Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son Series

21:05 Tue 22 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:08 28 Jan 2009
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I finished reading Robin Hobb‘s Soldier Son Trilogy last night. I’m a big fan of her Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, and so was happy to find that she had another out.

However, I have to say I’m quite disappointed in this one, and wouldn’t really recommend it.

I thought the first one was all right, if a tad simplistic/expositional in parts (I particularly objected to the presence of an explanation for why a monarch would try to divide the noble class, but I suppose it was justified due to the young age of the main characters at the time). I thought that the later books would be better, and so picked up Forest Mage.

Forest Mage was quite a drag to read. I really think that Hobb could have done with some serious intervention on the part of an editor for the latter two books. They’re both way too long, and paced poorly, so that some events proceed very quickly while others far too slowly—and I found that it was often the events that seemed most interesting that were zoomed through, while the more tedious parts were dwelt on in great depth. Even with more even pacing, I think they were too long, and that’s not a complaint I make too often about books.

I only finished Forest Mage out of sheer bloody-mindedness, and then tackled Renegade’s Magic in the same spirit. The world is interesting, but Hobb’s exploration of colonialism felt terribly shallow, and the protagonist is extremely annoying. The main reason for this is his passivity—from quite early on, I found myself wondering why he wasn’t doing anything, why he was hiding from the realities that faced him. Granted, this is entirely plausible as a reaction from him, but that doesn’t help much. It’s still extremely irritating to go through page afer page of it.

I’ve never read Hobb under her Megan Lindholm name, but was very impressed indeed with The Farseer Trilogy. It appears that she struck gold with those characters and that milieu. The Soldier Son books just aren’t good enough, and I found her Liveship Traders series shallow and unconvincing (even though it’s in the same world as the Farseer and Tawny Man books). I’m hoping for better from her next time out, but suggest avoiding Shaman’s Crossing, Forest Mage, and Renegade’s Magic.

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