50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best book of the trilogy!
I was really curious about this final volume of The Soldier Son trilogy. With both Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage garnering so many mixed reviews, I was eager to see how Hobb would bring this series to a close with Renegade's Magic.
First of all, I think we should commend the author for showing enough artistic integrity and writing something different...
Published on 30 Jun 2007 by Patrick St-Denis
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't have been a trilogy
And so, the Soldier Son Trilogy finally draws to a close.
Was it worth reading? Yes and no. I read this book simply because I'd read the previous two, and had to know what happened next. Unfortunately, Nevare is - if it's possible - bent on feeling even more sorry for himself than before in this final volume. Without giving too much away, a good chunk of this...
Published on 13 Sep 2007 by DLD Woods
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't have been a trilogy,
Was it worth reading? Yes and no. I read this book simply because I'd read the previous two, and had to know what happened next. Unfortunately, Nevare is - if it's possible - bent on feeling even more sorry for himself than before in this final volume. Without giving too much away, a good chunk of this book really is just him thinking 'woe is me' as he watches the events of the world unfold around him.
Luckily, the book redeems itself at the end - not because of the ending itself (indeed, I was a little incredulous. Again, I can't explain this properly without giving out spoilers, but the thought that ran through my head was "... that's IT? THAT'S all they had to do? Why on earth did it take three books to accomplish this?"), but because the quality of the writing picks up. The story moves forward. Things HAPPEN.
There are, in fact, two endings to this book. The first is annoyingly simple, and then the second one is... convenient.
In short, this is a story that's been stretched over too many books, and elongated pointlessly. Two books would've done it, and been more engaging for the brevity.
Should you buy this book? If you've read the other two, you may as well. If you're new to Robin Hobb, however, this is NOT the series to start with. Go back and read Ship of Magic (the Liveship Traders series, my personal favourite), or maybe Assassin's Apprentice (the Farseer Trilogy) to see Hobb at her best.
"Not bad, but not great" is my verdict for this book. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hobbs Choice,
That said, however, the other thing I need to add is that the novel does pick up pace as the tale continues towards its conclusion, building to the trademark crescendo that has kept the fans clamoring for more. The fact that Robin isn't just sticking to the safety of an already established world and is always seeking to add new elements to her bag of tricks has to be applauded. Alongside that we all also get to see different cultures crossing paths that is reminiscent of a John Ford film bringing to light not only the negative aspects that we have come to expect but also the nobility of spirit that has always fascinated those who seek a different viewpoint. This is perhaps Robin's greatest talent, the ability to blend a believable world with characters to lead us on our exploratory adventures.
As such she has succeeded and whilst this trilogy may be one more for the fans rather than a new reader (I'd recommend her Assassin Trilogy personally as the best place to start) it still delivers what it says on the packet and as such will allow people to try new avenues.
50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best book of the trilogy!,
First of all, I think we should commend the author for showing enough artistic integrity and writing something different. Unlike writers such as R. A. Salvatore and Terry Brooks, who rarely take a chance to come up with something truly creative outside of their established niche, Robin Hobb elected not to cheat herself and her fans by writing another Fitz novel just for the sake of her popularity. Although I much preferred The Farseer and The Tawny Man trilogies, with The Liveship Traders not far behind, I found most of the concepts Hobb set out to explore in this latest series to be quite interesting. The Soldier Son might not be Robin Hobb at the top of her game, but the series is nevertheless better than 80% of what's out there.
Renegade's Magic is easily the best and most enjoyable volume of The Soldier Son trilogy. One of the main reasons why is that, unlike its two predecessors, this book doesn't suffer from a sluggish pace. The narrative flows extremely well, providing a fluid rhythm throughout the novel.
Of the three volumes, I found the worldbuilding in Renegade's Magic to be the most fascinating. We finally learn a lot more about the Specks. How their magic works is explained in greater details, as are their history, their traditions, etc.
As always, the characterizations are superior. The deeply involved humanity behind it all, Hobb's hallmark, is imbued throughout Renegade's Magic. Three-dimensional characters populate this book, and they all remain true to themselves. This aspect of her characterization is probably what I love the most about Robin Hobb. Her cast always include men and women who feel like "real" people with genuine personalities, good or bad or in between.
