Archive for Robin Hobb

les sentiers des astres [book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2019 by xi'an

It is quite rare that I read heroic fantasy or science fiction in French, presumably because I do not spend enough time in Parisian bookstores… Thanks to a visit to Librairie Compagnie, rue des Écoles, last July, storing enough travel books for Japan, (incidentally) all of which made it back home by post today!, I came across the books of Stefan Platteau as a suggestion from a bookseller there as a mix of Robin Hobb and Tad Williams, with connections to Celtic, Scandinavian, and Hindu myths. And styles. I actually see some inspiration from Hobb’s Chaman soldier, in the role of supernatural forces, less of Williams, as the series is shying away from heroic fantasy and military actions, even though a war is going on, but mostly fought by irregulars and partisans. The style is quite original, way better than Hobb’s Rain wilds chronicles, with a rich prose and tales within tales said (sang?) by several characters. And the story definitely compelling if sometimes slow—a consequence of the subplots being exposed as fireplace stories, with a larger role of god-like entities that roam this universe,  but in a pleasant and balanced way. The characters are all ambiguous enough to preserve a degree of surprise and of unexplained as the story unravels. It is unfortunate the books have not been translated into other languages, as these trails of the stars are remarkable enough to recommend! In particular, while there is a very small number of women involved in the stories, the Tale of the Courtesan is most central to both second and third volumes, with a very strong passage on her pregnancy in the most dire circumstances. A non-spoiler warning is that the end of the book is very abrupt and unconclusive, making it sound as if a new volume is in the making, not that I could find any trace of an hint about a sequel. Not that it proves detrimental to the pleasure of reading this unusual series.

La peste et la vigne [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2019 by xi'an

During my trip to Cambodia, I read the second volume of this fantasy cycle in French. Which I liked almost as much as the first volume since the author continues to explore the mystery of the central character Syffe and its relations with some magical forces at play in his universe. As in most stories uniquely centred on a single character point of view the recurring ponderings of Syffe about his role in life, the existence of supernatural forces, and his own sanity may tend to get annoying at time. But the escape from the mines and the subsequent stay in a mountain kingdom are well-paced, especially the description of the plague that allows such an escape. The last section is more connected with the first volume and sees more warfare, again with sudden reversals of fortune (no further spoiler!). The final chapters see a lot explained about many aspects of the story and the raison d’être of the character, even though the very last surprise is somewhat predictable. But opening new vistas for the future volumes. There are still many threads I could have pulled to point some potential influences of earlier cycles, from Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant chronicles, which I simply hated!, to Robin Hobb’s Soldier’s son. Since both stories convey the feeling of a magical force at the level of the whole land (or universe), with the unprepared and imperfect “hero” able to impact this land in dramatic ways. And again Elizabeth Moon’s Deeds of Paksenarion for the depiction of mercenary companies…

Assassin’s fate [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2018 by xi'an

I am afraid it is impossible to report on Assassin’s Fate without introducing spoilers, so would-be readers, be warned! The end of a long if enjoyable journey with FitzChivalry, the royal Assassin created by Robin Hobb two decades ago, in a book that brings together almost all characters she introduced in the five trilogies linking the Six Duchies, the Rain Wild, and beyond. Beyond the imperfections of some slow-pace sections and of the infuriating stubbornness of Fitz along with his righteousness at times, the conclusion of the book is stunning and perfectly closes the series, leaving the reader who has followed these characters for years and enjoyed the carefully constructed universe behind them, as well as the psychological depth of most of them, with a peaceful and bittersweet sadness. Never have so many owed so much to so few, some would add about Fitz, The Fool and Bee, given the upheaval they bring to this whole universe, impacting first and foremost the Liveship traders… In my opinion, the saga of FitzChivalry that concludes with this book stands among the most realised and elaborated ones in fantasy, primarily for its highly attaching (and far from heroic) characters. Who definitely belong to a pantheon of fantasy characters that one remembers along the years, even with long interruptions.

