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Apr 2008
Forest Mage - Robin Hobb - Harper Voyager, 2006
* *
And it started so well. Shaman's Crossing introduced a promising Victorian fantasy world and a protagonist, the pious and conventional soldier son Nevarre, who was at least different from Hobb's previous hero, the self-pitying Fitz. Unfortunately in this book all the original elements are thrown away and it degenerates into a re-telling of the original Assassin trilogy with some minor variations.
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Nov 2006
Victorian Fantasy
Shaman’s Crossing - Robin Hobb - Voyager, 2006
* * * *
Due to the continuing inadequacies of Robin Hobb’s editor, there is some preparation to be done before reading this volume. I’m afraid it involves book mutilation, which is not something I would normally recommend, but trust me, it will really improve your appreciation of it. So, take a pair of scissors or a sharp blade and excise chapters 1-2 and 5-7 (3 and 4 are actually relevant to the plot, so you should probably keep those). This will get rid of most of the first two hundred pages. Once you’ve done that, the book that remains is not bad at all.
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25 Apr 06
Fool’s Fate - Robin Hobb - Voyager, 2003
* *
There is a website called The Forge that hosts a learned discussion on the theory of role-playing games. It defines three styles of play - gamist, where the aim is to “level up” or achieve some other metric of character development by overcoming in-game challenges; sim, where players attempt to simulate a working fantasy world; and narrativism or dramatism, where the purpose is to tell a satisfying story. The same analytical framework can, I think, be applied to books, and doing so provides an interesting explanation of the phenomenon of big-name fantasy author’s bloat that has afflicted the likes of J.K. Rowling, Gene Wolfe and now, I am sorry to say, Robin Hobb.
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20 Sep 2005
The Golden Fool - Robin Hobb - Voyager 2002
* * *
Of the current crop of big commercial fantasy writers, Robin Hobb is probably the best. Her series The Liveship Traders is quite simply the most entertaining three-decker fantasy I have read in a very long while. I have never had quite as much time for her Assassin series with the self-pitying Fitz (too many shades of Thomas Covenant for my taste), and I must admit that my heart sank when I saw Fool's Errand, the first installment of a second trilogy. Nonetheless, after the pointless first two hundred pages where Fitz sits around feeling sorry for himself and characters from the previous trilogy are reintroduced with painful slowness, it developed into an entertaining "rescue the prince" quest with some nice twists and good emotional climax that left me wanting more. Well, more is certainly what we get here. Seven hundred and twelve pages of it, to be precise. And it's still an entertaining read. There's just one small problem, and it is this: NOTHING HAPPENS.
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