Once more, the rich prose characterizing all of her novels adds a little something extra to the reading experience.
Stiff-necked Nevare was a character that was not always easy to like. Unfairly, he will always stand in Fitz's shadow. And yet, this character has gone a long way and has grown on me. Hence, I found it much easier to follow his first person narrative in Renegade's Magic.
I feel that Hobb excels at playing with readers' emotions. Again, blame the author's subtle human touch found in basically every character. Some of the scenes can be very touching, and I feel that this is one of the book's strengths.
Hobb ties up a lot of loose ends from both Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage, with almost everything coming full circle. In a way, this just might be Hobb's most self-contained series. Many things make more sense now, giving me a new appreciation for the first two volumes.
The Soldier Son may not be Robin Hobb's best series to date. It's certainly not as accessible as her previous works. Still, it's ambitious, different, and more spiritual. I'm convinced that Renegade's Magic will permit readers to appreciate this trilogy on another level.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing pageturner,
Alright, Hobb is incredibly talented, but I feel like this trilogy is just unfinished. There are huge chunks of the text that could easily have been edited out (especially in book 2 and even more so with this book), the ending is just plain ridiculous, and there is so, I repeat, SO much unused potential!
Where the other trilogies manage to draw you in and really does give you the feeling that there is an entire universe behind what you are reading, this trilogy manages to skip around anything that could be of any real interest. We have a great kingdom with what seems to be an interesting culture.
So what happens in the book? The protagonist travels as far away as it is at all possible to get without actually going outside the book's cover map, and we don't get to see what else goes on in this world. I just get a feeling that Hobb has written a story about the wrong guy, surely she hasn't used the full potential of what she has created? The world that should have been the center of the action becomes a mere beackdrop, while the protagonist goes about his business in the forest..
Anyone who has read the Robin Hobb books from the Realm of the Elderlings will have to find this trilogy quite disappointing. As the others have mentioned, if you are new to Robin Hobb, you should definitely read "Assasin's apprentice" (and the rest of the farseer trilogy, which gets better with each book.)
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Final part of The Soldier Son trilogy fails to live up to previous majesty...,
A common problem I have with fantasy novels is that there is too much filler material. Sadly I felt that was a problem here - though to her credit Hobb does deal in trilogies with a definite end, rather unending series a la Robert Jordan. This sequence isn't 'high fantasy' though, featuring characters that have guns and gunpowder. If you are engaged by detailed descriptions of imaginary foodstuff then you'll love "Renegade's Magic". As I'm not even interested in books about real food I found myself thinking, "OK, these characters have to eat a lot to gain their magic power, I get that, can we get on with the story now?"
The characters are engaging. Though Hobb has written herself into a corner using a strict first person narrative, for much of the book Nevare is far into the wilderness, so a slightly weak plot device is used to keep in touch with his loved ones.
There are enough revelations to make this book worthwhile. The ending is exciting, with a couple of twists. Indeed, if more of this book had been like the final 100 pages I would recommend it unreservedly. As it is I think that Robin Hobb is one of the best modern fantasy writers around. Sadly "Renegade's Magic" is a story stretched too thin to convince me that this book deserves a place among her finest work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I think the declining scores over the 3 books says it all.,
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This review is from: Renegade's Magic (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 3): Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy (Paperback)So this is the last in this Trilogy and I have to say sadly ... thank goodness. You know a book is bad when you start skim reading it so you can tell yourself you read it but it's so bad you are loathe to spend time reading it properly. I've said in review of Book One and Two that the pace is poor and too much time is given over to irrelevant detail .... Well this continues in Book Three but with a new twist. She continually recaps Book One and Two. Why? Why? WHY? No-one picks up book 3 of a trilogy and starts reading do they ? If they do it's rare but most people would buy book one and go from there. So it is incredibly annoying to find the pace slows even more (I hadn't thought it possible) while we re-cap time and again on events that have happened. The final nail in the coffin for me and this book was when we finally had an opportunity ***SPOILER COMING*** to have a big battle scene and have some heart quickening fast paced action between the Specks and the Humans, it's all brushed over in a cursory fashion and done and dusted in a few pages !!! I felt like yelling. Here we have 3 books all around 600+ pages and every time we have something interesting going on, it's given half a dozen pages at best but if we have a moment when Soldier's Boy goes to bed .... Well goodness me the description of him falling asleep last as long. This was the final straw for me. I won't be buying any more of her books. I personally think she was spot on with Assassins Apprentice but her efforts since have been appalling. Shame on her editor for letting this talent drift.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Happy ending,
This review is from: Renegade's Magic (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 3): Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy (Paperback)Give Hobb her due : she had a plan, and she stuck to it in spite of critics and scoffers. This plan was epic in scope : to show the clash of civilisations, plain dwellers vs forest dwellers, newcomers vs. older settlers, animism vs polytheism vs monotheism and so forth, while at the same time spanning centuries of history, from a state resembling pre-colombian America and the subsequent encroachment of European settlers moving westward ruthlessly, to one that echoes today's Amazon being gashed through and through by new roads. Thanks to Nevare, all these threads will be reconciled in the end as he learns to integrate his schizophrenic self and becomes a citizen of a new world, aware of the goodness and magic of the worlds he has experienced and assimilated on the way.
