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This is the second book in the Soldier Son trilogy of Robin Hobb's. Hobb introduced us to entirely fresh new characters in the first book, not related to the people or the geography of her other trilogies. In this book, Nevare - having survived the Speck plague at the military academy - finds that he is suffering from some very strange side effects of the plague and he is putting on weight no matter what he does. This leads to him becoming ostracised by the Academy and his family, and rejected as a greedy selfish pig. The plague isn't done with him either, and he suffers yet more losses due to its touch. Losing his family support and his fiancee, Nevare sets out to attempt to sign on as a foot soldier as he believes that this is still his destiny. But he has been touched with Speck magic and the magic has other plans for him. The more he resists the magic, the more tragedy he suffers and those around him suffer. Eventually he decides that he has no option but to give up his dreams and to do the bidding of the magic.
As usual, the characters in Hobb's book are well rounded and realistic and the story is well thought out and well told. I had slightly more trouble warming to Nevare as a main character than characters in her other novels, but this is probably because he is flawed and doesn't realise it himself. When he first began to be "filled with magic", I found the telling of this a little silly at first but persevered with it, and you do get used to the idea. The story is also a little slower and dawdles in places. I think these things probably make this book not quite in the same class as her other works, which are peerless works of fantasy fiction, but I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this instalment of Soldier Son and it is still a good and well written read.
This is the second book in the Soldier Son Trilogy by author Robin Hobb. This continues the story from where we left it in Shamans Crossing. This book was released in July 2006 so a whole year had passed since the previous book. This of course meant fans were eager to get there hands on a copy and find out where the story would take them next. So this was another big seller for Hobb as she continued to enhance her reputation.
So in the previous book Old Thares and the acadamy were realing from the outbreak of the Speck plague. Many cadets lost their lives and the ones who did survive never made a full recovery. Nevare has recovered from the plague but is having some strange side effects.
Nevare returns home to attend his brothers wedding. Along the way he has some interesting experiences that will have a profound effect on his life. When he reaches his home he finds his condition as a result of the plague to be a serious problem. He is not given the big welcome he was expecting and is treated as an embaresment. Nevare is locked away by his father who intends to straigten his son out. However while he is locked up the plague sweeps through his house.
Now Nevare is all alone and has some decision to make. These decisions will shape his life and change it forever!
I really enjoyed this book. After being a little disapointed with the first, I found the story in this one, much more enjoyable. While its still very dark in places and deals with some rather unpleasent subjects, it does really appeal and get you involved.
In the first book I did not find myself liking the lead character Nevare all that much. But he really changes in this book and you start to empathise with him a great deal. The way he suffers and struggles really draws you into the story emotionally and Hobb has a very unique way of telling the story which appeals to the readers emotions.
There are lots of noew characters in this book and they are all developed very well as you would expect from Hobb. The new areas she takes us to are very interesting and she describes them wonderfully well so we feel like were there seeing what the characters are seeing.
I think this is a real return to form for Hobb, I was very excited about getting into the final book after reading this one. To be honest I think this is the best of the three books which is very unusual for a series. But that should take nothing away from the other two books either.
So if you rnjoy your fantasy books this is one you should really give a try. Robin Hobb is very different from most fantasy writers and thats really no bad thing. Am sure everyone will enjoy this book and the rest of the trilogy as well.
Continuing almost exactly where the first novel left off, FOREST MAGE once again thrusts us deep into the life of soldier son, Nevare Burvelle- still attending the Old Thares Military Academy and currently recovering from a paticulary bad case of Speck Plague (of which he may just have played a large part in spreading) that has left it's mark not just on his body but also on his soul.
The Old Thares Military Academy is a far changed place from whence we last saw it. With the ravages of the Plague now far behind it has come the shocking realisation that so many of it's cadets have fallen to it's clutches. Now, no difference is shown between the way that Old Noble and New Noble sons are treated and many of the changes brought about by the old Commander of the Academy have been scrapped by the new Commander-in-charge who is much more of a military man than his predescessor ever was. Finally the distinctions between Old and New families have been forgotten as it rapidly becomes apparent that those who have been left in the wake of the Plague must now work together to ensure the Cavalla's future in their war against the people known only as The Specks.
When Nevare leaves the academy to attend his brother's wedding back home, he soon becomes only too aware that the changes wrought by the Speck Plague upon him are as much physiological as they are psychological. Nevare has been infected with the magic of the Specks and, as he journeys the long way home, he finds himself fighting against the magic's attempts to bend him to it's will.
But the magic will have it's way whether Nevare allows it or not and before long his home is devastated by the very Plague that left Old Thares reeling, his fiancee wishes no more to do with him and Nevare is dis-owned by a father who sees his son as nothing less than a dishonourable disgrace. On top of all this, Nevare finds himself expelled from the academy on medical grounds by someone he once thought of as a friend and is forced to find his own way in a world that is slowly turning him against the same people he has always wanted to defend.
By the time he reaches the frontier town of Gettys, where the King's Road is attempting to forge it's way through the Speck lands and into the barrier mountains, Nevare's former life is in tatters and seemingly now no more than just a childhood dream. Planning to start anew as a humble foot soldier rather than the Officer he should have been destined to become, Nevare finds himself even more in conflict as the magic attempts again and again to bend him to it's will- here aided and strengthened by the native Speck people from whence it originally came.
The magic wants him to stop the King's Road from being pushed through by any means possible and, with Nevare's soul split between his soldier-self and his Speck-self, it becomes increasingly more difficult for him to resist "turning native" and going against his own people. For Nevare can see the battle going on from both sides of the argument and wants nothing more than to find a solution that will let both sides live in some kind of peaceful harmony. The problem lies in that this solution is becoming increasingly more unlikely with every day that passes and every stone that's laid.
Once again, the climax when it comes is both as tragic and poignant as it is unexpected and leaves the reader gasping for more. Highly reminiscent of the way Hobb's earlier Farseer novels left you hanging, this is proving to be a series that is every bit as emotionally charged as her earlier novels and a worthy successor to all three of her previous trilogies.
Recurrent themes seem to flow through all of Hobb's work and many of these are evident again here in this newest series. There is the strong male lead forced by circumstances beyond his control to become a loner as he bravely faces all fate has to throw his way; the equally strong female characters battling oppression and fighting a patriachal society that longs to keep them in their place- cowed and submissive; and then there is the premise of an ever-changing world in which it's people must strive to find a way to adapt and live in harmony if they want to survive- fighting against all the prejudice and injustice they have been brought up to believe in....
With it's ecological message that runs through this series in paticular, Hobb is fast proving hereslf to be a master of the genre. Her only equal that I can think of at the moment is probably George.R.R.Martin and, with his next novel who knows how far away from completion, Robin Hobb is left with very little competition.
Much as I enjoy other fantasy writers such as Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan and Raymond.E.Fiest it is certainly refreshing to read a series instead that has a visible end rather than something that just seems at times to go on and on and on.
Indeed, with her perchant for trilogies, Hobb seems to encompass that which we were all taught when we did creative writing at school- all stories should have a beginning, a middle and indeed an end. With the conclusion of this second chapter of The Soldier Son of trilogy, I for one can't wait to discover what lies at the end of this paticular story's path.