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Robin Hobb is an author of fantasy with a twist and has a captivating style that can encompasses believable and detailed worlds, characters and narratives that will have you riding through anxiety, indignation and elation.
In Gernia the tradition is that the first son of a Noble will inherit his father's estate, the second will be a soldier, the third go to the priesthood and the fourth to the arts. Nevare is the second son of his father, who was promoted to nobility during the war, along with many others to form the so called New Nobility. He has been born to it and has no other wish than to grow into the soldier he is destined to be, becoming an officer and thus earning the respect of his father and the hand of the girl he has been promised. At the age of 18 he is finally ready to be sent to the academy, where it fast becomes apparent that many an Old Noble family begrudges the equal status given to this new generation of soldier sons and that his place amongst graduating officers will be a hard won battle against a politically volatile environment. Meanwhile, the relative peace of recent years is becoming increasingly disturbed by the mysterious Specks, a race living in the wild mountains through which the King wishes to build a great road. And there's the ethereal Tree Woman who haunts his dreams...
The world that Hobb had created for the Soldier Son Trilogy is intriguing and beguiling, with its own history and rules of society. I'd say it is completely different from those of her previous trilogies, and I have read some reviews that say it is not as good, but really it is just a new and exciting approach. I found myself confused by some of the customs and not sure of what to make of the attitude toward girls and women to begin with, but as I read on I became completely swept away with it and these areas were explored and opened up by Hobb through the main character, Nevare, and those around him. I felt for Nevare as he tries to keep the gentilities of his upbringing in a city that is rougher and more promiscuous than he expected.
I can't wait to read the next one, as the ending of the this book had left a tatilising peek into the Specks and I'm desperate to know what will happen as Nevare progresses into the military... if he even does, because there are some truly awful (but brilliant) adversaries for him to face. The little world of the Accademy is great, and I got carried away with the triumphs and exam fears of the young students.
Shaman's Crossing is the first book in Robin Hobb's "Soldier Son" trilogy. These books mark a departure from her wonderful world and characters seen in her other books (including the Farseer, Tawny Man and Liveship Traders trilogies) and tells the story of a boy, Nevare Burvelle, born as the second son in a new noble family and destined thus to be a soldier. His father tries to prepare him for life at the military Academy by training him at home with a variety of teachers, including one who was previously a deadly enemy of the family - Dewara, the Kidona (a tribe of people living a nomadic life on the plains). Dewara is harsh with Nevare, but just as Nevare begins to think there may be a mutual respect developing Dewara puts him in terrible peril by pitting him against an old enemy of the Kidona, in what appears to be a kind of parallel universe. Nevare fails to attack this enemy and is instead sent to what could have been his own destruction. To save his own life, he pledges to take on the magic of this enemy (a "Speck" woman, the Specks being a race of dappled humanoids who live deep in the forests and are considered to spread plague), without really knowing what consequences this may have for him.
When Nevare is sent to the Academy he finds it a hard place for the sons of the new nobles, as the people in charge of the academy are not in favour of new noble sons being trained as officers, and favour is greatly given to the sons of old nobles. Nevare struggles to impress under this regime and the book tells many tales of his days at the Academy.
Throughout, you have the impression that part of Nevare "died" in the altercation with the Speck woman and Nevare's cousin Epiny tells him that he is split in two and that he has a bad presence riding with him.
He feels himself that sometimes he has no control over what he does and it is as if a second person dictates his actions at times. He "loses control" with devastating consequences at the Dark Evening faire, bringing disaster to those around him.
Nevare himself suffers along with the others and sees his career in terrible peril.
This first book in the series is written in first person from Nevare's perspective. It took me a while to warm up to him as a character, which is quite unusual for Robin Hobb's characters who are normally instantly appealing. It isn't as fantastical as some of her creations and can be a bit slow in places. If this was any other writer I would probably give a glowing review, but it's just not up to Hobb's usual amazingly high standard. However, do persevere as it is worth reading!
