Shaman’s Crossing, by Robin Hobb


I’ve done a lot of good reading this summer, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read any good fantasy. I love good fantasy, and there’s a lot of it out there, but not a lot that I really enjoy and can get into. Tastes in fantasy seem to be even more individual and specialized than in other types of fiction, because I’ve often had fellow fantasy readers tell me, “Oh, if you like X, you’re sure to like Y,” recommending a writer and a series of books — only to have it fall completely flat for me. So when I stumble across a fantasy writer I do love, I hope that he or she is prolific.Robin Hobb certainly fits the bill. Her last three trilogies could perhaps be called a “nonology,” since all nine books are set in the same world and share some interlocking themes and characters. I’ve never read the original Assassin trilogy because I couldn’t get it locally (although I have now ordered it from Amazon), but I did read the Liveship and Tawny Man trilogies and thoroughly enjoyed them. Hobb creates believable characters you can really care about in fully realized and interesting fantasy worlds, and then sets in motion plots that leave you turning pages till two a.m.

Her tenth book is a departure, set in what appears to be an entirely different world — in the country of Gernia, where society is rigidly stratified and everyone appears to be pretty much settled in and accepting of their assigned role in life. The main character, Nevare Burvelle, is the second son of a nobleman, and thus destined to be a soldier — a destiny Nevare doesn’t question. Second sons are soldiers; that’s just the way it is.

But Nevare’s path to becoming his family’s soldier son becomes fraught with twists and turns when his father sends him, as a teenager, to an old enemy for training. The repercussions of what happen during those weeks continue to haunt him for years, even when he leaves home at eighteen to go to military academy, where he makes lifelong friends and enemies and becomes caught up in webs of politics and intrigue.

I have read several bad reader review of this book on Amazon, from Hobb fans who were disappoitned and found that this first novel in a new trilogy was slow and didn’t seem to go anywhere. Again, tastes vary, but I have to wonder if they were reading the same book I was reading. While introducing us to a whole world and a host of characters — with minor characters as vivid and memorable as some of the major ones — she moves the reader through Nevare’s early life in a storyline that may seem episodic but in fact continues to build towards the inevitable climax at the context. I found it completely satisfying, maybe the book I’ve enjoyed most all summer.

It also contains one of the most thought-provoking passages I’ve read recently. Nevare is speaking of an experience so disturbing that he deals with it by pushing it aside and deciding it was just a dream.

“I think it is how most men get from one day to the next: they set aside all experiences that do not mesh with their perception of themselves. How different would our perception of reality be if, instead, we discarded the mundane ebvents that cannot coexist with our dreams?”

The next book in this series, Forest Mage, is due to be released in September. I’ll be eagerly awaiting another fine book from Robin Hobb.

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4 Comments

Filed under Fiction -- fantasy

4 responses to “Shaman’s Crossing, by Robin Hobb

  1. Shannon Patrick Sullivan

    Hi Trudy,

    Apologies for the shameless self-promotion (it comes with the industry, though, doesn’t it?) but if you’re looking for good fantasy — set in St John’s, no less — I invite you to check out my debut novel, The Dying Days, from Killick Press. (Well, at least I hope it’s good fantasy… I’ll leave that up to my readers to decide…)

    If you’re curious, you can get more information at my website, http://www.shannonsullivan.com. And if you do check it out, please let me know what you think!

  2. TrudyJ

    Shannon, it is ALL about the Shameless Self-Promotion!! I love the idea of fantasy set in St. John’s and will definitely check out your book. Who knows, you might even see a review of it on Compulsive Overreader!

  3. Shannon Patrick Sullivan

    I would love to see a review here. One of the things that I’m most looking forward to, now that The Dying Days is out, is feedback — positive or negative. I think writing is a constant process of learning, of figuring out what I do well and what I don’t, so that the next time around I can accentuate the former, and try to ameliorate the latter.

  4. Tom Ransome - Jones

    Hi. I’m 17. I read the first Assassin book by Hobb when i was twelve, and have been reading the three trilogies since, with other books inbetween. For me, they are the single greatest set of books I have ever read. I started Shaman’s Crossing last week, and have nearly finished it. Despite my deep love for the the Six Duchies, Bingtown, and the Fitz/Fool duo, I find it difficult to fault this book. Admittedly, it doesn’t flow aswell as the others, but that’s to be expected with Hobb embarking on something new after what i imagine must have been years on the previous 9 books. In all honesty, I love her writing style, the way in which she develops her characters and settings so deeply, and the original storyline layout. Fantastic. My Absolute Favourite.

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