I mentioned this series when I wrote my post on Wednesday, and since then I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot. The Soldier son trilogy isn’t for everyone, and I know some people who were never keen on it as it was a big departure from Robin Hobb’s other books set in the Three-Kingdoms, or those on the Live Ships and Dragons of Bingtown. The Soldier Son novels, despite being works of fantasy, are set in a relatively modern world with rifles and guns, and Hobb develops an unorthodox main character from that which you’d normally expect from a fantasy series. However, these novels strengths are that they cover a lot of issues that we would recognise from our own world, and really make you think about our own perceptions to those same issues.
I don’t want to give too much away, but the conflicting issues in these novels are between the progress and development of the modern world on the one-side, and the traditions and magical beliefs of a land that is coming under pressure from the encroachment, on the other. Our main character, the Soldier’s son, acts as a conduit to both points of views, and it is an interesting journey that he takes us through. His former hopes and aspirations firstly being dashed, then replaced by a new calling.
Magic still holds a key role in this conflict, and as with everything Hobb writes, she has really thought about the magic in the novels, and describes their use, limitations, and how it is wielded. That is because the forest mages’ in her novels are in effect used by the magic of the forest, rather than the other way round – the mages being tools to the forests will.
We are also challenged on our perceptions on physical attributes, weight, and how we view and judge people’s worth based on their appearance and how they fit in with our own ideals.
These novels are not fast-paced, or what you’d normally expect from a fantasy series, so if that is what you are looking for they’re probably not for you. But if you want a thoughtful read that makes you stop and think about things, all told through Hobb’s brilliant and detailed writing, they really make a strong impression – I should know, as I still can’t stop thinking about them…
You can buy the first novel ‘Shamans Crossing’ here