I am a huge fan of Robin Hobb. If you have read my other reviews on her works you will see how much I enjoy reading her books. So when I heard she was writing a new trilogy set in a whole new world, i was very excited to have a look.
So Shamans Crossing is the first book in the Soldier Son trilogy by the fantasy writer Robin Hobb. This book came out back in july 2005. This being Hobbs forth trilogy she had already quite a large fan base. So this book was a big seller for the author.
The story tells of a young man called Nevare Burvelle. He is the second son of a another second son. Which in the land he grows up in, Gernia, means he will go on to become a soldier. From an early age Nevare is trained in all the basic skills he will need to become a soldier. His teacher, Sergeant Duril is a strict man but someone who Nevare enjoys being in the company off. Duril teaches Nevare everything he will need to know in order to become a success.
One day Nevare's father send him away with Dewara who is a plainsman. He gets a crash course in skills not many young men will ever learn. But he gets a little more than he bargained for!
When Nevare reaches the age of 18 he is sent off to the King's Cavalla Academy where he will complete his training. The story tells us how he fares in his new life and also how a dark and mysterious plague is sweeping the land which will have serious conotations for everyone and especially Nevare.
I enjoyed this book but to be honest was a little disapointed. The story is just not very nice. Can't think of a better way of putting it. It moves quite slowly but there is plenty of detail and it is a very good read. But its just a very dark story that really did not quite do it for me.
The way Hobb suddenly takes you into a crazy world does not do much for me. The story will be plodding along quite normally, then something other worldly happens, and it spoils the story somewhat. And Hobb does not quite describe the events as well as she might.
That said all her other story telling attributes are still there to be seen. She has a wonderful way of developing the characters and bringing them to life. We feel like we know Nevare so well by the end of this book, you can understand his moods and the way he thinks.
The world she has created in this one is excellent again. I didn't like it as much as the previous world she created, but even so, there is lots to enjoy in this one.
So overall its hard to find much wrong with the book, but I just didn't enjoy it as much as I was expecting. It probably didn't help that I had such high expectations so was setting myself up to be disapointed.
This is still a really good book though, and one that I would recommend. I was eager to get into the second book which shows that the story had caught my imagination which always is a good sign your enjoying reading it.
So if your into fantasy you should give this a try. It's not Hobbs best work, but it is still very good and well worth having a read. So don't be put off by what I've said, give it a try!
I know that many fans of Robin Hobb's earlier books were very disappointed when she announced that the new series would have no link at all to the world and characters created in her previous novels. However, I felt that the old stories had been finished and I was really eager to see what she would produce next. I was not disappointed...
Nevare Burvelle, the second son of a second son, has been brought up in a traditional society, secure in the knowledge that his future will be as soldier at the frontiers of Gernia, driving forward the boundaries and civilising the plainspeople that populate the land beyond. Sent away at eighteen to complete his training, Nevare soon finds himself struggling to earn the acceptance of his peers and overcome the prejudices of the old nobility. Meanwhile, word spreads of a mysterious plague that is affecting soldiers on the frontier and of the Specks, the dapple-skinned people who are said to be the cause of it. A childhood encounter, all but forgotten, means that Nevare will soon become the unwitting catalyst of events beyond his control or understanding.
As ever, Robin Hobb's greatest strength is in the creation of brilliantly drawn characters, occupying a world that is vivid with detail and life. The values that Nevare has been raised with are evident in his attitude and colour his telling of the story, creating a feeling of realism that evokes in the reader both empathy for the character and occasional frustration with his rigid views of the world. Despite this I didn't find myself enjoying this book as much as her previous offerings - I just couldn't love Nevare as easily as Fitz.
Still, an excellent start to a new series that left me eager for the next installment; 'Forest Mage'.
Part of this review has also been posted on Waterstones.com, which I occasionally review for.
