I’m so happy to have gotten back into reading Robin Hobb. I’m spreading the books out, partly because they’re quite chunky and partly because I don’t really want this story to come to an end. I’ll console myself with the fact that I have two other related trilogies to go back and read, as well as whatever she comes out with next.
Robin Hobb is a brilliant writer, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. Her novels are beautifully written, and she expertly draws the reader into a complex, but understandable, world. Each character is real, flawed, motivated in their own way, and she makes you care about every single one of them. Even when they frustrate or anger with their actions, or inaction, the reader can still eventually understand their reasoning. In these last eight books, Fitzchivalry, the main character, has continuously made decisions that infuriated me, but you can always see why he’s the way he is. Hobb spent nearly the entire last book building these characters up in our imagination, making us understand their relationships to one another and really building the emotional foundation for this trilogy. It was a riveting read, even if not a lot of action took place.
With that groundwork in place, this is the novel where the action really picks up. It’s exciting, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at once. Something happens to Fitz that we’ve been waiting to happen for twenty years now (twelve for me, since I came in late), and it’s done it the most satisfying way I could hope for. One thing that prevented me from getting through her Soldier’s Son trilogy was that it was just so hopeless. She can be ruthless in how she treats her characters, and she was out for blood in that series. This latest trilogy is much more balanced – some chapters raise your spirits while others crush you a little, and it overall makes for a much more interesting and pleasurable reading experience.
One thing that did bother me is that there’s a central mystery or surprise in this, which I won’t spoil but I think will be obvious if you’ve read it, and it takes the characters so bloody long to figure it out. It was incredibly obvious to the reader since midway through the first novel, on purpose I believe, but the characters took about a thousand pages to work it out, and that’s always been an annoyance of mine. Either make it less obvious to the reader, so we can experience the discovery with the characters, or speed it along a little. That disconnect does nothing but hurt the writing, in my opinion.
Even with that small gripe, this might be my favourite Robin Hobb trilogy yet. It’s been a long time since I read those first books, so it’s hard to tell, but either way I am loving this. This novel unfortunately comes to an end without really trying to find a natural break, as it’s clearly meant to just transition to next book, so I’m itching to read on. It comes out in May, but I might hold out for the paperback edition later in the year.