Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Books 11, 12 & 13: The Farseer Trilogy

Books 11, 12 & 13: The Farseer Trilogy
By Robin Hobb

I know it’s pretty much cheating to lump all these books together, however, I read them all at once and feel it’s far more fair to judge a trilogy vs. individual books, because MOST likely, once you begin a trilogy, you’re not going to stop at the first book.
So. The Farseer Trilogy. I LOVED these books. Seriously. Great mental vacation that wasn’t entirely mind candy. It’s in the fantasy genre, and is set in a medieval-ish time period with a few twists. I went into it thinking the storyline would be fairly predictable: Bastard son of the king is discovered, grows up receiving specialized training, and eventually after hardship and a pretty awesome battle-scene climax becomes the best (enter role here) in the world!!!!
However, that was not the case.
 First, in the world where the book is set, there are certain kinds of ‘magic’. One is called Skill, which allows you to sense/see the world at large with your mind. The other is called The Wit, which allows you to bond to one animal, communicate with them, and augment your own senses with theirs. While the concepts sound a bit cheesy, it’s a credit to the author that they don’t come off as such in the book, and they aren’t ‘abused’ as overdramatic actions throughout the story.
The book’s main character and narrator is FitzChivalry Farseer, and he’s the bastard son of the crown prince, Chivalry. Once Fitz is discovered to be alive, the prince steps down from the throne in shame and his younger brother, Verity, takes over the role of king-in-waiting. However, while this is going on, there are raiders attacking the country by sea, and they do an odd thing to their victims called ‘forging’. Think zombies, and you’ll have a pretty good view of what forging is. Medieval zombies! Too fantastic for words! Again, a silly concept that worked really well in the books.
Like most fantasy books, there is Impending DOOM to life-as-they-know-it unless something happens to change the course of time. That’s, more or less, Fitz’s job, though he is very reluctant to do it. He stays in the castle, is trained as an assassin, bonds to a wolf, and assists Verity in the fight against the raiders. There are many underwoven plotlines throughout the main plotline that accentuate the storyline very well.
They storyline is good, but that’s not what I loved most about the books. What I loved is that in the book, there weren’t clear delineations between good vs. bad, which is so often the refuge of simpler stories and authors. The good guys had serious character flaws, and there were really only a couple people I could definitely characterize as ‘bad’, though even they were the product of other character’s actions. Throughout the story the unwillingness of the main character to engage in the quest gave the story credibility. It tracks very closely the process of a kid becoming a boy, becoming a man and the relationships that he navigates and chooses to engage and leave behind as well as the reasons behind the motives. It was not incredibly full of fight scenes, but it was still very captivating to read. The moral aspects behind many of the relationships and storylines made the reading both interesting and ‘real’.
Throughout the book, Fitz grows and develops, and becomes very disillusioned with his existence and how people are using him. The author uses the magic of The Skill and The Wit, not to impress the reader with grand displays of visual magic, but to enhance both the communication between characters and development of the storyline, which was fascinating.
The end of the book had a mostly happy ending, which I appreciate. I don’t read three books to cry my eyes out and question the meaning of life. However, it wasn’t an overly joyous ending, it was, again, very authentic. While good triumphs over bad, the sacrifices and costs made you as a reader wish certain circumstances and characters had turned out differently. Bittersweet would be a good descriptor for the ending.
However, the excellent news is that there is ANOTHER trilogy which picks up where The Farseer Trilogy left off, and (you guessed it) I’m smack-dab in the middle of that. The book leaves you as a reader wanting redemption for the characters so badly, I’d be surprised if anyone stopped at the end of the first series.
Definitely a recommended read. Preferably for vacation when you have real time to devote to mowing through these books as you aren’t going to want to set them down once they get going.

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