Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
I tend to avoid hack-and-slash paperback candies, as well as the ridiculously endless doorstops (Has the Wheel turned yet? What a pity...). This book is neither. Robin Hobb (a pen name, and that was one mildly irritating thing, as she published other works in the '80's and so is not a new author as the book jacket suggests) is a wonderful word-smith and storyteller. Her first-person narrative is effective and engaging, although the introductory set-up of the events as a flashback/memoir somewhat undercuts the later dramatic tension (i.e., the teller obviously lived through all the related events).
This is a coming-of-age novel about a castle bastard's growth into a young assassin. Beyond that, though, there are wonderful details of medieval life, of a medieval town, ... Read More
Robin Hobb(1952- )
Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm are pennames used by Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden. Here’s Robin Hobb’s website and here’s her blog.
THE FARSEER SAGA — (1995-2013) Words Like Coins is a short e-story published in 2012. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a related prequel novella published in 2013. Publisher: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill — and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
LIVESHIP TRADERS –(1998-2000) Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships — rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her — a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea’s young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the Vestrit family — and the ship — may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles… and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will…
TAWNY MAN — (2001-2003) For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But that is about to change when destiny seeks him once again. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished and FitzChivalry, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony — thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment… or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him or how his loyalties to his Queen, his partner, and those who share his magic will be tested to The breaking point.
THE RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES — (2010-2012) Publisher: Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive.People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life’s work to study all there is to know of dragons.But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done. The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them.To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils on the journey to a city which may not even exist…
FITZ AND THE FOOL — (2014- ) Publisher: FitzChivalry — royal bastard and former king’s assassin — has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire. Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past… and his future. Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one….
Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
I read The Farseer Saga years ago and have since considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. It's one (along with The Lord of the Rings and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn) that I often suggest to new fantasy readers. But after more than a decade of reading deeper and further into fantasy literature, I've often wondered how well this saga would now appeal to my more mature (I hope) palate. When Tantor Audio recently released The Farseer Saga on audio, I was overjoyed and considered this to be my sign that it's time to re-visit the six duchies.
... Read More
Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
FitzChivalry Farseer, who barely survived an assassination attempt by his uncle, Prince Regal, has returned to Buckkeep where the King, his grandfather, lies dying. His other uncle, Prince Verity, is exhausting himself by trying to keep the kingdom together in the face of increasing attacks by the Red Ship Raiders. The Raiders continue to capture and, through some unknown process, “Forge” citizens of the Six Duchies. When these Forged citizens, who are now more like animals than people, are released, they start moving toward Buck Keep. What are they doing? Do they have some sort of programmed mission? What is the goal?
When Prince Verity leaves the castle to look for the ancient (perhaps mythical) Elderlings, life becomes even more difficult for Fitz. He has the horrible job of tracking and killing the Forged Ones; he must avoid Prince Regal’s attempts to kill him; he suspects that King Shrewd is... Read More
Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb
FitzChivalry Farseer’s life keeps getting worse. He has once again barely — and I mean just barely — survived Uncle Regal’s machinations. As Assassin’s Quest, the third book in Robin Hobb’s FARSEER trilogy, opens, Fitz’s situation seems hopeless. Only a couple of people know he still lives and Molly is not one of them. She’s gone, and it seems safest for Fitz to let her live in ignorance.
Meanwhile, Fitz’s uncle Regal has declared himself king in the Six Duchies. He demands exorbitant taxes, has abandoned Buck Town and left Buckkeep in the hands of a foreigner, and has in essence given up the area to the Red Ship Raiders. Not only has Fitz suffered at Regal’s hands, the coastal duchies suffer too.
Once Fitz is standing on his own two feet again, he decides to get revenge for what Regal has done to him personally ... Read More
The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb’s FARSEER series is one of my all-time favorite fantasy epics. It’s about FitzChivalry Farseer, the bastard son of a dead prince. Fitz is a sad case, not only because his father’s dead and he’s illegitimate, but perhaps mostly because he has the Wit — an ancient magic that lets him communicate with and bond to animals. The citizens of the Six Duchies fear the Wit and kill those who practice it. But that wasn’t always the case...
