I was worried about this book. It’s the third in Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy, and the first two were particularly hard to take, especially book 2. Hobb is famous for torturing her characters, and she does not give Nevare a break, not once, in those books, and book 2 ends with his rejection by the Gernians, his people, and finally following the magic towards the Specks.
I would still not say that this trilogy is on par with Hobb’s other three. It’s painfully hard to read. This book is easier to deal with, but also moves slower, particularly during battle planning and the first half. The two people that are Nevare struggle to reconcile themselves for much of the time, and a lot more time is spent pining over various others. Regardless, I was drawn back to the book over and over thanks to Hobb’s deft storytelling; only in hindsight can I really see where the book slowed down and which parts were more irritating than others. Once action was taken, the plot picked up and the book moved swiftly towards a conclusion that I enjoyed immensely, although one that does not precisely continue the social message that Hobb could have portrayed. Perhaps its impossibility was her point.
Her writing is masterful as usual, disappearing behind the images she conveys and the people she creates. She truly is one of the best fantasy authors out there, if this is her worst trilogy. I’m looking forward to everything she writes in the future.