The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince: Everything I expect from Hobb

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin HobbThe 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 companion to the princess. When Caution gives birth to the stablemaster’s Witted illegitimate child — a boy who becomes known as the Piebald Prince — Felicity raises him and tells us his story, too.

So why did the Wit become a crime in the Six Duchies? In The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince, you’ll learn that it has to do with a scandal involving the ugly illegitimate prince, a thwarted would-be-king, a fickle woman, a love triangle, and a couple of murders.

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince has everything I expect from Robin Hobb — clear and succinct (yet lovely) prose, interesting well-developed characters (some to love and some to hate), realistic dialogue, beautiful romance, glorious tragedy, and a touch of ironic humor.

If you’re a fan of Robin Hobb’s fantasy, you don’t want to miss The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince because it fills in some important backstory on the Farseer family and provides a lot of context to FitzChivalry’s bittersweet tale. And if you haven’t read Robin Hobb’s work before, you’ve really been missing out. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is the perfect way to correct that problem — it’s a great introduction to the FARSEER saga. After you read it, you’ll be itching to read Assassin’s Apprentice.
~Kat Hooper

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin HobbI 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

Publication Date: February 28, 2013. One of the darkest legends in the Realm of the Elderlings recounts the tale of the so-called Piebald Prince, a Witted pretender to the throne unseated by the actions of brave nobles so that the Farseer line could continue untainted. Now the truth behind the story is revealed through the account of Felicity, a low-born companion of the Princess Caution at Buckkeep. With Felicity by her side, Caution grows into a headstrong Queen-in-Waiting. But when Caution gives birth to a bastard son who shares the piebald markings of his father s horse, Felicity is the one who raises him. And as the prince comes to power, political intrigue sparks dangerous whispers about the Wit that will change the kingdom forever… Internationally-bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Robin Hobb takes readers deep into the history behind the Farseer series in this exclusive, new novella, ‘The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince.’ In her trademark style, Hobb offers a revealing exploration of a family secret still reverberating generations later when assassin FitzChivalry Farseer comes onto the scene. Fans will not want to miss these tantalizing new insights into a much-beloved world and its unforgettable characters.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything by Hobbs. This certainly sounds like a good place to start. You had me hooked with “Princess Caution.”

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