Fool’s quest [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2016 by xi'an

Although I bought this second volume in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy quite a while ago, I only came to read it very recently. And enjoyed it unreservedly! While the novel builds upon the universe Hobb created in the liveship traders trilogy (forget the second trilogy!) and the Assassin and Fool trilogies, the story is compelling enough to bring out excitement and longing for further adventures of Fitz and the Fool. Many characters that were introduced in the earlier volume suddenly take on substance and meaning, while the main characters are no longer heroes of past eras, but also acquire further depth and subtlety. Even long-lasting ones like Chade. I cannot tell whether this new dimension of the plights affecting the Six Duchies and its ruler, King Verity, was conceived from the start or came later to the author, but it really fits seamlessly and increases by several orders of magnitude the epic feeling of the creation. Although it is hard to rank this book against the very first ones, like Royal Assassin, I feel this is truly one of the best of Hobb’s books, with the right mixture of action, plotting, missed opportunities and ambiguous angles about the main characters. So many characters truly come to life in this volume that I bemoan the sluggish pace of the first one even more now. While one could see Fool’s Quest as the fourteenth book in the Realm of the Elderlings series, and hence hint at senseless exploitation of the same saga, there are just too many new threads and perspective there to maintain this posture. A wonderful book and a rarity of a middle book being so. I am clearly looking forward the third instalment!

Fool’s Assassin

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2015 by xi'an

When I learned that Robin Hobb had started a new Assassin’s trilogy, Fitz and the Fool, I got a bit wary, given the poor sequel to the Liveship Traders trilogy I read in the hospital two years ago, and the imperfect Soldier Son trilogy… But also excited, for The Farseer Trilogy is one of the best fantasy series ever! Now that I have read Fool’s Assassin, the first volume of the trilogy, I can only wait for the second one, Fool’s Quest, to appear next summer.  Unsurprisingly, reconnecting with the universe of The Farseer Trilogy is almost enough per se to make reading this book a pleasure, even though it seems to draw too much from the past volumes to gain independent praise, except in the accelerating final chapters. The style conveys too much the homely feeling of Fitz as a retired country squire, surrounded by family and friends. There is obviously a new plot, a new danger to the Six Duchies, and new characters, one of which is singularly attaching!, while Fitz remains as obtuse and whining as in earlier volumes (which is a joy to behold once again!). So now that the setting has been painstakingly and that the game is afoot, I hope the second volume will keep up with the pace of the final chapters… (Nice cover by the way if unrelated to the contents of the book, apart from the snow!)

a pile of new books

Posted in Books, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2014 by xi'an

IMG_2663I took the opportunity of my weekend trip to Gainesville to order a pile of books on amazon, thanks to my amazon associate account (and hence thanks to all Og’s readers doubling as amazon customers!). The picture above is missing two  Rivers of London volumes by Ben Aaraonovitch that I already read and left at the office. And reviewed in incoming posts. Among those,

(Obviously, all “locals” sharing my taste in books are welcome to borrow those in a very near future!)

hospital reads

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2013 by xi'an

While stuck under a heating lamp for about two weeks, I read a series of books, for various reasons. Here are a few comments on this haphazard collection.

I bought the Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe in 2001 in Roma and never managed to move into the novel. This time I did finish the book, thanks to those extreme conditions. I remember picking the book for it being a reference in gothic novels (after enjoying much a book like Uncle Silas). However, I find the book caricaturesque to the extreme and without much to commend it, neither for its style nor for its plot. For one thing, it took me quite a while to realise the time of the nnovel was in the 1500’s, so replete is the book with anachronisms. If you excuse me the spoiler, everything supernatural is eventually explained by natural reasons, often ludicrous. Important family connections are omitted till the final pages to allow for suspense to build, rescues of the main heroin come in rather unbelievable circumstances, &tc. This is an interesting entry into the excesses of the genre, nothing more. (The attached cover of my Penguin edition reminds much more of the Marseille calanques than of the scenes depicted by Radcliffe.)

A second book that was brought to me by a friend here is a Lee Child’s novel called Worth dying for, that I read within a few hours. The book is extremely efficient and gripping even though the plot is a bit predictable (with some links to Reamde!), the characters often roughly defined and the overall ethics of cold blooded elimination (versus delivery to justice/police) of all the bad guys difficult to agree with. There are also weaknesses in the plot, e.g. when the superhero lets himself be captured by the dumb college footballers… It made me pass a quick afternoon though, away from my sickbed. I might even read another one in the Jack Reacher series next time I am hospitalised!

Another chance read is Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper: a doctor at the hospital noticed I was reading books in English and brought me this one the very next day. Again a book I read within the day. Overall, the book is a sequel to the Liveship Traders trilogy and, as such, it is recycling the same universe, rules and issues. An interesting extension but with clear weaknesses. For one thing, the #2 heroin, Alise, is not very credible in this first volume (and very dumb for missing the homosexual relation between her husband and his secretary). The #1 heroin, Thymara, is not much more complex. Now, I may read both next volumes if the doctor brings them to me before I leave the hospital in a few thousand days (!), but this certainly stands below Hobb’s masterpiece of The Farseer Trilogy.