Now, in Robin Hobb’s most recent novella, The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince, we learn why the people hate what they call “beastmagic.” This is the story of a young (“willful”) Farseer princess who fell in love with a Witted stablemaster. The story is told by Felicity, whose mother had been Princess Caution’s nursemaid and who had strategically maneuvered Felicity into the position of compa... Read More
I was particularly taken by the style of the prose in this short and charming book: formal and simultaneously familiar, as one would expect from a medieval narrator who is low-born but well-educated. Definitely worth the time of any Robin Hobb fan. ~Terry Weyna
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
Althea Vestrit, wrongly denied her inheritance of the beautiful Liveship Vivacia, leaves Bingtown in order to prove herself as the true sailor she is and claim back her beloved ship from her brother-in-law's greedy grasp.
For Wintrow, Althea's nephew, Vivacia is nothing more than a slave ship wrenching him away from his religious studies so his father can have his son aboard his ship to inherit and keep Althea from coming into her inheritance.
But no one counted on Captain Kennit, a ruthless pirate captain who will stop at nothing to take control of the Pirate Isles and name himself as King of all Pirates. To do so he must first obtain a liveship, and when his and Vivacia's paths cross, bloodshed is not far from the horizon.
I was riveted to Ship of Magic from the first few pages onward. Robin Hobb has created ... Read More
Mad Ship by Robin Hobb
In this second installment of Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy we are returned to the Cursed Shores and learn even more about the mysterious Liveships. Althea and Brashen team up to form a dangerous plot to retrieve the Vestrit family Liveship that has been captured by the vicious pirate Captain Kennit. While they hatch their plans, Wintrow, who has also been captured along with the Liveship, is slowly slipping under the influence of the pirate as he too hatches his own schemes.
And while everyone else schemes and dreams, the ever-present serpents struggle to complete their destiny and understand their reason for being…
I picked up Mad Ship almost immediately after finishing Ship of Magic. In the end, I had mixed feelings about Mad Ship.... Read More
Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb
With so much being churned out in the way of epic fantasy, it's always a pleasure to come across something original and unique. I felt that way about Robin Hobb's Farseer books and wondered if she'd be able to maintain such high standards in Liveship Traders.
While I don't believe she quite got there (it is after all a pretty high bar she set herself), this series certainly stands on its own as quality fantasy, and Ship of Destiny is a fitting conclusion (though one wonders if that word has been banned from the genre).
The basic storyline is both original and interesting, and Hobb manages to avoid the typical banalities of genre fiction. She creates characters far more often than character types and then flings them out into her world on their own or in various twos... Read More
Ship of Destiny is a fine conclusion to an extremely well-detailed and imaginative series. It departs from the genre in that its characters are not exceptionally gifted or powerful adventurers or warriors. Instead, they’re traders and sailors and matriarchs in more of a sixteenth to seventeenth century atmosphere. The discussions amongst the Vestrit women in Bingtown and the political machinations do tend to drag in places, and some of the plot lines are tied either too neatly or too loosely at the end. Nevertheless, as with The Farseer Trilogy, this trilogy is a breath of fresh air — with some fine writing, too. In sum, Ship of Destiny and Liveship Traders are imperfect, but they are engaging. The first, Ship of Magic, is particularly strong. –Rob Rhodes
Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
“Alone again. It isn’t fair. Truly it isn’t. You’ve the saddest song of any man I’ve ever known.” ~Starling Birdsong, minstrel to Queen Kettricken
I squealed with delight when I recently opened a box from Brilliance Audio and found a review copy of Fool’s Errand inside. This is an old favorite that, for years, I had planned to re-read. Since Hobb’s new book comes out next week, this seemed like the perfect time to get back into FitzChivalry Farseer’s world.
We first met Fitz back in Assassin’s Apprentice when he was a boy. As bastard son to a Farseer prince, he was brought to court and trained as the king’s assassin. He inherited the Skill, the magic that the Farseer family uses to communicate telepathically, from his father. Unfortunately, he inherited the Wit, the maligned “beast magic,” from his ... Read More
Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
In Fool's Errand we were introduced to Ms. Hobb's outstanding ability to surprise us — yet again — when we think we've heard everything there is to know about the world she's created and the characters we've come to love and enjoy. And this book is no different. We are introduced to a considerable amount of "new things," and "possible new things."
