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Tremendously exciting!

Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:14 (A review of The Golden Fool (The Tawny Man Trilogy, Book 2): Book Two of the Tawny Man)

This is the second book in The Tawny Man trilogy (after Fool's Errand, and before Fool's Fate).

With Dutiful's safe return to Buckkeep, the castle is now abustle with the prince's bethrotal to Elliania, the Outislander narcheska, which will seal the peace treaty between the Six Duchies and their past enemy.

In the political background, there's a lot going on. Despite Queen Kettricken's efforts, the case of the Witted folk is far from being resolved, with the Piebald extremists still keen on getting people's attention by all means necessary, including denouncement and murder. To crown it all, a delegation from Bingtown arrived in the middle of the bethrotal festivities to ask for help in their conflict with the Chalced States. And strange veiled emissaries from the Rain Wilds have started to speak of dragons. The Outislanders threaten to end the peace negotiations if Kettricken agrees to help the Bingtowners.

This all leads to Dutiful blundering one evening, involuntarily insulting the narcheska. To prove the good will of the queen and prince, she'll dare the latter to slay the legendary dragon Icefyre, which lies imprisoned in a glacier on the island of Aslevjal. Dutiful has little choice but to comply.

So Fitz, who's posing as the Fool's (or should I say Lord Golden's) servant and bodyguard under the name of Tom Badgerlock, has got a lot on his mind too. Knowing his mastering of the magic is rather limited, he reluctantly agrees to become Skillmaster. Indeed, Dutiful will need the help of a Coterie in order to fulfill his quest. But where to find other potential members?

Meanwhile Fitz's foster son Hap is now apprentice to Gindast. But it isn't long before Svanja, a girl from town, turns his head away from the wood-worker's workshop.

Whereas Fool's Errand was set mainly in the countryside and forests of Buck, in The Golden Fool, most of the action takes place in Buckkeep castle and town themselves. So much happens, so many twists and turns, it's tremendously exciting! I got lost in the labyrinthine secret corridors of the keep, and I was as eager as a kitchen maid for the latest gossip. There are wonderfully exhilarating passages, such as when the Fool, Dutiful, Chade and Thick unite to save Fitz, or when connections with the Liveship Traders trilogy start to become obvious. I don't know how to explain this feeling, but I know that only Robin Hobb's books get me intoxicated with such glee!

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No Let down!

Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:13 (A review of Fool's Errand (The Tawny Man Trilogy, Book 1): Book One of the Tawny Man)

This is the first book in The Tawny Man trilogy (before The Golden Fool, and Fool's Fate).

Fool's Errand takes place fifteen years after the events of the Red Ship Wars. Fitz, who goes by the name of Tom Badgerlock, now lives a quiet life in a remote cottage by the woods with his wolf Nighteyes and his foster son Hap, a mismatched-eyed boy brought to him years ago by Startling.

The Minstrel's visits are the only regular ones he gets, bringing him comfort but also news from the world around. The only other people he ever sees are the casual travellers stopping for shelter, such as Jinna, a hedge-witch Hap once met when Starling took him to Buckkeep for Springfest.

But all of a sudden his former life comes knocking at the door, when one day the visitor turns out to be Chade. Fitz's old secret mentor, now the queen's counsellor, asks Fitz to return to Buckkeep to teach the Skill to Prince Dutiful, Queen Kettricken's son and heir to the Farseer throne, and to Nettle, his own daughter, whom he's never met. But at first, although well-knowing he's the only remaining person trained in the Skill, Fitz refuses to go.

Weeks go by, and during that time Hap, a teenager now, says he wants to find an apprenticeship. Of course Fitz wants the best master for him, but ashamedly realizes he hasn't put any money aside for this day. Hap has no choice but to leave and find jobs to pay for his apprenticeship.

And while Hap's gone, Fitz gets another unexpected visitor: the Fool, whose colour has changed to a tawny gold, is now a very well-respected, if a tad excentric Jamaillian nobleman known in Buckkeep as Lord Golden. All summer they make up for lost time by talking about their youth together and about what happened in their lives since they parted fifteen years ago. Slowly Fitz picks up thread of his old life.

