Like many a passionate young fantasy reader in a certain era, I quickly realized I could only reread The Lord of the Rings so many times. So when I discovered Raymond E. Feist’s Tolkien-influenced Riftwar Saga, I fell in love. The books had some of the same elements—dwarves under the mountains, elves in the woods, mythic old mages sneaking around—but with a magician-in-training main character who was entirely to my can-I-please-grow-up-to-be-a-wizard tastes.
I haven’t re-read Riftwar (by which I mean the first three-or-four books, depending on how you’re counting) in years. I remember them in a slideshow: young Pug, chosen as apprentice by the magician Kulgan; the soldier Tomas meeting a dragon deep in a cave; Martin the forester, friend to the elves; the hunt for the cure for Arutha’s poisoned princess; Jimmy the Hand, the thief who turns squire.
You might notice a theme there.
Every major character in this series is male.
Riftwar was very Of Its Time, which is a gentle way of saying that in order for this show to work, its story needs to be updated somewhat. The minute I read about the series, I wanted one key thing from the show:
They need to Starbuck it up.
Imagine, for a moment, seeing on screen a classic Western fantasy world that doesn’t lean heavily on outdated gender norms. Imagine a world where there are powerful and wise magicians and soldiers and thieves and royal heirs … and they are not all male. And I’m not just talking about when there’s one young woman denying the expectations of her gender. I’m talking about reconsidering those expectations entirely.
And then imagine Jenny the Hand, raised as a thief, befriending the younger prince of the kingdom. Imagine Jenny the Hand being brought into the royal confidence, saving the day, going on adventures bigger than she ever thought when she was thieving in the capital.
A Riftwar TV series needs to gender-swap at least two of the main characters.
Besides Jimmy (who doesn’t appear for a bit anyway), my favorite candidate is Tomas, who becomes consort to the Elf Queen and winds up something not entirely human due to some strange armor. I imagine Brienne of Tarth, now, when I think Tomas, and gender-swapping him creates another opportunity: don’t change the part of the plot that has her fall in love with Queen Aglaranna.
Frankly I’d be thrilled if Pug himself were gender-swapped, but as long as we get some female magicians, it’ll be an improvement. And maybe it’s time for the long-lived, meddling wizard to be female. Maybe a prime candidate for gender-swapping is Macros the Black.
This is just the start: it would also make sense to introduce Kelewan and the Tsurani right from the get-go—giving their narrative equal footing with that of Pug and company, and not treating them as baffling and alien. And definitely don’t skimp on the Dragon Lords and chaos magic. And (while we’re wishing) please cast everyone from Black Sails who isn’t currently starring on another show, because they’re all brilliant and perfect and now that I’ve considered Tom Hopper as Lyam conDoin, I really can’t unsee it.
Molly Templeton has such a long list of ’80s and ’90s to fantasy to reread and cannot decide where to start. Feist? Clayton? Rawn? Hambly?