Sunday, October 30, 2005

keep fast

Avid reader of Robin Hobb's earlier Farseer, Liveship Traders, and the Tawny Man trilogies will be certain to enjoy her latest Soldier's Son trilogy which begins with a "coming of age" book titled Shaman's Crossing.

The setting for this tale is an exiled empire called Gernia, which had lost its most precious coastal lands, and was forced to battle its way inland to territory already occupied by uncivilized tribes, collectively known as the 'plains people'.

The main character Nevare Burvelle is the son of a newly-appointed lord and is destined to become a soldier as was his father before the king rewarded him with lordship for his valor in combat. The story begins with couple of chapters summing up the important events of Nevare's childhood, but remaining in the present tense throughout.

The "coming of age" section, the meat of this tale, is when Nevare heads off to military academy, to hopefully become a mounted officer, part of the "cavalla" like his father before him. Nevare, a soldier's son, raised as a soldier to always obey, must now learn how to juggle between obedience and leadership, qualities which are often contradictory.

Without divulging any further plot material, this book has an ending to the compare of the Tolkien's 'scouring of the shire' in terms of Nevare's personality change and how he deals with the people around him.

What I enjoy in Robin Hobb's tales is her obvious talent in painting her characters with genuine personas, not unrealistic, quivering, and overdone moralists-- something which I believe is quite rare in the fantasy genre.

I have a vague notion of where Ms. Hobb intends on taking this series, and I believe it will be with a reexamination of the sad plight of the plains people, and the double-standard of Gernia; on one hand it proclaims its moral right to reclaim their ancestral lands, but at the same time it callously took another people's lands and disregarded their rights by proclaiming the indigenous people to be savages who must be brutally reformed into the civilization provided by Gernia.

My rating for this novel is 4.5 stars out of 5.

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