the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Robin Hobb’ Category

ship of magic hobbShip of Magic (Liveship Traders #1),  by Robin Hobb

published in 1998

where I got it: purchased new



It’s been a while since I read a Robin Hobb. Like many Hobb fans, I devoured the Farseer trilogy, and then wasn’t sure where to go from there. Most of her trilogies  take place in the same universe, and each trilogy follows different characters. Some need to be read in order (read the Farseer trilogy before reading Fitz the Fool, for example), but the Liveship Traders trilogy I think can be read as a complete stand alone.

After Farseer trilogy, I jumped over to the Soldier Son trilogy, which is set in a different universe, but one that feels very much like her primary universe. Hobb has this thing about completely deconstructing her characters – forcing them to a precipice built of self loathing, doubt, and full scale rejection. It forces the character to do something they never would have done otherwise. The horrible things that happen to them give them strength towards what is coming next. Or Something. It’s like tough love to the n’th degree. I couldn’t get past what happens in the second Soldier Son book, Forest Mage. It hit too close to home. It’s been four years since Forest Mage, and I’m finally ready to pick up another Hobb.

Ship of Magic takes place in Bingtown, which is a merchant city. Originally a city of refugees, some families settled in the harbor town of Bingtown, while others settled up the Rain Wilds river, and over the generations a trading empire was born. For the most part, the story follows the Vestrit family, a prominent trading family. On his deathbed, Ephron Vestrit decides his eldest daughter Keffria and her husband Kyle will inherit the family’s Liveship and trading business, leaving his younger daughter, Althea with nearly nothing. It’s a decision that nearly tears the family apart – Althea has sailed with her father, she knows every inch of the family liveship Vivacia, she’s already built relationships with the other ship captains and merchants in other cities, she assumed the ship captaincy would go to her on her father’s death. Kyle on the other hand, knows little of the Bingtown traditions, and he certainly has no understanding of the life cycle of a Liveship or the contracts made to obtain such a ship.

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So,  here’s the first of my “reading diary” blog posts.


I’m nearly half way through Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb.  If you’ve never read her, she’s awesome.  This trilogy is probably a good starting point for someone new to her work, as it’s sort of a stand alone series. A number of years ago I remember maybe Hobb talking about her own work, or someone else talking about her work, and they said she imagines the worse possible thing that could happen to her main character, and then she does it. and then does it over and over to that person.  And yep, that’s about what usually happens in Hobb books.   She’s a damn genius writer, so she gets you all emotionally invested in this character (even if you don’t like the character, you will still be invested. Because Robin Hobb), and then all those horrible things that happen to the character? because of your emotional investment, it feels like it’s happening to you. or, erm, maybe that’s just me.


So, in Ship of Magic, Althea is cheated out of her inheritance. Her douchebag brother-in-law, Kyle, persuades the rest of the family that only he can look after the family’s legacy.  He’s such a jackass whiny twat that I want to call him Kylo.  see all the horrible words I’ve already used to describe him?  Althea isn’t an angel either, she’s kinda whiny too . . .


Oh, but what could this inheritance possibly be that they are fighting over? A liveship. Like, the ship is made of a special kind of wood, and after a while, the ship wakes up.  It’s alive, and liveships are a totally normal thing in this area. And the ships talk. And they are awesome. There is one liveship that supposedly went mad, and it’s been beached. Althea talks to it sometimes. I bet it would be super therapeutic if that beached ship could swim again.  I totally want to pet that poor ship and bring it cookies.  and Kyle needs to die in a fire.  But, this is a Hobb, so he won’t.

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Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams

published November 2012

where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher











Epic Fantasy requires the story to be bigger, the dragons be faster, the warriors be stronger, and everything generally be more. And Epic: Legends of Fantasy offers up just that – more mythos,  higher stakes, more of simply everything.

Many of the entries are part of the author’s larger work, taking place in an epic fantasy world that the author has already written hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages about. Randomly, the stories I read first happened to be part of larger works, and at first, the lack of stand alone works bothered me, but I quickly came to appreciate it, and to learn the collection had plenty of stand alone stories as well. An anthology like this is a brilliant method of introducing readers to these larger fantasy worlds created by famous authors such as Robin Hobb, George R R Martin, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Tad Williams, and many others, and serves as an excellent introduction to the writings of newer authors  as well.

Some works were fairly new, but others were older than I am. the Moorcock for example was originally written in 1961. A pure classic sword and sorcery, complete with sexualized and helpless female, it might be offensive to today’s readers, but I’m happy Adams included it, as what’s the point of talking about Epic Fantasy if we’re not going to touch on the journey the genre has taken?

