Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Book Review: Renegade's Magic, Book 3 of The Soldier's Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb

View this book on Amazon.comThis post is from the Archive and originally appeared on March 4, 2008 as part of a compilation.

An SFFWorld Favorite for 2007, Renegade's Magic concludes the story of Nevare Burvelle who is fated to become a Soldier Son in his king's army. Life takes some unexpected turns, however, as Nevare is called to a different destiny. Drawn by magic to the frontier, where his king is waging war against the Specks, Nevare finally succumbs to the forces taken control of him and, instead of fighting his king's enemies, he joins them. Thus begins Renegade's Magic.

Renegade's Magic is a continuation in excellence--excellent storytelling, excellent prose, excellent characters. Hobb has created a world that transcends the classic good vs. evil model, where everyone has the potential for either. If there is any weakness at all in this trilogy it's that, in the end, no one is really "evil". Characters may do despicable things, but, once we understand their viewpoint, I found myself often sympathizing with them regardless of what they'd done or why they'd done it. It makes it hard to want any one individual to come out, in the end, as the victor. The truth of the matter, though, is that there are multiple victors. But victory comes at a price. No one is left unscathed, least of all Nevare, who sacrifices much, oftentimes without even fully comprehending what is happening to him or why (not until the very end, anyway).

Magic plays a dominant role in the Soldier Son Trilogy. So much so that magic itself becomes an entity unto itself. The manner in which magic is mastered is both unique and intriguing, though I have to admit I was a little put off by it at first. I hate to throw out a spoiler (so I won't), but suffice to say magic actually transforms the wielder physically. The end result is a hero who, well, doesn't appear very heroic. I don't think there's any doubt Hobb was making a statement here about our own society, and how we often judge people by their outward appearance. This failing of our own society also exists in Nevare's world, except that only Nevare's own people loathe the change that has overcome him. Their enemies, the Specks, actually hold him in great reverence. It makes for an interesting dichotomy in terms of the storytelling and character development.

Past experience with Robin Hobb's work really had me expecting a bittersweet ending (think Fritz in the The Farseer Trilogy). Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. I won't go so far as to say the ending is all roses (even roses have thorns), but there is a certain gratification I felt as I finished the final sentence. Nevare's world may have been turned upside-down, but, with will and tenacity and a heavy dose of plain stubbornness, he comes out alright in the end.

Renegade's Magic was a worthy conclusion to an excellent story.

Book Review: Forest Mage, Book 2 of The Soldier's Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb

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This post is from the Archive and originally appeared on March 4, 2008 as part of a compilation.

Forest Mage is the second novel in Robin Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy. Other books in the series include Shaman's Crossing and Renegade's Magic.

The cover for this book is important because, more than any other cover I've seen for this series, this cover symbolizes what the Soldier Son Trilogy is all about. You have a man--a cavalry soldier--sword drawn, facing the mists of the forest and the ominous mountains beyond. There is fire, carnage, and an overwhelming feeling that something is out there. Is it coming? Is it waiting for our cavalryman's charge? We don't know, but clearly the man senses the danger he's in else his sword would not be drawn.

The soldier, of course, represents Nevare. I say "represents" because Nevare never becomes that man--that soldier--shown on the cover. Something happens to him, something that was begun in Shaman's Crossing that spills over here. He never becomes the Soldier Son he was supposed to be. Instead, he changes in ways I won't report here least it take something away from your own reading. Suffice to say bad things happen. He's in a sorry state. Yet he battles on, searching for a solution to a dilemma begun in book one which has taken everything from him but his life. Even that, however, might be forfeit if he doesn't come to terms with who and what he has become.

Again, Hobb draws us in with her masterful storytelling. I honestly felt for Nevare's misfortune and kept turning the pages because I wanted to see him succeed. Sad to say, he doesn't. Not in the way we hope, anyway. Forest Mage, like any middle volume, is a bridge between book's one and two, though it does wrap up a good part of Nevare's misfortune (and one of his lives--read the book to understand that!) and sets him on the road to finality as told in Renegade's Magic.

Book Review: Shaman's Crossing, Book 1 of The Soldier's Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb

View this book on Amazon.comThis post is from the Archive and originally appeared on March 4, 2008 as part of a compilation.

