Robin Hobb

When I was young, I used to obsessively read and re-read and re-re-read fantasy novels. Now, though, I find myself rarely going back to re-read any of them. The thought of epic fantasy – though on some level I continue to love and identify with the genre – usually makes me groan a little, whether it’s because of the low quality or simply the oppressive wordcount, and so I haven’t reviewed all that many on this blog in the few years I’ve been keeping it. I certainly haven’t reviewed a whole bunch by the same author.

Except for the work of Robin Hobb. Hobb is probably the only fantasy author I still really love, although I didn’t get started on her until late in my teens. Her Fitz novels are one of only two series I still insist on buying and reading instantly (the other is Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire) – the next volume is out later this year*.

So far I’ve only read nine ten eleven fourteen** of her novels, but I’m sure more will follow. For now, here’s what I’ve got:

Assassin’s Apprentice
Royal Assassin
Assassin’s Quest

Ship of Magic
The Mad Ship
Ship of Destiny

Fool’s Errand
The Golden Fool
Fool’s Fate

Dragon Keeper
Dragon Haven

City of Dragons
Blood of Dragons

Fool’s Assassin
Fool’s Quest
Assassin’s Fate


*well, it was, back then
** sixteen

4 thoughts on “Robin Hobb

  1. andrew says:

    I haven’t read the LiveShip series. Is it as good as the Farseer books>

  2. Well, I intend at some point to put up some sort of ‘what to read and when’ thing on this page… but since ‘I intend to’ and ‘it’ll never happen’ have a lot of overlap for me…

    I think they’re better than the Farseer books (certainly the original trilogy, possibly Tawny Man is better still). A lot of people think they’re worse, but I think that that’s a) because they’re harder, and b) because those people are Farseer fans, since everyone reads Farseer first, and then Liveships is very different.

    Key differences:
    – Farseer has a single, widely beloved (and quite widely hated) POV character. Liveships has iirc over 20 POVs, and a core cast of at least half a dozen, all of whom are very flawed and not necessarily immediately likeable.
    – Farseer is first-person, and we’re intimately in the head of Fitz. The Liveship POVs do show us what people are thinking, but it’s still a little bit more distand than first-person – their thoughts, but not really their voices. This amplifies the first difference: Farseer is warm and intimate and close, Liveships is colder and more distant. This makes it harder to like the books (although also probably harder to hate them – a lot of people give up on Farseer because they hate Fitz so much).
    – Farseer is often quite slow, though there are also long periods of excitement. Liveships is mostly even slower, with less excitement, at least until the final book (there are action scenes, of course, and they’re very good, but the general effect is a very slowly-closing vice, rather that Farseer’s blow-after-blow). In particular, I’d warn you that I found the beginning of the first book a bit difficult, because it’s about thirty pages of introducing us to POV characters sitting around, drinking tea, having a good think about things, before the plot actually gets going.
    – Farseer has a plot. There are some distractions along the way, but it’s basically following a plot. Liveship has… a whole bunch of plots, with a whole bunch of diversions, distractions, red herrings, etc. These plots do, as the series goes on, increasingly cohere and entwine, but it’s harder to point to a single overarching plot – if I were asked what the plot was I’d have to say: well over here, xyz is happening, but meanwhile over there abc is happening, and in the mast pqr happened and rememeber that because that’ll be relevant later on… and so on.
    – Farseer is about a man, and the men around him, with a few cameos from women. Liveships is all about women and womanhood and different ways in which women deal with the limitations imposed upon them by their society. Among other things, of course.

    With the slower, more complicated plot, and the emphasis on relationships (most of the core characters are members of one troubled family), it really felt like a much more old-fashioned novel (although of course the language and techniques are modern). Some sort of sprawling Victorian family saga. Only with sea serpents and talking boats.

    So yes, better books, but maybe not as loveable, and I can understand why some Farseer fans have trouble with them.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the in depth reply. It makes a lot of sense. I am both a lover and a hater of Fitz. But the enjoyable parts far out way the “sighing” parts. I may have a problem keeping track of a sprawling character field. I had difficulty with Game of Thrones with all the major and minor characters. This series sounds like an opportunity to hit the library for the first book and see where things fall.

  4. […] (Interested readers may like to note that I’ve also got (mostly spoiler-free) reviews up of the nine preceding Realm of Elderlings novels, indexed here.) […]

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