Apparently Robin Hobb is a master of fantasy fiction and has at least five other collections. Thanks to bookstagram, an Instagram connection introduced me to this one. I bought it on an impulse and it’s been sitting on my To Be Read shelf for a few months.
After attempting to read some more intellectual type books that I just couldn’t focus on, I decided to pick this one up. I needed to escape and a fantasy pick seemed to be just the way to make that happen.
It took me some time to fully immerse myself in the story. The histories in italics at the beginning of each chapter threw me off a bit, and now that the book is over, I’m still not sure how they were relevant to this particular story. Some of them connected, but quite a few of them did not. Maybe they are pieces from other series? Since this is my first Hobb book I don’t really know.
This particular story is of a boy who is a royal bastard. Not like he’s annoying, but literally a bastard son of one of the princes of the Six Duchies — the kingdom where this story takes place. He’s taken to the palace when he’s about six years old, and we see his growing up and training until he’s about 16 years old.
There is magic, as in any good fantasy, and it is integrated seamlessly as it should be. I’m always intrigued by this type of story as I suspend my belief and let myself float in another world where reality and magic easily exist together. I don’t know if magic is the right word, but I don’t dip into the fantasy realm enough to know the correct terms.
I appreciated how Hobb treated gender in this story without making some huge statement or throwing it in our faces and sounding preachy. Though the story takes place in another time and place and sits in our minds as sort of an ancient European setting with castles and no modern amenities, Hobb allows the female characters to have more equality than usual in this type of setting.
I enjoyed her characters and settings and descriptions. It was a slow story. One you could settle into and that would’ve been so much better read next to a cozy fire with a warm spiced drink.
There is no sex or violence or even serious innuendos. It was so benign in those regards that I considered letting my 9 year old read it. But there were a few things that were buried but obvious to an adult that I wouldn’t want him asking me about just yet.
But because those elements are missing, the story has more of a slow burn than a rip roaring tale you fly through with huge peaks and valleys. It’s slower, steadier, and more savory. There is plenty of action but it isn’t overly stated or exaggerated. It just feels very real.
I was a little disappointed by how much FitzChivalry (the boy) seemed to learn but didn’t master. He was trained in a variety of arts both physical and mental, but he seemed to struggle to use those skills. There was also the element of something that he seemed to be born with. A skill that allowed him to connect with animals and share minds with them. This was heavily frowned upon, and I could never figure out why. It seemed to contradict the other skill… literally called Skill… that he was also born with the ability to do but had to be trained in.
On top of those two mind skills, he was also trained in poison and assassination as well as how to be polite in court and fighting with weapons.
There was a lot he learned, but little he seemed to master. So I’m very curious how the next two books develop, and of course I have to read them now to find out!
Do you find it difficult to get back into a trilogy if you wait too long to read the next ones? I’m a little worried if I don’t jump right into the next one (which I don’t have), I might forget what’s happened.
Anyway, overall, I’d recommend this book. Especially if you’re a fan of fantasy fiction. Hobb is a seamless writer that allows the story and characters to flow without too much interference. I have some questions about the story, but in general I was satisfied and looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
There were a few quotes that really stood out to me as well. Read them here.
Comment below if you’re a fantasy fiction fan! Have you read any Robin Hobb novels?
***Affiliate links used throughout post