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review 2020-04-20 15:54
Fool's Assassin
Fool's Assassin - Robin Hobb

by Robin Hobb


Having read Assassin's Apprentice and enjoyed what I've read of the Farseer series, I could not resist when I saw that reviews were wanted for Fool's Assassin, the first book of a related trilogy with Fitz as an adult, now called FitzChivalry Farseer. There are plenty of references to people and events from the first book of the first series to make a connection and to explain significant elements to readers new to the series.


The story begins with a letter written by Queen Desire, second queen to King Shrewd and enemy to Fitz, or anyone else she may perceive as standing between her son and the throne. Fitz thinks the queen was behind his father's murder, though much time has passed and he is now in middle age and has a grown daughter.


There are several new characters to add to the familiar ones and the sense of intrigue begins pretty much immediately with the arrival of a group of suspicious minstrels with no instruments to a mid-winter celebration, as well as a strange messenger who Fitz doesn't go to see right away because he is needed as host to his party.


Hobb's naming conventions are consistent in that characters are given obvious names according to their positions in the court. The story does a good job of explaining salient points from the previous series well so that new readers will be able to follow what's going on and references to things like the Forged, even if they have not read all of the books. I became aware that I have missed much about the Foil and a pet wolf in the intervening books, but the references brought me up to speed.


The book also clearly explains the difference between the Wit, which is a psychic connection on an animal level, and the Skill, which is human to human mind communication. These abilities play a significant role in both series.


One thing that bothered me about this one is that Fitz, who was trained to be an assassin at a young age, is not paranoid enough when the dodgy entertainers are observed. For someone with his history, he doesn't seem to have much of a sense of preservation.


When blood is spilled during his holiday celebration, he realizes that he enjoys the hunt on an animal level because of an affinity he had formed with his wolf in an earlier story. The Skill is convenient for communication with family from different parts of the manor as he seeks for clues and his animal senses from the Wit show their true value when a crisis requires getting past a lock against the Skill to save the life of an important character. It becomes apparent that writing his chronicles has played an important role in the earlier books and that a legendary entity known as the White prophet plays a key role in this story.


The story is well told, yet I found it rather depressing. Middle age, failing health of his wife and painful memories of much of his past life conspire to make the story all too reminiscent, though there is action if you can get past the first few chapters. The story is left with an obvious intent towards continuation, but I felt the series had already reached a point where it feels tired. I'm hoping to see the author move on to something new as she has shown that she can weave a decent fantasy tale and it would be of interest to see how her writing matures.

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review 2020-04-16 12:54
Assassin's Apprentice
Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb

by Robin Hobb


This is an excellent fantasy story in the old traditional sword and sorcery sense. It's about a boy, born a royal bastard, who is thrust into his father's family with all the intrigues and dangers that go with being a loose end in the line of succession.


The story is very well written and although I seldom read stories with child protagonists, this one was worth making an exception. The characters are distinctive and interesting as individuals, even if their names are rather cheesy. The more likeable ones include an assassin, a rough keeper of animals, the boy himself (generally referred to as Fitz, as his father never game him a name) and a shrewd grandfather who is known as *cough* King Shrewd. Oh my...


The fun thing about assassins is that they are full of surprises. Just when the plot seems to be going along predictably, something comes out of left field to change the game.


Somewhere after 40% it does begin to drag a little, and then to meander in plot. However, the political intrigues that are the real strength of the story are further developed so that by 90% I was really interested again and wondering how it was all going to get wrapped up with so little time left. I feared a cliffhanger ending that would try to blackmail me into buying book 2, when the price of the further episodes is rather high in my opinion for something I would describe as Fantasy Lite. Yes it's a good story, but it's fairly simple and will appeal to those who like to read a lot of YA and prefer stories with a single protagonist, rather than the sort of complications of keeping up with something like George R.R. Martin's Songs of Ice and Fire series.


I just have a preference for stories that will stretch my brain cells, although I can enjoy light entertainment as well. This one did pick up with loads of action in the final stretch. I didn't like some of the conclusions, but at least the story did wrap up with tidy closing stages so that I wasn't left on that cliff. A few loose ends were obviously left so that the saga can continue, but despite the story starting well, I think it will continue without me to follow along. I enjoyed reading it, but there were just some final elements that left me with phrases like "Why didn't you..." "You couldn't possibly let him..." and similar rants echoing through my head.


I give it 4 stars for writing ability, but only 3.5 for plot detail. Too many things just didn't ring true in the end.

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review 2019-06-14 00:00
The Inheritance and Other Stories
The Inheritance and Other Stories - Robin Hobb,Megan Lindholm,Tom Kidd Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm are one and the same! Might as well get that out of the way first. She explains the use of two names in the preface and there is nothing sinister about it. Each story is prefaced with an introduction from the author in which she tells something of its origins. The book is more or less evenly split between the pseudonyms but there are seven stories by Megan Lindholm and only three by Robin Hobb. That’s because the Hobb persona tends to write epic fantasies of greater length while Lindholm tells shorter modern urban tales. So let’s have a look at Megan Lindholm first.