Until Hap returns, empty-handed. But soon Fitz has news from Buckkeep: Chade is calling for help, as Dutiful has gone missing. Was the prince kidnapped by the Piebalds, a group of Witted rebels claiming that the Prince also has the Wit? Indeed, despite Kettricken's new laws, people with this magic are still being persecuted and murdered. Or did the solitary, introvert boy just run away from court duty? The prince's bethrotal with an Outislander Narcheska, to secure peace treaties, is in two-weeks' time. Something has to be done, quick. Reluctantly, but also seeing this as a good opportunity to ask Chade to help Hap in return, Fitz finally agrees to go. He sets off with the Fool, Nighteyes, and Laurel, the queen's hunstwoman and confidente.

It's weird. I think in the beginning I got the same feeling of disappointment I get each time I've been expecting something for a very long time. It can be a book, a film, or my favourite band's new album. You expect the new thing to be exactly the same as the old one, but it's not. Of course it can't be. So I was finding the story was a bit too slow, and that Fitz was worrying too much about his wolf's mortality. Moreover, I was travelling and sadly could only read Fool's Errand periodically, which made me think I was losing interest inbetween reading sessions. But the truth is, each time I picked it up again, it wasn't long before I was hooked, living the story as if I was part of it. So I grew even fonder of the Fool, or was sometimes shocked by Fitz's violent reactions, etc. In the end I realize my favourite author hasn't let me down, and this sure is one of my favourite books.

I'm very excited about what's going to happen next now, and I'm very intrigued by the feathers Fitz found on the beach. Quick, on to Golden Fool!

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Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:13 (A review of Ship of Destiny (The Liveship Traders, Book 3))

This is the third and last book of The Liveship Traders (after Ship of Magic and The Mad Ship).

"King" Kennit of the Pirate Isles is now captain of the Liveship Vivacia. After discovering his main city Divvytown had been raided by slavers and all but destroyed by Chalcedean patrol ships, he sails to Others Island with his woman Etta and the former priest-boy Wintrow Vestrit, now his fervant follower. There, Wintrow will have his fortune told by the Oracle, but instead ends up rescuing the crippled sea serpent She Who Remembers from her prison-pool, scalding his body with her toxins in the process. And when the serpent touches Vivacia, the Liveship suddenly realizes who, or what, she truly is. New destinies are set into motion.

Further to the North, after doing up the Paragon, Althea Vestrit, Brashen Trell and Amber finally set sail to claim the Vivacia back from the pirate king, barely in time before a treacherous attempt on the Satrap's life is made. Indeed, on the evening of the Summer Ball, war breaks out in Bingtown, and the Old Traders families are forced to flee to Trehaug, the treetop capital of the Rain Wilds. But as Malta and her little brother Selden are exploring the ruins located under Trehaug, answering the dragon Tintaglia's pleading calls for rescue, a terrible tremor shakes the Earth and the underground city collapses over them. Helping the dragon escape is their only chance of survival.

The setting free of She Who Remembers and Tintaglia marks the beginning of a new era for both humans and dragons, who will have no other option than to collaborate for their kins to survive. And as the pages turn and the story flows, new alliances are made, and others unmade, as all parties are slowly converging for a final battle on the choppy seas of the Cursed Shores.

Although as a whole I'd say I preferred her Farseer trilogy, Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders is an astounding, thrilling pirate adventure tale, with an extremely well-thought-of plot and real, three-dimensional characters. The hardships the heroes are going through reshape them, such as young Malta, who matures from a spoiled little brat to a fine diplomat, or Wintrow and Brashen, who gain more self-confidence throughout the series. In turns, you'll be fascinated by the mysterious prophet Amber, enraged by Althea's stubbornness and pride, seduced by Reyn's exotic figure and kindness, and you'll even feel pity for the "baddies". Fantasy books just don't come any better than that!

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Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:13 (A review of The Liveship Traders (2) - The Mad Ship)

This is the second book in The Liveship Taders trilogy (after Ship of Magic and before Ship of Destiny).