Dutiful's betrothed is the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands — the same Out Islands who peppered The Farseer Trilogy with the Red Ship Raiders and created horrors from citizens in the Six Duchies that were dubbed the Forged Ones. The two kingdoms are attempting the typical "medieval truce," but when the Narcheska arrives with her retinue, it is obvious that their cultures are so considerably dissimilar that any pairing between the two seems unlikely. Not exactly Eleanor of Aquitane and Hen... Read More
Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper is a welcome return to the world of the LIVESHIP TRADERS trilogy (fair warning: if you haven’t read that series, there may be a few spoilers here). Specifically, it is set in the Rain Wilds with the emergence of the serpents/dragons from their casings, an event enthusiastically anticipated by all who long to see these beautiful, powerful creatures soaring through the skies once more.
Often in Robin Hobb’s fiction, though, the most eagerly awaited events turn into the most disappointing ones, and such is the case here as the dragons that emerge are stunted or malformed — all physically and some mentally. Soon, the Rain Wilders realize their bargain with the queen dragon Tintaglia — they would care for the dragons and she and the new dragons would protect them from foreign threat Chalcedea — isn’t such a g... Read More
Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb
Dragon Haven istheconclusion to Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, which began with Dragon Keeper. In reviewing the first book, I said it was a difficult task to judge Dragon Keeper as it was mostly setup for what was to come (I believe it was originally supposed to be one novel but had to be split into two books for size). So now that it’s complete, how does the whole story hold up?
I’ve begun to wonder over the course of Hobb’s recent books if she is exploring how much plot she needs in her novels to actually have a “story.” There is a lot of action in her earlier books, such as the Farseer Trilogy (and subsequent Fool’s books) and her Read More
City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
City of Dragons is the third volume in Robin Hobb’s RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES, set in the same universe as many of her other books. In my review of Dragon Haven I wrote, “I've begun to wonder over the course of Hobb's recent books if she is exploring just how much plot she needs in her novels to actually have a ‘story.’ There is a lot of action in her earlier books, such as the FARSEER TRILOGY (and subsequent TAWNY MAN books) and her LIVESHIP TRADERS group. Then, in the SOLDIER SON TRILOGY, there is almost none; it is primarily a slow study in character and culture (or culture clash). THE RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES seems to be a middle ground between the two. It’s almost as if she’s feeling her way to as quiet and minimalist a style (in terms ... Read More
Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb
Way back in a review of the second book (Dragon Haven) in Robin Hobb’s RAIN WILDS series, I wrote “I’ve begun to wonder over the course of Hobb’s recent books if she is exploring just how much plot she needs in her novels to actually have a ‘story.’ It’s almost as if she’s feeling her way to as quiet and minimalist a style (in terms of action, not language) as possible.” Now, two books later, with Blood of Dragons, the tetralogy has come to a close and I’d say the question still pertains. While normally a fan of Hobb’s character-driven and slower-paced style, I have to confess that this series was a little uneven for me, and its finale a bit too slow with characters who didn’t quite hold my interest enough.