Clocking in at over 600 pages, Epic: Legends of Fantasy is itself a bit of a doorstopper.  We eat clunksters like this for breakfast, so I was surprised at how long it took me to plow through it. ahh, but spending 600+ pages in one fantasy world is one thing. Try spending that quantity of pages in over a dozen fantasy worlds. More often than not, my brain needed a little break in between.   This isn’t the kind of anthology to gorge on, this is the kind you savor, over many winter evenings.

Here’s my thoughts a handful of the entries:

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I have returned from EpicConfusion!

And it was incredible.  I was in geek heaven. Everyone’s first con experience should be like this.  There were authors hanging around, authors doing organized and well planned panels, authors autographing stuff (not just books!), and plenty of cosplay, humorous music (Rocky Horror Muppet Show!) and every flavor of crazy and fun.  I met so many wonderful folks, authors, artists, other.  Rothfuss was incredibly friendly, Lynch was gracious, Elizabeth Bear said I had pretty hair, Abercrombie may not be aware how irresistible that “British rogue” thing is to American women, Ahmed wins for nicest guy and best hair, Kameron Hurley is insanely interesting, Myke Cole gave me a hug anyways, and Peter Brett let me interrupt his dinner to talk about a panel he’d just done (btw, don’t interrupt peeps who are trying to eat. It was a total asshole thing I did), and Jim Hines is even more hilarious and friendly than I expected, even when he was completely exhausted and I was bugging him. When people found out it was my first con, they told me I picked a good one. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and I was not disappointed.

I’ve so much to tell. . . .  and so many blurry photos to post (wait, what? my camera has a low-light setting? Why didn’t someone tell me that before!).   To keep you from having to slog through stuff you might not be interested in, there will be a post on fun/funny author interaction (that’s gonna be this one, by the way), panels, cosplay and of course, Scott Lynch gets a post all to himself.

I was that girl who faux pas’ed my way through my first con by hijacking conversations and bothering people and talking to anyone and everyone who looked interesting (including the goth cross dresser) and now I’m gonna be that girl who gives WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION. read at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

There will be a giveaway for peeps who survive all of these ridiculous posts.

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I’ve been on a GRRMartin kick lately.  You know, Sandkings, Nightflyers, Song for Lya, a friend of mine lent me (the novel and the graphic novel!) Fevre Dream, which I’m a little embarrased to say I’ve never read before.

One of these days I’ll re-read my way through book 4 of Song of Ice and Fire, I promise.

I was blabbing about Martin over the phone with my Mom the other day (Hi Mom!), and she asked if she should pick up Game of Thrones sometime, since it’s all anyone’s been talking about. Before I could even start envisioning my mother reading all that sex and violence stuff, I blurted out “No!  Let me lend some of his older short stories! I think you’ll like them better”, and that was that.

There’s nothing better than an author with a multi decade long oeuvre.

But what happens when an author strays from their usual?

As a reader and genre fan, what’s your reaction when an author writes in different genres either over time, or all at the same time?   love it? dislike it? don’t care?

I sure was surprised to find that one of my favorite historical fictions (The Walking Drum) was written by a guy who is famous for westerns. And that one of my favorite contemporary fiction books (The Sun, The Moon and The Stars) was written by a guy famous for a long running fantasy series. I tried the westerns and they didn’t do much for me, but I’m now a huge fan of Vlad Taltos and worry that Brust would have a hard time selling anything non-Vlad.

When recommending a genre-hopping author, do you recommend certain series, or specific titles within a genre?  When exploring a genre-hopping author that’s new-to-you, will you stick to a specific genre, or look at everything they’ve ever written?  Some authors make it easy (Robin Hobb, I’m looking at you!) by using different pen names for different genres.  Others, like Joe Lansdale, not so much.

Eh, just something interesting that popped into my head.  I think I’ll lend my Mom Martin’s Dreamsongs, and she can see what she thinks.

and yes, I almost titled this article “me love you long time”.

Forest Mage (Soldier Son Trilogy: book 2), by Robin Hobb

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: enjoyed the first book, Shaman’s Crossing






Picking up shortly after the end of the first book in the trilogy, Shaman’s Crossing,  Forest Mage was mostly what I’ve come to expect from Robin Hobb – a powerful character driven fantasy that starts out “traditional”, and then, quite suddenly, most certainly isn’t.

