This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

27 May, 2013


Cover art by Jackie Morris


ISBN: 978-0-00-744413-7
Pages: 535
Publisher: HarperVoyager UK
First published: 1 March 2013
This edition published: 14 March 2013

On the cover:

Dragons will fly over Kelsingra once more...
Dragon blood and scales, dragon liver and eyes and teeth. All required ingredients for medicines with near-miraculous healing powers. The legendary blue dragon Tintaglia is dying of wounds inflicted by hunters sent by the Duke of Chalced, who meanwhile preserves his dwindling life by consuming the blood of the dragon’s poet Selden Vestrit.

If Tintaglia perishes, her ancestral memories will die with her. And the dragons in the ancient city of Kelsingra will lose the secret knowledge they need to survive. Their keepers immerse themselves in the dangerously addictive memory-stone records of the city in the hope of recovering the Elderling magic that once allowed humans and dragons to co-exist. In doing so they risk losing their own identities, even their lives.

And danger threatens from beyond the city, too. For war is coming: war between dragonkind and those who would destroy them.

    This novel is really the end of a long journey, one that begun in Ship of Magic , the first book of the Liveship Traders Trilogy, continued in The Tawny Man trilogy, to end here with the fourth book in The Rain Wild Chronicles. It is the story of the return of dragons to the Realm of the Elderlings, the story of the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.

   Dragon lore has been an important part of The Rain Wild Chronicles, in some ways it can be said to be the central theme of the quartet of books. We really learn a lot more about how dragons work in Hobb's world here, and much more about how they relate to the Elderlings. It's really a testament to Hobb's writing abilities that there is so much information being divulged in this book without there ever being parts that are info-dumping.
   The dragon lore is integrated in the story, and is very much a part of it. At times it's also something that adds tension and suspense. Hobb also manages to give the dragons a natural lace in the world, they don't feel like they are a beast that is inserted into a more realistic setting. They are a part of the setting and when it comes to the story of this quartet they actually add much to the worldbuilding as a whole.

   Worldbuilding is an important part of not just this novel but the whole of The Rain Wild Chronicles, although a more correct term would be society building. Throughout the story we have seen the characters grow from a group of outcasts into a whole new society, one that is integrated with the dragons and will undoubtedly play an important part in the world Hobb has created.
   All of this culminates in this novel. This is where we get (most of) the answers to what all that has gone before really means, all the while getting some glimpses that raises questions of what this will mean for the future.
   Hobb has managed to make all this an organic experience, a growth that blooms here at the end of this part of the story. And there is more layers to this than just the immediate one that the story of the dragon keepers suggests. We get to see how this all links back to the Elderlings, a lost people that has left traces that can be seen throughout Hobb's world.
   My interest in history meant that the discovery of what was before became as much of a joy to me as the present history of the setting. But the history doesn't intrude, it is intertwined with what happens in the present of the story and adds a lot to what is happening in the now.

   The characters experience a lot of growth and discovery in this book, the non-humans as well as the humans. Hobb has always been good at creating characters that are easy to get attached to. And spending as much time as I have with the characters of  The Rain Wild Chronicles as I have through these four novels, I have really gotten to know them. It is a fulfilling experience to see them come to the end of this stage of their journey in this book.
   These are really the most diverse cast of any of Hobb's books set in the Realm of the Elderlings. The dragons of course add to this, they are certainly an important part of the cast, but the others are also a diverse group that will make it easy for the reader to feel a connection to at the very least one of them. That they all have different personalities and personal journeys makes me confident when making the claim that this is the best cast Hobb has created for her four Realm of the Elderlings stories.
   I also feel the need to mention that those that want female characters in their Epic Fantasy will find several of them here.