I have long been obsessed with Robin Hobb, even to the point where the boyfriend has come to the conclusion that he is fighting a bedroom war with her. This is a slight overstatement I have to make clear! But when word of a new trilogy hit me an awful lot of months ago my first reaction was to hit the bookshop and find myself a copy. And I will give credit, again Robin Hobb has written a masterpiece, however the remainder of the trilogy was a major let down as far as I was concerned.
Title: Shaman's Crossing
Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Harper Voyage
ISBN: 13 978 0 00 719614 2
Dedication: (which I found funny): To Caffeine and Sugar, my companions through many a long night of writing.
The basic story follows the character of Nevare Burvelle, who is an 18 year old second son of a soldier son who was upgraded to a noble. This structure of hierarchy plays a major role in the tensions later in the book, or even fairly early on in the book. But anyhow, Robin Hobb follows the story of Nevare from his family home on his journey to the military Acadamy which his father in turn had been too training him against the threat of the plainspeople and more importantly the 'Specks'.
And here is where I believe that Robin Hobb went wrong in writing this novel because she has attempted and failed to put a more mystical slant into the story. In that very early in the novel she had a scene where Nevare was up against the leader of the Specks, the Tree Woman, by the plainsman who his father had sent him to train with. Needless to say he did not win this encounter and some part of him was caught by the Tree Woman which is shown mainly in dreams and fever, but it is almost as if he has become split into two separate halves, one working for his country and one working for his country's enemy, the Specks. I have to admit this is where the book lost me, I felt that Robin Hobb made it unnecessarily complex and I found myself skipping these parts (and not only due to the rather badly judged eroticism at some of these points!). But Nevare's relationship with the Specks has major impacts on the later sections of the book as his dream world collides with his real world in a rather dramatic fashion.
And back to the real world, Nevare finds himself in the military Academy where there is a major line drawn between the Old Nobles and the New Nobles. The line between the two is mainly politics which I shall explain in just a moment, and this is a very clever addition on the part of Robin Hobb. But the dividing line between the Old Nobles and the New Nobles sons is very large and causes major fragmentation between the two groups, but it isn't just the kids who are in on this it's also the adults who are supposedly running an unbiased Academy, but who will jump at any chance to get rid of the New Nobles. So Nevare has moved from what he thought of as a safe family home to an Academy in which everyone is out to get him purely because of the family he was born into, and all of his New Noble friends find themselves in exactly in the same position.
So, the basic storyline is that a young man on the very edge of manhood is finding himself in impossible situation after impossible situation. Some to do with his country's supposed enemy - the Specks, and some with his own countrymen who are often larger enemies than the Specks.
The politics and the social situation in the novel are very closely linked, as they would have to be to be in any way realistic. The status of people was determined largely on their birth, and the basis is; first son is the heir, second son is the soldier, third son is the priest, forth son is the artist, fifth son is the scholar. However, only the sons of the individual heirs have any rights in their profession, any sons of a soldier are all soldier sons, but instead of going to the Academy where officers are trained they will go straight into the ranks of foot soldiers, and the same applies to any other profession.
Now the problems became when the King got into problems with his Old Nobles who wanted all the power for themselves, and were very nearly successful in making the King merely a puppet on their strings. But instead of allowing this the King promoted some of the second sons of nobles to a noble rank of their own, giving them land, titles and everything. This shifted the power play dramatically, as the New Nobles were quite obviously loyal to the King who had promoted them beyond their station. So, beside the problem of the positions being given by God, the Old Nobles were also suitably peeved about the fact that they had lost their majority in the court. And a mix of power play and jealousy is never a good combination.
The best way to describe the animosity between the two sides of the equation was said by a soldiers son - A soldiers son is a soldier before he is a son, whereas a nobles son is a noble before he is a soldier. I'd prefer to be a soldiers son.
Nevare Burvelle - The main protagonist, to give credit a fairly honest and easy going character. He desperately wants to follow in his fathers footsteps and make his father proud of him. He wants to be a good soldier and a good officer, but he isn't sure whether he'll ever be able be able to live up to his fathers expectations.