As the military academy recovers from the Plague, life slowly goes back to normal. Noble families are coming to grips with the fact that their third son (destined for the priesthood) may now be their second son (destined for the military) and so forth.  Nevare is readying to head home to his brother’s wedding and to see Carsina, his betrothed. While most people who survive the plague become weakened and skeletal, Nevare is having the opposite reaction to his brush with death: he can’t stop gaining weight.  He becomes heavy.  Then fat.  Then obese.  Hobb takes every possible opportunity to remind us that Nevare is supposed to be a fit, trim soldier, and “letting yourself go” simply isn’t accepted in this society (I’ll just assume that every woman in this world always loses the baby fat, and thyroid problems are nonexistent). Due only to his size, Nevare is in turn spurned by his father, his siblings, his friends and his betrothed. And then he is given a medical discharge from the academy. Everything he was destined to be, the military life his father trained him for, is over.

Humiliated and disowned by his father, Nevare sets out for the eastern frontier determined to join up with a military post far from home. Everywhere he stops it seems, people don’t want anything to do with him because of his girth. People assume he is homeless, or a thief, or a murderer, or all of the above, and only because he’s fat. Hobb belabors this point, often.

Along the King’s Road, Nevare learns first hand the folly of building a road with chain gangs, of building frontier towns just to abandon them when the road passes through and the guards leave.  Puts me in the mood to track down some American history about the transcontinental railroads and the natives who were “in the way”.

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Soldier Son, Book 1: Shaman’s Crossing, by Robin Hobb

published: 2006

Where I got it: purchased new

Why I read it:  I enjoyed Hobb’s Farseer series and wanted to read more of her books.

I can give you a simple summary of the plot of Shaman’s Crossing, the first book in Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy, and I guarantee, it will sound simple. I also guarantee this novel is far from simple.

In the traditional and conservative land of Gernia, the aspirations of noble sons are predetermined by their birth order. First sons are heirs, second sons are soldiers, third sons are priests, and so on. After a recent and bloody war with their neighbors, the King elevated his most celebrated military commanders to the title of Lord, making them equal in status to not only their older brothers, but the old nobility as well.

Nevare Burvelle is the second son of one such elevated veteran. Living on a frontier estate, Nevare is naïve of how the old noble families view “upstarts” such as his father. These frontier estates are often the only thing between the civilized cities of Gernia and the nomadic Plainsmen and the aborigine Speckled peoples of the mountains.

Nevare is a perfect son. He is loyal, honest and obedient. These things make for a good soldier, but his father has greater plans for him. In an effort to make Nevare break out of his quiet shell of obedience and learn to think for himself, his father sends him to learn from a Plainsman named Dewara. Part of Nevare’s “education” with the savage Dewara is a spirit journey, in which things go either very wrong, or very right, depending on how you look at it.

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Because I have a digital camera and I know how to use it!  (Ok, I sort of know how to use it)

I’ve still got The Wolf Age by James Enge and Mountains of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg topping the TBR list,  but here are some new goodies on deck, double deck, and triple deck for the next little while:

There’s something in that photo that I’m super crazy excited about, can you guess what it is?  Hint: It’s from the friendly folks at PYR.

I hadn’t planned on buying Grey, but I recently read some good reviews of it, and it was on the dollar table at Bargain Books because the cover was a bit marked up.  Also from Bargain Books, the Ai Yazawa.  I’m undecided on Bargain Books – no service, but tons of random cheap stuff that’s usually in mint condition.   A consumer’s dream, or a nail in the coffin of my favorite independent bookseller?

Oh, and I got seduced by this too:

I just can’t help myself when it comes to Robin Hobb.  You’re looking at the Soldier Son trilogy,  book 1 of which I’m about 150 pages into.   I probably won’t read these books one right after the other, but I hope to get to all of them, eventually.

So If I don’t get (too) distracted by anything else in the next week or so, you should expect to see reviews of at least a handful of the stuff mentioned or  pictured in this post.

Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m half way through two books that just aren’t doing it for me, so no review for you today.  If I don’t finish either of these books by Monday, I may write my first DNF review, because I really, really, really want to get to something else.

no review tomorrow either, as I’m sure I’ll still be ranting about my hatred (ooops sorry, my severe dislike!) for e-books and e-readers.

In an effort to read what I’ve got next year, I finished catalogued all the books I own!  Ok, I catalogued all the fiction, I cheated and only counted the non-fiction.

Crammed into our one bedroom apartment we have 437 fiction titles and 200 non fiction titles.

of the 437 fiction titles I have read 62% of them.  that means there are 164 unread fiction titles in this home!

More useless facts about my home library, after the jump!

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.