Blood of Dragons picks up where its predecessor ends, with the Eld... Read More
Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb's FARSEER series well earned its current classic status, and any serious reader of fantasy had to be thrilled to hear that Fitz, one of the genre's most beloved characters, would be returning in a new series. I certainly was. But I was also curious, and, I confess, a bit nervous, about how her evolution in storytelling, especially as displayed in her SOLDIER'S SON and RAIN WILDS series, might play out in a long-delayed return to an old favorite. After all, in those works, I had to admit that said evolution — which I described as Hobb seemingly "exploring just how much plot she needs in her novels to actually have a ‘story,' as if she’s feeling her way to as quiet and minimalist a style (in terms of action, not language) as possible" — had left me thinking she had carried the experiment (if such it was) a bit too far for my liking. So what would ... Read More
The Soldier Son — (2005-2007) Publisher: Nevare Burvelle is the second son of a second son, destined from birth to carry a sword. The wealthy young noble will follow his father — newly made a lord by the King of Gernia — into the cavalry, training in the military arts at the elite King’s Cavella Academy in the capital city of Old Thares. Bright and well-educated, an excellent horseman with an advantageous engagement, Nevare’s future appears golden. But as his Academy instruction progresses, Nevare begins to realize that the road before him is far from straight. The old aristocracy looks down on him as the son of a “new noble” and, unprepared for the political and social maneuvering of the deeply competitive school and city, the young man finds himself entangled in a web of injustice, discrimination, and foul play. In addition, he is disquieted by his unconventional girl-cousin Epiny — who challenges his heretofore unwavering world view — and by the bizarre dreams that haunt his nights. For twenty years the King’s cavalry has pushed across the grasslands, subduing and settling its nomads and claiming the territory in Gernia’s name. Now they have driven as far as the Barrier Mountains, home to the Speck people, a quiet, forest-dwelling folk who retain the last vestiges of magic in a world that is rapidly becoming modernized. From childhood Nevare has been taught that the Specks are a primitive people to be pitied for their backward ways — and feared for their indigenous diseases, including the deadly Speck plague, which has ravaged the frontier towns and military outposts. The Dark Evening brings the carnival to Old Thares, and with it an unknown magic, and the first Specks Nevare has ever seen…
Available for download at Audible.com
Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb
The first thing to say is that while I'm giving Shaman's Crossing four stars, I'd actually recommend not reading it until you've got Forest Mage in hand. It isn't because Shaman's Crossing ends on a cliffhanger (it stands fine on its own), but because it's a very slow set-up to what is to come and I think disappointment in the pace will be assuaged if one can move smoothly from the set-up book to the (I assume) more quickly moving sequel.
The other thing to say is move on if you're looking for standard fantasy. There be no dragons here, at least up to now. Nor any dwarves, elves, dark lords, quests, or bands of hopelessly outnumbered bad guys. Instead, we have an early American “Indian Wars” setting meeting a typical feudal fantasy setting. The central country has just won its first ... Read More
Forest Mage by Robin Hobb
Shaman's Crossing was slow and at times dry, but I thought it rewarded the patient reader and that the pace was mostly appropriate for the content and character. The same complaints about book one could also be leveled at Forest Mage, and here, unfortunately, I can't quite defend the book as strongly.
Like Shaman's Crossing, there isn't a lot of “action” here. One expecting large battles, political upheaval or machinations, encounters with monsters, or showy displays of magic will be best served not bothering, though if anyone is picking up Forest Mage after reading Shaman's Crossing they're already aware of all this. Mage picks up with Nevare returning home after having “rec... Read More
Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb has just concluded her Soldier Son trilogy with the third book — Renegade's Magic. There doesn’t seem to be much point in reviewing solely Renegade's Magic, however, as anyone who has read the first two is likely to pick up the conclusion, so instead I’ll simply review the trilogy as a whole.
Of course, the first question one has to answer as a reviewer is would you recommend the book(s) to a reader. I wish I had an answer. To be honest, I’m just not sure, for several reasons. Let’s start with the positives. I think Hobb was truly ambitious with this series in a lot of ways, including:
Character — she is willing to have several very unlikeable characters drive much of the plot — including the one/two main character(s).
Poin... Read More
The Inheritance and Other Stories by Robin Hobb & Megan Lindholm
The Inheritance and Other Stories offers up one-stop shopping, collecting into one volume three stories by Robin Hobb and seven by Megan Lindholm. There’s no doubt these are two different authors, despite being the same person, and so there is a good mix of style and genre here. I’m a huge Hobb fan, believing her work to be substantive and subtle with world-class characterization and plotting, so I was pleased to see the Hobb stories set in one my all-time favorite worlds — that of the Liveship Traders / Rain Wilds. I hadn’t ever read her Lindholm works, though I’d always been curious. Unfortunately, I turned out to be much more a Hobb fan than a Lindholm fan, and though one of her Lindholm stories was one of my favorites in the book,... Read More
The Inheritance and Other Stories by Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm
I’ve been a fan of Robin Hobb for many years — her FARSEER, TAWNY MAN, and LIVESHIP TRADERS series are some of my favorite epic fantasies. That’s why I was looking forward to reading The Inheritance and Other Stories, a collection of short stories written by Robin Hobb under that name and her real name, Megan Lindholm.
