Saturday, 3 September 2005

Book Review: Shaman's Crossing (Robin Hobb)

In a bid to justify my calling this a 'book blog', I shall hereby pledged to post book reviews here every weekend, and to at least have one or two book-related posts once in a while. Hehe.

Anyway, here's a book review I really should get down to finishing, especially since I'm soooo broke right now...

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Title: Shaman's Crossing (Book 1 of the Soldier Son trilogy)
Author: Robin Hobb

Synopsis:

When the two-hundred year war between the kingdoms of Vania and Landsing ended the Landsingers were left in triumphant possession of Vania's rich coal and coast territories.

When young King Troven assumed the throne of Vania thirty years later, he was determined to restore her greatness, not through waging another assault upon their traditional enemies, but by looking in the opposite direction and colonising the wild plains and steppes to their east.

Over the next twenty years, cavalry forces manage to subdue the rolling plains formerly wasted on nomadic herders and tribesmen.Troven's campaign restores the pride of the Varnian military and to reward them, Troven creates a new nobility that is extremely loyal to their monarch.


Main Characters:
  • Nevare Gerar - The second son of one of King Troven's new lords. Following in his father's footsteps, a commission as a cavalry officer at the frontier and an advantageous marriage await him, once he has completed his training at the King's Cavalry Academy.

What I liked:
  • It's Robin Hobb! I've been waiting for a new book from her since last year's Fool's Fate, which was one of my favorite books last year.
  • I actually managed to finish the book within a week or so. Not many other authors can compel me to keep reading the book like Hobb does
  • Interesting developments in the story. Though the plot seems a bit too simple...
  • The method of succession within the nobles is pretty interesting. First sons take over the holdings, second sons are soldier sons, third sons are priests, and so on
  • Hobb's is very good at hinting at a larger plot in her books. In this one, her constant undermining of the women in the story hints at a greater purpose in later books.
  • One can sense that there is more to the plot than what happens here. Which bodes well for the subsequent books in the series...
  • At least she doesn't leave any cliffhangers leading into the next book...

What I didn't like:
  • The main character, Nevare is damn goody-too-shoes lar. Definitely not as cool as Fitz.
  • The plot is too simple. In this first book at least. It mainly follows Nevare's life in the Academy. Though it resembles Fitz' training in Assassin's Apprentice, it's not as good.
  • It seems like a fantasy version of Enid Blyton's boarding school books at some parts...
  • Some editing problems here and there. Spelling errors, mostly. Unforgivable!
  • The ending seems a bit rushed... but still works. For me.
  • I gotta wait another YEAR to read the next book!

Summary:

My main opinion about Shaman's Crossing is that it really isn't as good as her previous series'. But it was still good enough that I couldn't put it down.

Hobb still retains a touch of mystery in the story, constantly trodding down the women in the plot, but hinting at a greater purpose for them in later books. Let's hope that really does happen.

Nevare is not as compelling as her previous lead characters (yes, even the whiny Althea and the weak Wintrow in Liveship Traders), as he is too much a daddy's boy and thinks too much of following the book for my liking. I like my heroes and heroines to be rebellious, see...

But for all my gripes, Hobb DOES leave a lot of room for the story to expand. There are countless possibilities for each of the characters, and there are dozens more sub-plots that could take root.

All in all, Shaman's Crossing may not be as good as the previous books, but at least with Hobb, you can never tell how a book will turn out eventually, because there is so much more room for one to imagine what could happen.

THAT for me is the mark of a good fantasy writer. And that's what make Shaman's Crossing my favorite book so far this year. DESPITE its weaknesses

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