Posts Tagged ‘Robin Hobb’

Robin Hobb is best known for the Far Seer-trilogy, which I read over and over again as a teenager(not the reason for the fame I assure you). Returning at a bit more adult age to another of his books is rather interesting. The trilogy in question this time is his Soldier’s Son trilogy, more precisely the second in the series: Forest Mage.

Robin Hobb uses first person narration and only one person as the teller of the story. In the far seer trilogy the story is told from the point of view of Fitz, an assassin. He plays a central role in what happens in the story which is both the story of Fitz and the Six Duchies he lives in. In the Soldier’s Son trilogy the story is told through the eyes of Nevare Burvelle, a second son. In the world of Gernia the order in which nobles’ sons are born determines what they become. Nevare is the second son which makes him the soldier. The elder brother is trained to take over his father’s estate, while the third becomes a priest. The daughters get an arranged marriage to whoever benefits the family most.

In the first part of the series Nevare was sent to the capital of Gernia, Old Thares, to study at the King’s cavalla(cavalry) academy. At the end of the book a magical plague struck the academy. Nevare was one of the few survivors. In the second part, Forest Mage, he tries to continue his life as a soldier’s son but finds out that he has been cursed by the plague and keeps growing fatter, resulting in him being kicked out of the academy. Nevare is shunned by his family and eventually has to leave his home.

What I most like about Robin Hobb is the narrative point of view. Seeing things from a very narrow point of view makes the plot a lot more interesting. Especially when it comes to a fantasy setting. The action taking place in the movie is a lot more in your face I think. Not to mention that Robin Hobb is great at creating beliavable characters with their own weaknesses. There aren’t any heroes in her books. More like anti-heroes. Nevare is an outcast in this second part. His fattening curse makes everyone detest him by default. To understand what drives him means understanding his background of being a soldier’s son and having a plan for his life all layed out for him, but having that taken away from him because some sort of a deity wants something different of him.

The world of The Soldier’s Son’s is one of fantasy. Gernia is a medieval country with gunpowder. The Gernian’s have been expanding east, starting with conquering the plainspeople to the east. The plainspeople have a magic of their own which can be broken with iron as the Gernian’s came to notice. At the time of Forest Mage the king of Gernia is constructing a road to the sea to the east. Between the sea and the road is the forest of the Specks’, a people very attuned to nature. Their society is an interesting one. Women seem to be the one’s in power except for the immense male Great Ones, who become vessels of magic but also extremly fat. Nevare of course is turning into one of them. In the first part of the book Nevare got his life back after bargaining for it with a Speck mage. In exchange the magic wants him to stop the Gernians expanding east. This “magic” is referred to often in the book. It seems to be some sort of a deity or essence. I hope the last book in the series will explain this more closely.

Otherness and disappointment seem to me two of the themes present in all of Hobb’s books I’ve read. Her main characters are always making a mess of their lives somehow. Fitz from the Far Seer trilogy is a great example of this. The first two books in the series end up with Fitz getting severely poisoned and then getting beaten to death. Nevare’s suffering is of a more spiritual nature. For being fat he receives a lot of resentment. Perhaps this is in part why I liked Hobb so much as a teenager. I’d say his books are mostly for that age group even if there are a lot of elements for an adult to like as well. The best time to be reading his book’s would be as a teenager though. So get younger!

Also a close part of Hobb’s stories is how the mundane has a rather large role. One entire chapter in Forest Mage was devoted to Nevare helping a mother and her three children in a poor little shanty town. He fixed their house and laid traps to catch rabbits and made all sorts of little chores to make their life easier. Cooking also gets talked about a lot and eating also. Nevare becoming fatter also somehow makes him appreciate food a lot more. The sensations he receives from eating are described in detail. Telling about the mundane and day-to-day happenings might sound boring but Hobb manages to make it very interesting, the mundane in a fantasy world isn’t really that boring anyway is it? Of course there’s genuine and exciting adventure going on as well. If you aren’t too elitist with your literature and fantasy The Far Seer trilogy and Forest Mage are certainly worth checking out.

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