Renegade’s Magic (book, Robin Hobb, 2007)
From Death Ray 4.
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Book three of the Soldier Son Trilogy
Robin Hobb/Gollancz/£20 (HB)
Third and final part of Robin Hobb’s latest trilogy sees Nevare Burvelle suffer some more before his life, finally, gets better.
Respect is due to Robin Hobb, she’s abandoned the warm, and lucrative, comfort zone afforded her by her trio of Six Duchies trilogies to pen this series, set in a completely fresh fantasy world. Though this is not an unusual step – she writes other kinds of fantasy under another pen-name – departing from her proven earners with her prime nom de plume is a bold move. In a world that is full of authors who endlessly churn out stories set in the same old setting, it is one that needs applauding.
Soldier Son is set in a world that appears analogous to the beginnings of the Old West (though herself Hobb denies this) – the people of Gernia are pushing east. They’ve already stolen the lands of the Kidona nomads, and are now encroaching on the domain of the Specks, determined to drive their King’s Road through the Speck’s sacred forest in order to reach the ocean on the other side of the mountains. Bu the Specks have fought back, unleashing a magical plague and ensnaring several Gernians to do their bidding. One of these unfortunates is Nevare, a young boy whose dreams of serving his king have been snatched away by the Speck magic. At the climax of the last novel, his refuge as an anonymous cemetery guard was broken open under accusations of unnatural practises, and he was forced to flee, the magic that possesses him keeping him alive when he is killed at the hands of an enraged fellow soldier.
Nevare’s had a bad time of it, but it’s difficult to maintain sympathy with him as Hobb’s first person voice makes us privy to every single one of his thoughts. This does a great job in building a realistic character for the poor chap, but the story drags and drags. It is a good story, in which Nevare must wrestle with the pernicious magic, reunite his divided soul and figure out how to resolve the seemingly irreconcilable differences between the peoples his two personalities belong to. It’s also a finely thought out world. But there’s just too much introspection, too much talking as said introspection is discussed by the various characters and just not enough action. At least, for my tastes. Hobb’s well-liked by many others for this style, however, I’d still venture that this book does not represent her at the top of her game.
Did you know…?
Hobb’s real name is Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden. She is an American of Swedish/British descent, and writes contemporary fantasy under the pen name of Megan Lindholm.