After being banned from the deck of the slaughter ship the Reaper because she's a woman, without her well-deserved ship ticket, and after breaking up with her companion Brashen Trell, Althea Vestrit is hired as mate on board a Bingtown-bound Liveship, the Ophelia. And when the ship betrays her secret to Captain Tenira, Althea fears she'll be given the sack again. Luckily it doesn't happen and soon the crew and ship rally to her cause, promising they'll help her gain her rightful heirloom, the Liveship Vivacia, back.

But not so far on the seas, the Vivacia has just been boarded by Kennit's gang of pirates and her crew taken prisoners, thanks in part to the rebellion of the slaves that made up her cargo. In exchange for his life and that of his father, Wintrow will have to heal Kennit gangrenous leg stump. The situation seems desperate.

And all the while in Bingtown 12-year-old Malta, Wintrow's sister and Althea's niece, is waiting for her father to return with his precious cargo that is supposed to help her family pay off their debts to the Khuprus of the Rain Wilds, her suitor Reyn's family. But since she's opened Reyn's courting Dreambox, she's been having troubling dreams about a dragon pleading for her help.

Parallelly, Amber the beadmaker is making scandalous plans to buy the Paragon, a abandoned Liveship who is believed mad, and his majesty the Satrap Cosgo of Jamaillia and his court are on their way to Bingtown.

Once again Robin Hobb has wrought a wonderful epic tale of ships and serpents, love, magic and intrigue. The more pages you turn, the more you realise her world is a truly enchanting and mysterious one, where characters never stop growing in depth, especially young and capricious Malta who matures a lot in the course of this book. Robin Hobb writes so terrifically well, her stories flow so naturally that you wish they'd never end.

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Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:12 (A review of The Liveship Traders 1: Ship of Magic)

This is the first book in The Liveship Traders trilogy (before The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny).

Althea Vestrit is the 19-year-old daughter of a family of Bingtown Traders, the only community who can possess a Liveship, a magic vessel made of wizardwood, a precious and legendary ware. Always her father's favourite, she spent all her childhood on board the family's Liveship, the Vivacia, whom she's come to love more than anything.

Alas, the captain is very ill and is going to die soon. He has to be taken on board the Vivacia so that with his death, the third of a family member on the ship's deck, the latter can undergo her quickening. Althea knows that when the Vivacia awakens, she'll become hers to sail. Only at the last moment, she discovers that her mother and sister have convinced her father to leave the ship to Althea's brother-in-law, an execrable and authoritative Chalcedean, Kyle Haven. And as the Vestrits are crippled with debt, it won't be long until Kyle starts trading in the most profitable of goods, slaves.

Banned from her own deck, desperate to have to leave the only recently quickened and emotionally fragile ship to such a horrid fate, she decides to run away. Disguised as a boy, she'll work on a slaughter ship and try to gain a ship ticket, a token to prove Kyle she's tough enough to become the rightful captain of the Vivacia. Knowing the ship has to be comforted to sail safely, Kyle drags his 13-year-old son Wintrow from his monastery where he's studying to become a Priest of Sa, and forces him to work as deck hand. Soon though, Wintrow reluctantly admits his bond with the Vivacia.

Kennit, captain of the Marietta, is a pirate whose dearest dream is to become King of the Pirates. He knows that if he helps freeing slaves, he'll gain the reconnaissance of their families and friends, the people of the Pirate Islands. With his first mate Sorcor, he decides to stop looting merchant ships and start chasing Liveships and attacking Slavers instead...

I read Robin Hobb's astounding Farseer Trilogy more than a year ago, and it instantly became my favourite series, the one to which I've compared everything I've read since. Knowing that the third and last book of The Tawny Man, the sequel to the Farseer, will only come out in paperback in more than a year from now, I have forced myself to wait until now to read Robin Hobb's other trilogy, The Liveship Traders. So you can imagine how much I expected, how much hope I'd placed in these books, how much I feared I wouldn't like them as much. But the only thing I can tell after reading the first volume is that it didn't disappoint me. At all. The story is tremendouly gripping, the descriptions fascinating, the characterization flawless. Everything Robin Hobb touches is gold. Don't overlook her!

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Stunning, fascinating, enthralling!

Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:12 (A review of Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy - Book 3))

This is the third and last book of the Farseer trilogy (after Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin).