Lord Keft Burvelle - A strict but fair father, and one who made his own way up to his rank of standing by being a soldier worth it. He doesn't just want his son to be a soldier through, he wants him to be an officer. And an officer needs to follow his own instinct, not necessarily anyone who obeys orders. This is why he sent his son to train with the plainsman, because he wanted him to disobey and not just to be obedient.
Epiny Burvelle - Nevare's cousin, and an eccentric female to say the least. Or not necessarily by our standards, just by the standards of the novel. The female in the novel is meant to stick to the stereotypes of say the late eighteenth century, silent and subservient, under the control of either the father or the husband, and the husband was often picked by the father. However, Epiny moves away from this stereotype as she acts very much like a child in order to still be treated like a child and not married off as a young woman, she describes the way women are treated is that they are shackled by lace and velvet. She is determined to pick her own husband, and behave in the way that she wants to.
Colonel Stiet - The Commander of the Academy who is massively biased against the New Nobles and spoils his young son rotten. Not the nicest character in the book!
Caulder Stiet - Colonel Steit's son, a spoiled brat who walks around in cadet uniform even though he is no where near the age at which he should be wearing cadet uniform. Although you greatly dislike the boy because of his attitude you can't help feeling sorry for him as well. He's been pushed into an environment of much older young men and is desperately trying to gain their approval, except the only way he knows how to do this is by stirring trouble and reporting rumours.
Spink - His full name is Spinrek Kester, and is by far the poorest of Nevare's friends and yet is often willing to share the very little he has...his father was well noted as a hero which is why he got given a New Noble title after his death. But that doesn't leave Spink's family with a great deal of money to go around, but he is one of the kindest characters in the novel.
Gord - Is a fat, even obese member of the Academy in Nevare's class. Most of the class hate him and tease him very cruelly, but becomes Nevare's friends. An interesting point is made about honour by the use of Gord because of the way Gord takes this kind of taunting, he doesn't respond, he doesn't show embarrassment or discomfiture, he takes it eyes staring straight ahead. This is the only way he can keep his honour, by at least taking some fun out of taunting him...
Personally I greatly enjoyed this book, and I guess that's for several reasons, firstly I like a book to have a structure and be easy to follow and for the most part this book was. A large amount of it being based at a school probably helps with this as does the very strict social order, but on a normal basis Robin Hobb is good at this anyway, not including the remainder of this series.
Her character development is fantastic and again is something which she has always been good at, it is difficult to think of any of the characters as direct enemies because everyone has a full personality and has reasons for their behaviour or attitudes. The Specks who are the enemies of the Gernians also have perfect reason for hating the Gernians, who are cutting down their forests and destroying the places they live in. Which in turn leads to the rather topical subject of conservation versus industrialisation. Equally, the character of Caulder is one whom the reader feels both dislike and sympathy for, which is quite an impressive feat for a writer and makes the whole novel more realistic.
The storyline itself is interesting an compelling, and some of the themes brought up in the novel such as the corruptness of the military or the concepts of honour and respect and the different ways these can be shown add extra layers to an already interesting.
What I felt was the main downfall to the novel was the mystical dream world, which was both necessary to the story but also was too flimsy and confusing to make much sense. It is explained more in the second book...which is probably why I couldn't get through that one at all!
All in all the good story, and one I'd recommend to any Robin Hobb regular readers as well as those who haven't read the novel but who like the kind of sci-fi, fantasy worlds that Robin Hobb creates. But not one I'd recommend if you expect to enjoy the whole trilogy...or maybe that's just me.
Shaman's Crossing is the first part of a brand new fantasy series from the author Robin Hobb who previously brought us The Farseer, Liveship and Fools Fate trilogies and whom also writes under her own name of Megan Lindholm with more limited success.
Once again, Hobb has managed to deliver the goods with this cracking introduction to a whole new world not that far removed from our own; where the last vestiges of old magic are being challenged and expunged by the onslaught of modern civilisation in the dawn of a new era and where nomadic tribesmen are slowly being "tamed" much as the Native American Indians were in our own recent history.
