2006-07-31 · in Books, Realm of the Elderlings · 299 words

(I'll review all three books here, since they're very much parts of a single story.)

Another trilogy in Robin Hobb's Elderlings universe, and the point at which it became obvious I was reading the series in the wrong order -- these come between the Assassin and Fool books. It doesn't really matter that much, but there are several bits in "The Golden Fool" that make rather more sense after reading this series, and a few spoilers going the other way.

The setting's great; Bingtown's a self-contained town with an interesting history that's being forced to deal with the war brewing around it, and the liveship mechanics are rich enough to drive the plot along without feeling contrived. (They're also a nice twist on the magic we've seen elsewhere in the series.) While other reviewers comment on the nautical bent to this series, I don't think it's an especially big deal; it's an important and well-handled element of the setting, but this is fundamentally a book about the bigger issues of the world, and not a Hornblower-style shipboard procedural.

While I greatly enjoyed this trilogy, I didn't think it was as compelling as the books written around Fitz; it's written in the third person, switching between multiple concurrent (but converging) plotlines, and there simply isn't room to develop all the characters that we follow in the same detail as Fitz. The format allows Hobb to use narrative techniques that weren't possible in the first-person Fitz books -- switching perspectives mid-conversation, for example -- but I found myself reading some chapters less carefully because I wanted to find out what happened to the interesting characters. That doesn't make it a bad series, though; it's still head and shoulders above most other fantasy.

Thoroughly recommended.