   It is impossible to evaluate the story of this book in total isolation, as it is book four of a quartet. But not having read any of the preceding books since City of Dragons was published a year ago I can say with confidence that this is a novel that in itself offers a great deal to the reader. There is a lot of things happening here, we have three main storylines that are connected, and the smaller "bonus" story of the Rain Wild birdkeepers that has been running in the background.
   The main stories are of course connected and here they really come together to full effect, as the novel progresses the level of tension grows towards the crescendo of them meeting. Hobb does a very good job in letting these three storylines develop their own internal drama, and really shows off her storytelling prowess when she finally lets them come together. And although the one story who is set outside of the Rain Wilds does feel a little bit of a side trip at times, it becomes clear by the end of the novel that in the long run it may have almost as great an impact on the overall story of the Realm of the Elderlings.
   This is really one of those Epic Fantasy novels that is truly hard to put down. Once the beginning has settled you in to what is happening it keeps building all the time, and the urge to see what happens in the next chapter becomes greater and greater.
   The ending is a bit bittersweet. It is a very nice ending to this part of the story, but you realise that this is just the end of the beginning. I don't know what plans Hobb has for future stories, but the story of Kelsingra has just started and I hope we get to revisit it in the future. -And that is a great feeling to be left with after four good sized books.

   This is really a book that has it all. The worldbuilding is excellent, the characters are a joy to follow, and the story itself is a thoroughly immersive journey into an Epic Fantasy world.
   Fans of Robin Hobb, and of dragons, should be utterly satisfied with both this book and The Rain Wild Chronicles as a whole. And this is really something that every fan of Epic Fantasy should do themselves the favour of reading.

More Robin Hobb reviews, including for the first three books in The Rain Wild Chronicles, can be found here.

17 May, 2013


Cover art by Cliff Nielsen


ISBN: 0-13-240077-7
Pages: 245
Publisher: Firebird (Penguin US)
First published: 2 August 1988
This edition published: 19 January 2004

On the cover:

His name when he was human was Kern, and it seemed he had been running forever, for he had become the most feared of beings; a werewolf. When the change had first come upon him, his parents had driven him away with silver daggers. Later, Kern sought human companionship. But he could not hide the truth for long, and so he kept running until he ran headlong into the deadliest pursuer of all - a harper bent on stealing his life away.

   By chance Kern was able to take refuge at the Inn of the Yellow Tinker, a warm and welcoming place where he might find a home if he guarded his secret well. And at the inn, Kern found the woman he was destined to love. But could he risk both human and harper vengeance to keep her?

   I should start by categorising this book. To begin with it was marketed as "12 - AND UP years" in 2004, but I'm in no doubt this is Young Adult by today's standards even if the characters are sligthly older than what is usual in YA. It also has a quite strong Romance plot to it, and it is clearly Fantasy. So to sum up, this is Young Adult Fantasy with Romance (,which if it isn't a sub-category clearly should be.)

   De Lint is a great technical writer, his prose is excellent while still staying simple. He doesn't overcomplicate anything, but writes in a pared down and uncomplicated style that is a joy to read. However he doesn't oversimplify, or "dumb down" if you will, he's just precise in what he writes. Of course being technically accomplished doesn't matter much if the story isn't up to scratch. There's no worries on that front, de Lint is a master storyteller.

   The story starts out in a very familiar Fantasy/Fairy Tale way and it continues to be that way for a while. That is not a criticism, the way de Lint writes makes it a very good read despite being familiar in many ways. However, once you get further into the story you realise that de Lint has been deceiving you, and the story becomes so much more than a well written take on a rather standard story.
    While the story may continue to follow familiar patterns de Lint manages to put his own twist on a lot of the elements, and you don't feel like you are reading something written to a formula. This really feels like a fresh story, and you will be left guessing where it will take you.

   I mentioned earlier that this story has quite a strong romantic sub-plot, or more correctly I suppose a romantic co-plot, this is something that I am rarely a fan of, but de Lint manages to pull it off. The romance plot flows naturally along with the rest of the story, it never feels forced. Although it has some Fairy Tale aspects to it, it doesn't in any way feel unrealistic, neither is it toned down too much. It is just a natural part of the story being told, something that made me actually like this part of the plot quite a lot.

   That de Lint really is a great writer can also be seen in the way the characters flows off the page. You'll very early get a feeling for what type the characters are, but they are not restricted by type. And especially one of them manages to have a development that is much more than her stereotype would suggests. (In an early "meta" scene it is even remarked on how stereotypical she is, a great moment that is quite funny.)
   The small cast of characters are very well developed for such a short novel. They really come alive at de Lint's hand, they feel like friends, people you have gotten close to despite meeting them a short time ago.