In fact many parallells can be drawn with our own world in this cracking new series and that is just one of the facets that combine to make this a highly enjoyable read with believable characters and a storyline that draws you in and absorbs you almost beyond your control.
Nevare Burvelle is the second son of a second son and, as tradition demands, is destined to become a soldier and follow in the footsteps of his father. The Writ decreees that first sons become the family heir, second sons become soldiers, third sons become priests and fourth sons become seekers of knowledge thus, from an early age, Nevare is indoctorined into the military life he will follow as an adult. This includes a spiritual journey with one of the land's defeated enemy. a plainsman whom Nevare's people have attempted to "civillise", which ends in near tragedy and has far-reaching consequences that will dog Nevare long into his adult life.
Following their defeat at the hands of their neighbours, The Landsings, the people of Gernia have now turned their eyes to the East and are attempting to build a trade road through the wild lands of the Plainspeople leading to The Barrier Mountains but have found themselves fighting a new war with a dappled race known only as The Specks. As an officer, once he graduates from the Military Academy, Nevare is destined to be stationed at one of these military outposts far from civilisation and lead his men against this new and mysterious enemy with all their ancient magic and out-dated ways. First of course though he actually needs to graduate and this is where much of this first story lies...
With its tales of life at the Academy, this first novel could bear many comparisons to J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter series but the Old Thares Military Academy is no Hogwarts and, before too long, Nevare and his fellow cadets find themselves fighting much smaller battles of their own than those they will face in the real world, yet no less serious, as Old Noble cadets are increasingly pitted against the sons of New Nobility.
New Noble cadets also are placed together in dorms long in need of repair whilst the Old Noblility are housed in more luxury and whenever students are "culled" to remove the weakest of the ranks, it is almost always New Nobility that seems to be the weakest links in the chain of command!!
Slowly, you find yourself strongly believing in Nevare and his world and caring about him and his fellow "New Noble" cadets every bit as much as you have about any of Hobb's characters in the past and it soon becomes apparent that, once again, she has managed to create a setting every bit as real as that of The Six Duchies; the home of Fitz Chivalry and his companion, The Fool, who so brilliantly captured our souls in her previous trilogies.
When the climax comes to this story, it is as wonderfully devised as it is beautifully tragic and, without a doubt, leaves you thirsting for more. I never believed I would ever care about a character as much as I did Fitz Chivalry but, with this first installment of The Soldier Son trilogy, Hobb once more reveals why she is such a master storyteller with the fantastical tales she weaves!!
What can I say to recommend this book any more I do not know...but if you have enjoyed any of her previous novels as Robin Hobb, as I know so many of you have, then I promise that you will not be disappointed by this newest trilogy set in an alternitive world a mere heartbeat away from our own.
The only thing that marred this novel for me was that the Hardback first edition from Voyager that I possess contains no end of proof-reading errors and has been very badly rushed out; had it not been a signed copy I might have sent it back but this is no reflection on Hobb merely on those who publish her work here in the U.K!!
With Shaman's Crossing, Hobb once again demonstrates why she alone deserves to be named the newest Queen of fantasy!!
(Now available in paperback from all good book sellers)
Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The second son of a newly anointed nobleman, he must endure the rigors of military training at the elite King's Cavella Academyand survive the hatred, cruelty, and derision of his aristocratic classmatesbefore joining the King of Gernia's brutal campaign of territorial expansion. The life chosen for him will be fraught with hardship, for he must ultimately face a forest-dwelling folk who will not submit easily to a king's tyranny. And they possess an ancient magic their would-be conquerors have long discounteda powerful sorcery that threatens to claim Nevare Burvelle's soul and devastate his world once the Dark Evening brings the carnival to Old Thares. Robin Hobb is the author of the Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies. She has also written as Megan Lindholm. She currently resides in Tacoma, Washington.