Old friends return and new characters are introduced in Rides a Dread Legion (Eos Books, $26.99), the first book in the Demonwar Saga and the latest novel in Raymond E. Feist's long-running Riftwar Cycle, which began with Magician in 1982. Not surprisingly, giving the immense backstory and sizable cast, Rides a Dread Legion labors under the twin demands of bringing newcomers up to speed and coordinating the characters.
The Warlock Amirantha fights demons for a living. Humans pay well for this service. In return, Amirantha neglects to mention he's raising the demons he destroys. Easy work for a powerful magician ... until a battle-demon of unprecedented power, sent by Amirantha's mad brother, nearly destroys him.
Sandreena is one of the greatest Knights-Adamant in the Order of the Shield of the Weak. Investigating rumors of pirates, she discovers something far worse. And if she survives her encounter with the demon-cultists, she may not survive the reunion with her despised ex-lover, Amirantha.
The world of the elven Taredhel is under ceaseless assault by demons. But the Taredhel have found a passage to a new world: their old homeworld, Midkemia. Can the Taredhel escape the doom of their current homeworld and destroy the people of Home?
For years the great sorcerer Pug has protected Midkemia. But now the Oracle of Aal foresees the doom of the world. Even in partnership with the Warlock, the Knight-Adamant, and others, Pug may not be able to overcome the evil forces assaulting Midkemia, or the dark god coordinating their every move.
Feist ably devises a complicated threat and twines the several subplots, and he keeps his characters distinctive and sympathetic. But the book boils down to "get the characters in place to start the story." In the chess game of the trilogy, Rides a Dread Legion is more setup than opening game.