‘A Touch Of Lavender’ is about an exiled alien race on Earth and the interactions of one of their number with a poor human female whose mother is a music fan. The Skoags are very musical and are given generous benefits by the authorities in the hope that they may reveal the secret of interstellar travel. By the end, it occurred to me that this had similarities with Heinlein’s ‘The Star Beast’ except that he would never have portrayed sympathetically helpless characters on welfare. This excellent story was a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

It was the best of the Megan Lindholm yarns but the others were pretty good. ‘Finis’ was too predictable for anyone who has read a bit of fantasy but nicely told. ‘Strays’ was snuck into an anthology about warrior princesses where it must have seemed a bit quirky as the protagonist is another kid from the wrong side of the tracks in modern America, though she is Queen of the Strays. It was sad but oddly triumphant. The author is big on cats which seems de rigueur for a female fantasist nowadays. Maybe she’s a witch. ‘The Fifth Squashed Cat’ was distinctly odd but again showed that the writer has some familiarity with being poor in the United States of America.

With our cosy European socialism, I think we don’t appreciate how tough it is at the bottom of the heap over there. Stephen King and Albert E. Cowdrey are among the other fantasists who give us some idea. I hasten to add that being poor is getting harder over here, as food banks flourish.

Men under twenty-five will be disappointed to learn that they are not worth the powder to blow them to Hell. At least, that’s the opinion of the narrator of ‘Silver Lady And The Fortyish Man’, a touching fantasy romance with some autobiographical elements, it seems. Certainly, the would-be writer in a dead end job whose given up trying might come from the author’s own experience. Happily, for us, she kept going and we get these pleasing stories. ‘Cuts’ is not from her own experience, one hopes. It’s set in a near future where anyone over fourteen has the right to do what they want with their bodies, even to the extent of mutilating them in the name of fashion. Tricky moral issues about freedom and responsibility are raised.

I enjoyed Megan Lindholm, I adored Robin Hobb. ‘Homecoming’ is a novella set in the Liveship Traders world about an aristocratic lady cast out from civilised Jamaillia because her husband has plotted against the Satrap. With other exiles, they are sent to colonise the inhospitable Cursed Shores and our narrator has to mingle on equal terms with the lesser-born. The tale is written in her journal and it’s clever how we see her growth from a spoilt rich girl to a woman of some use. It’s clever, too, that skills gained from her art, sculpture, which is disdained by her brutish husband, turn out to be almost essential in the new land. Best of all, though, are her moody, atmospheric descriptions of the haunted underground city they discover. This was like a classic from ‘Weird Tales’ of old and might have been written by Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith.

‘The Inheritance’ is the title story of the collection and while it’s okay, it didn’t mean much to me. A young lady is conned out of her money by a naughty man. A similar male brute features in the final Hobb story, ‘Cat Meat’. Pell got Rosemary pregnant and then left her in the lurch. She made the best of it and is coping, if not prospering when he comes back to take over her life and claim his son. A great story with a cat and one that might usefully be read by all young ladies apt to fall for big eyes, pretty curls and charming words. Men do that, too, of course, but we have the biological advantage of not getting pregnant by our mistakes.

This is the first time I’ve read Megan Lindholm and I enjoyed the experience very much. I especially liked Robin Hobb. Despite being wary of those gigantic fantasy trilogies which take so much time to read. I may search out one of hers.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
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review 2018-10-31 20:51
Retconning: "Robin Hobb - Fitz and the Fool - 2 Books Collection Set" by Robin Hobb
Fitz and the Fool - Fool's Assassin - Part One - Robin Hobb

(Original Review, 2017)

Fitz and the Fool - well, I still remain unconvinced that it was necessary - I was quite happy leaving Fitz to his happy ending, and the Fool going home vindicated. It isn't really a story that needed to be told - there's been quite a bit of retconning, particularly of the Fool's history and his people (despite them tattooing him, he seemed altogether more positive about his upbringing with them in the previous books;



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-10-31 20:30
Surfeit of Cliché: "The Soldier Son Trilogy" by Robin Hobb
The Soldier Son Trilogy Bundle - Robin Hobb

(Original Review, 2012)

Hobb seems to have declined over the years. “The Farseer” and “The Liveship Traders” were spectacular, despite a certain amount of padding; Tawny Man a bit more shapeless (the Piebald plot abruptly falls by the wayside after the confrontation midway through book 2).

“The Soldier Son” (in a new universe) started well, despite some obvious recycling (most fathers in Hobb's fiction are either unloving or dead/absent, and the dad here is no exception; meanwhile the uncle is an obvious recycling of Verity-Fitz), but the abrupt lurch at the beginning of the second book suggests some serious plot rethinking took place midway through the writing process.



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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