The fact is that it does not wholly come alive ; and that one is left with a sense that allegory and good intentions are no match for careful, original plotting.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow conclusion to a slow series,
This review is from: Renegade's Magic (Soldier Son Trilogy) (Hardcover)The conclusion to Robin Hobb's "Soldier Son" trilogy, Renegade's Magic, is much like the first two books in the series. This has to be one of the most slow-moving, in-depth character and fantasy-setting studies that I have ever read. I greatly enjoyed the first two books (Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage), but as the pace remained glacial, my love for the series waned a bit. Once again, I love Hobb's characterization skills but it was almost a chore to get through this book. Not a good way to end a series, but still not bad.
Hobb has created a wonderfully detailed society in the Specks, and she spends a lot of time in Renegade's Magic exploring it as Navarre and Soldier's Boy try to come to terms with what's become of them. This book, as is the rest of the series, is told in first person by Navarre, but for much of the book Navarre is a disembodied presence in Soldier's Boy's body. Thus, we get many passages of Navarre being horrified by what Soldier's Boy is doing with his body, of Navarre trying to either take control of the body or of him trying to influence Soldier's Boy's thinking. Narratively, I'm sure there's a reason for it, but occasionally it becomes obvious that Hobb needed time to pass quickly so she has Soldier's Boy cause Navarre to disappear for a while. Since we see through Navarre's eyes, we don't see anything until he wakes up again.
I did greatly appreciate the depth that Hobb brings to Navarre and to Soldier's Boy as well, the latter of which is even more impressive given the fact that we only see him through Navarre's eyes. Yes, one could say that this entire series is a 2000+ page character study of Navarre, in addition to a fantasy examination of the struggles between nature and science/technology, but the character study is the most interesting part. Hobb's characterization skills come to the fore once again, and my interest in Navarre is what kept me going through some of the slower passages.
Sadly, the climax of the book brings the societal conflict to a close in an almost paint-by-numbers format. When Nevarre finally realizes what he has to do, he quickly goes about doing it and in the process uncovers some of the nuggets Hobb buried in the previous book in order to make the ending even more convenient. The tension between the two societies was delicious, as well as the struggle by the Specks to find some way to combat the building of the road. It's just too bad most of the book feels like Navarre and Soldier's Boy pounding their heads against the wall until suddenly everything becomes clear.
