in which the Conclave concludes (in a massive understatement), 'We have a problem', so setting the scene for further clashes between the forces of good and evil.

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