Why write under two names? She explains this in the introduction to the book: the two authors have completely different styles. As Lindholm, she writes contemporary urban fantasy that’s edgier and more daring than the more traditional fantasy fare she serves up under the pseudonym Robin Hobb. Behind both names, though, her creativity and intelligence shines through.
The Megan Lind... Read More
A Fantasy Medley edited by Yanni Kuznia
FORMAT/INFO: A Fantasy Medley is 136 pages long divided over four short stories and is published by Subterranean Press in two editions: A fully clothbound hardcover limited to 3000 copies and a numbered hardcover limited to 200 copies and signed by the authors and editor. Dust jacket by Kristy Doherty.
1) “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” by Kelley Armstrong. “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” is an urban fantasy tale with all of the usual trimmings including a female protagonist, a contemporary setting, supernatural elements, humor, etc. The story is actually pretty interesting and follows a lesbian Japanese vampire who uses wits instead of violence to prevent two o... Read More
Warriors by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.)
FORMAT/INFO: Warriors is 736 pages long divided over twenty short stories and an Introduction by George R.R. Martin. Each short story is preceded by biographical information about the author and a short description of their contribution to the anthology. March 16, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Warriors via Tor.
“The King of Norway” by Cecelia Holland. I’ve never read anything by Cecelia Holland before, but the author is described as “one of the world’s most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists.” Not surprisingly, her contribution finds the author doing wh... Read More
Warriors ed. by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
To quote from George R.R. Martin’s introduction “People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories.” I imagine that for most all who enjoy fantasy or almost any genre fiction, it’s the timeless tradition of the telling of warriors’ tales that is the heart of our passion. In fact, reading Martin’s introduction titled “Stories of the Spinner Rack” is enough to put Warriors on any bookworm’s reading list. For many of us who grew up in Small Town USA during the 70’s and earlier, before the big book stores and Amazon.com, we know exactly what he was talking about. It’s a very relatable trip down memory lane that primes the reader for the adventures that follow.
At 736 pages, Warriors is practically a tome. It contains twen... Read More
Songs of Love and Death edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Songs of Love and Death is the third anthology that George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited together. Like Warriors and Songs of the Dying Earth, Songs of Love and Death brings together some of the biggest names that SFF has to offer and they set these authors to work on a common theme.
Martin and Dozois offer a cross-genre anthology that ranges from Robin Hobb’s epic fantasy “Blue Boots,” which tells the story of a romance between a young serving girl and a silver-tongued minstrel, to Read More
Songs of Love and Death by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (editors)
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have collected a nice batch of all-new stories from an all-star cast in Songs of Love and Death. The theme is “star-crossed lovers,” and as you might guess from the title, each tale is a love story, and many are death stories, too. Some are sad, some are sexy, and one or two are slightly sappy. Overall, I enjoyed the collection. Here’s what you’ll find in Songs of Love and Death:
“Love Hurts” by Jim Butcher may be the story Harry Dresden’s fans have been waiting for because it looks like Harry and Murphy will finally get together... or will they?
In “The Marrying Maid,” historical romance author Jo Beverley provides a Regency romanc... Read More
Epic: Legends of Fantasy by John Joseph Adams (editor)
Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams, is an anthology of stories written by some of the biggest names in epic fantasy. The book clocks in at over 600 pages not just because it’s very difficult to tell short epic stories (though some of these authors do manage to pull it off) but because here the authors are not just telling epic legends, they are legends in and of themselves. George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Elliott, Orson Scott Card, Tad Williams, Aliette de Bodard, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Mary Robinette Kowal, N.K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Trudi Canavan, and Juliet Marillier all contributed stories to this volume.
Epic: Legends of Fantasy opens with a novella by Robin... Read More