After faking his own death to escape Regal and his coterie's torture, Fitz has to slowly leave the body of Nighteyes, the wolf to whom he's Wit-bound, and learn to be a man again. But some months later, after a quarrel with his protectors Burrich and Chade, he leaves the old cottage where he's taken refuge, and decides to make for Tradeford to assassinate the newly self-proclamed King Regal. Yet in attempting to do so, he hears Verity Skill-calling him: "come to me". He has no choice but to obey his rightful king.

His journey to the Mountain Kingdom and beyond won't be an easy one, as Regal has just put a prize on his head. Soon everybody becomes a potential enemy. But he'll also make new friends on the way, such as a couple of Witted ones like him, or a mysterious old woman and a minstrel girl craving for songworthy events.

Robin Hobb has wrought a wondeful trilogy, managing to give each book its own distinct atmosphere. Her characters are stunningly real and loveable, some like the Fool gaining unexpected depth as the story flows. I came to care for Fitz so dearly, the upsetting yet beautiful ending left me panting for breath, tears stinging my eyes, and furious at Robin Hobb, at how could she hurt him so.

This is fantasy of the quality that leaves you with a dizzying feeling of utter emptiness when you reach the last word. Indulge yourself, read it!

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A feeling of helplessness.

Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:11 (A review of Royal Assassin (The Farseer Trilogy - Book 2))

This is the second book in the Farseer trilogy (following Assassin's Apprentice and followed by Assassin's Quest).

In the Mountain Kingdom, Fitz is slowly recovering from poisoning, when he has a Skill dream. Seeing through King Shrewd's eyes, he witnesses the Forging of the town of Siltbay, where lives his childhood friend Molly, whom he's secretly always been in love with. Has Molly been Forged too, is she dead, or alive but in great danger? He has to find out.

In Buckkeep, Prince Regal's ambition is soaring, and he will gain access to the throne of the Six Duchies by all means. And King-in-wainting Verity is too busy Skilling in his tower to protect the kingdom from the Forging raids of the Red Ships, and the old king's strength is slowly leaving him. Even with the help of Verity's new Queen-in-waiting Kettricken, who decides to take up arms and attack the Raiders, and Fitz's new Bond with a wolf cub, the situation grows more and more hopeless.

In this middle volume, unexpected alliances are forged and treacheries unmasked. With the pressure of Regal's treasons building up, the story becomes richer and steadily gathers momentum, and I was compelled to keep turning the pages.

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An absolutely poignant orphan hero plot!

Posted : 13 years, 5 months ago on 21 May 2006 02:10 (A review of Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1))

The is the first book in the Farseer trilogy (followed by Royal Assassin and Assassin's Quest).

Fitz is the hidden bastard son of Prince Chivalry, the king's heir. As his mother's family can no longer feed him, at the age of six he's taken in by Burrich, the king's stablemaster, with whom he'll learn to tend to the royal horses and hounds. In his free time, Fitz likes to go to the docks of Buckkeep with his pup, Nosy, to play with the harbour children or to listen to sailormen's stories. What he doesn't realise yet though, is that unlike the others, he has a strange ability to link mentally with animals called the Wit. But as soon as Burrich, who fears this ancient magic, discovers Fitz's bond with Nosy, he'll arrange to take the dog forever out of Fitz's life.

Due to Fitz's striking resemblence to his father, soon the rumours spread out too, and Chivalry has to abdicate and leave the keep in order to protect his barren wife's sanity. Later, Fitz meets King Shrewd, his grandfather, who'll ask him to come and live in the castle. This is going to be the beginning of a new life for Fitz, as not only is he going to be trained in weapon tactics and scribing techniques, but he will also secretly become the king's assassin.

Set in a land devastated by the tyrannical Red Ship Raiders, the story goes on to describe Fitz's growing up to manhood at the keep, attending to his chores during the day, and learning how to dispose descretely of a man at nights, until he has to face his first mission.

Written from the hero's point of view, Assassin's Apprentice is a very complex and elaborate novel, with a harrowing plot and most interesting characters, which got me hooked right from the start. Furthermore, unlike most books in a series, it has a real ending and could even be read as a single novel... but I can tell you I won't!

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