   This is really a splendid Fantasy book for all ages and genders. De Lint shows that he's a great storyteller, and this book shows that he deserves to be wider read by Fantasy fans. This would make a perfect book for the younger generation, while also being satisfying to older readers. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Fantasy.

16 May, 2013


Cover art by Jon Foster


ISBN: 978-1-59606-544-4
Pages: 184
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Published: 28 February 2013

On the cover:

One of the darkest legends in the Realm of the Elderlings recounts the tale of the so-called Piebald Prince, a Witted pretender to the throne unseated by the actions of brave nobles so that the Farseer line could continue untainted. Now the truth behind the story is revealed through the account of Felicity, a low-born companion of the Princess Caution at Buckkeep.
    With Felicity by her side, Caution grows into a headstrong Queen-in-Waiting. But when Caution gives birth to a bastard son who shares the piebald markings of his father’s horse, Felicity is the one who raises him. And as the prince comes to power, political intrigue sparks dangerous whispers about the Wit that will change the kingdom forever…

    This is a short book consisting of a story in two parts. As the flap copy says, it's the story of one of the monumental events in the history (,as seen from the time of Hobb's other stories set in The Realm of the Elderlings,) of the Six Duchies. It's about a short period that has major repercussions for later events, especially FitzChivalry's experiences in The Farseer Trilogy is very much effected by what is told here. So, as such this isn't truly a standalone. It is certainly possible to read this without any knowledge of what has been previously published, but this is first and foremost a complimentary story for those who want to know more about the world Hobb has created.
   Felicity's story is both her very personal story and a much larger story about the kings and queens of Buckkeep and the politics of ruling. These two story strands are intertwined, and it is Felicity's closeness to events that makes her their chronicler.

   The personal story is in essence about how someone of low birth can find a place in the upper reaches of the court, and that in itself is interesting enough to warrant a telling. There's some chilling lengths that are gone to to keep that place, and it does sometimes come across as extremely cynical actions. But that is really what gives it power, Hobb shows how desperate someone can get to stay close to the powerful. And also how extreme your actions can become when you are trying to safeguard yourself and your family.
   There's also another aspect to the personal story, one that has more to do with feelings and even love. Especially in the first part of the book we see how the closeness of two people of different stations is a fragile thing that can be destroyed by the small events that are a part of so many people's life.

   On the big scale side of the story we finally get to see the historical events we have previously only heard about in Hobb's previous work, the story of the Piebald Prince and how he came to be.
   This is largely a story of courtly politics, something that on the surface may not sound very interesting or engaging, but it is a really fascinating tale. There's not only politics involved, love is a major part of what is going on in both parts of the book. This humanises the dry politics to a great degree, making the actions of the participants much more relatable and understandable. It shortens the distance from the reader to the greater geopolitical events that are more of a result of what happens than their cause.
   Hobb offers up some surprising twists and turns, and although you may be familiar with what the ultimate results of this came to be in later years (, in The Farseer Trilogy,) seeing where this story goes is still very much a guessing game.

   I mentioned above that the personal and the political are intertwined in this book, and that is something Hobb does very well. There's never a feeling that one suffers because of the other, and the two strands compliments each other very well. It becomes a personal chronicle of momentous events that puts you right in the middle of what is happening, and Hobb manages to make you feel like you are experiencing it as much as Felicity did. It's really a great way to tell of historical events, and Hobb does it expertly here.
   The main characters are also very well drawn. Apart from Felicity we get little insight into their thought processes, but we still understand them and can empathise with them. (At least to the degree that Felicity can.) We don't get close to all the players in the story, but that isn't something I felt was missing from the story, it's more the nature of it. And that is something I really liked, this is an intimate telling of a large story and that is its great strength.

   I can only conclude that this is another great story from Hobb. It carries her trademark style, and as a fan of that style it was a great read for me, and I'm sure other Hobb fans will feel the same way. This is really an essential complementary tale for those who want to know and understand more about Hobb's world, and it should be in every Hobb fan's collection

More Robin Hobb reviews can be found here.

LINKS: Robin Hobb  Subterranean Press