Shaman's Crossing is the first novel in Robin Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy. Other books in the series include Forest Mage and Renegade's Magic.

Shaman's Crossing is where we are introduced to our hero, Nevare Burvelle, second son of a second son, fated because of his birth order to become a soldier in his king's cavalla (cavalry). Much of this novel deals with Nevare's childhood: how his father initiates him into his birth-fate, begins to meld him into the man he must one day become, and, finally, sends him off to the King's Academy where he will learn the business of soldiering. Along the way, Nevare becomes entangled in a web that neither he nor the reader will fully understand until events unfold in Renegade's Magic.

I found Shaman's Crossing fully engaging. Many others did not agree with me. Nevare's early years on his family's estate draw you in from the start, introducing us to his father's war history with the Plainspeople and Nevare's own bond with one Plainsman in particular. There was almost a low point where Nevare is at the academy, what with the mundane day-to-day life of a student and all, but Hobb keeps the reader interested with a myriad of sub-plots and a cast of real, believable characters who each have difficulties or challenges of their own. It was a lot of fun reading the beginnings of what becomes a much larger story for Nevare. It didn't take me long to pick up the next book in the series.

Book Review: Murder in the Boughs by Jamie Sedgwick

I received Murder in the Boughs by Jamie Sedgwick from the author via a GoodReads giveaway. Murder in the Boughs is a standalone novel and, unfortunately from what I could tell, the only "Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre" novel Mr. Sedgwick has written. Mr. Sedgwick has a number of other novels to choose from, however, many of which have caught my eye and found their way onto my Amazon Wish List.

Murder in the Boughs is a detective novel of the hard-boiled variety. Hank Mossberg is Sedgwick's Mike Hammer or Phillip Marlowe (my personal favorite), except for the fact that he's an ogre who walks a line between the "real" world and the hidden one, where fae exist. The fae of Sedgwick's world are more human-like than you might expect, though. They are thugs, hitmen, crime bosses, nurses, policemen, drug pushers (and abusers), and, of course, detectives.

Hank Mossberg is unique in more ways than one. Not only is he the last of his kind, but he's also the Steward, a position appointed to him by the fae Elders. In the fae world, his job is to investigate crimes and enforce fae law. In the human world, he's more detective and less lawkeeper. Though magic is prevalent in the fae world, Mossberg is immune to all of it. Bullets, however, present their usual problem for him, especially when uzi wielding elves come looking for him.

Murder in the Boughs presents two crimes for Hank to solve: one involving the elicit fae drug known as "pixie dust" and the other the kidnapping of a human child. While the cases are separate from one another, we find Hank juggling each throughout the novel. Ultimately, they never really cross one another, something I found a little disappointing. I thought there could have been some connection between the crimes, and thus possibly a more climatic ending.

Sedgwick, however, does a nice job with the conclusion of the pixie dust case; the reveal of the responsible perpetrator was unexpected. With the case of the missing child, I was left a bit unfulfilled, only because the wrap-up comes suddenly and almost wholly dealt with towards the lattermost part of the novel.

Murder in the Boughs is an enjoyable, fun read. I'd like to see more of Hank Mossberg. I think the character has more cases to solve and enough character depth to become the next Hammer or Marlowe if the author chooses to spend more time with him.

Classic Reread: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles

I think everyone who loves books has an inaugural series in their background that opened their eyes to a wider world of reading possibilities. For me, that series was Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. If you want to read a quick history of Lloyd Alexander, check out this post. It's nicely done.

I've had this series on my re-read list for a long time now. At one point, I owned all five books in the series; somewhere between the age of 10 (when the editions I own were published and presumably about when I first read them) and 40 (my current age), 2 of those books were lost. I still have books 3, 4, 5, and remedied the missing novels with a couple of quick purchases from Amazon's used book section.

I don't know if I'll post formal reviews of each book; I've slowed my reviewing so I can focus on other things. But I might post some thoughts once I'm done with the series. The difficult thing about re-reading such a formative work is that my expectations are high. As a 10 year old, I'm sure I tore through them. I was always interested in fantasy; a series of this magnitude in an easily digestible form probably kept me up until the early hours of the morning. But will the Prydain Chronicles hold up to the critical eye of the 40 year old curmudgeon I've become? I'll let you know.

The Chronicles of Prydain