Renegade's Magic, and consequently the rest of the "Soldier's Son" series, isn't for everybody. Some will find the slow pace extremely annoying and will put the first book down long before getting into the story. If the thought of this kind of story repels you, I would think you would have to be a big Hobb fan in order to enjoy it. It even battered me down at times, with the books getting increasingly harder to get through. I still think they are worth the journey, though, and Renegade's Magic is a fitting conclusion to everything that came before. It's an interesting experiment, and while I'm not sure I want to read something like this again too soon, I don't feel my time has been wasted.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked the trilogy,
What you've got to accept with the Soldiers son Trilogy is that the character is been driven against his will by the magic and so sometimes he comes out as a bit of "whing bag". Get past that and you can enjoy the books more. The Renegades magic is a really good ending to a really good trilogy. There are a few twists in the ending but what I liked about this final book was the whole battle with his other self and the magic. Robin Hobb then ties up all the loose ends in the final few chapters in an adept way albeit one or two parts are a little mushy. Highly recommended.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know what you're getting into...,
This review is from: Renegade's Magic (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 3): Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy (Paperback)I choose to write this review more generally about the whole soldier son trilogy. Most of the reviews so far have made unfavourable references to the frankly awe-inspiring assassin/liveship/fool trilogies. I, however, don't think a comparison can reasonably be made. Superficially there are similarities between the styles of writing from Fitz and Nevarre (respective narrators of the books) - both are highy emotionally compelling character explorations told from the point of view of a character who is both protagonist and unwilling recipient of many of the events driving both stories. The books are confessionals of the struggle in these characters to do 'the right thing.'
There however the similarity ends. The soldier son books are set in an entirely different world (still equally fantastical) and contemporary with colonial technology and values, though in fact the same story could probably be transplanted onto any number of time periods. While the setting is largely militaristic (book one takes place predominately in a military academy, book two in a military outpost and book three in the opposing camp) little of the text is concerned with warfare - indeed the descriptions of any actual warfare are few and far between. If that is what you seek in a similar temporal setting, then I'd suggest reading bernard cornwell's sharpe series.
Instead, this series focusses on polar tensions. There are actually three societies comprising the world in which the books take place. The Plainspeople, the Gernians and the Specks. the first of these seem largely incidental to the story and seem to exist mostly to flesh out the world. This is not necessarily a bad thing but one does get a sense of unfulfillment from them. The other two societies, conversely are fantastically realised. We have the colonial-esque Gernians and the more traditionally fantasy-based tree people (the Specks). Both societies, and their drastically conflicting values are deeply explored, and the tension between the beliefs of each society creates a deliciously tense setting. Even the idea that they are at war is fascinating as neither really understands the concept in the manner of the other. Indeed, the Gernians are unaware that the specks consider themselves at war with them., while the Speck make war on them by spreading disease and discontent. The setting seems to be designed to highlight the contrast between urban expansion and natural harmony, and the 'war' between the peoples seems just to be a realisation of the deeper tension that exists as a result of urban encroachment on the natural environment.
This polarization is further explored with the protagonist, Nevarre Burvelle. Hobb takes the unique step of separating Nevarre into two distinct entities: Nevarre and Soldier's Boy. Intriguingly our narrator is only one of these two personalities - thus we have a series narrated by half a person - a concept that is truly fascinating and endlessly intriguing. Our narrator is principally the Gernian half of Nevarre, though he certainly has much sympathy for the specks, while his opposing half, Soldier's Boy appears to be primarily Speck in outlook - though the few glimpses we get of Soldier's Boy's sympathy for the Gernians suggest at a character who is equally as troubled with his conscience as Nevarre.
Conscience as it turns out plays a major role in the narrative. It forces one to question whether Nevarre really is literally split in two, or simply exploring his own actions and atrocities against the two opposing peoples. His loyalty by default is Gernian, but only the specks treat him well because he's fat. Yup. Fat. Huge in fact.
So here's another theme of the novel. Prejudice. Nevarre becomes hugely fat during book two as a result of becoming a mage. Suddenly he is ostracised by his own society, even his own family, and revered by the Specks. The exploration of people's attitudes towards fat people are not something one would expect in this genre, but the book carries it off fantastically. Here we have a hero who is physically un-heroic, indeed for much of book three he is not even in control of his body, we see through his eyes what soldier's boy does as becomes the personification of soldier's boy's conscience. To read a book told from the perspective of someone's conscience is an experience I will not soon forget.
I have heard criticisms of the magic system in the book as being "clumsy" or "impenetrable." I actually like the latter, though I see it as a compliment rather than a criticism. The eponymous "Forest Mage" is not our narrator Nevarre, but rather Soldier's Boy. We are not privy to soldier's Boy's thoughts, and thus the magic remains just that - magic. Nevarre doesn't know how it works, and so it should be. We use the idea of magic to describe phenomena we cannot fully comprehend. Nevarre dabbles, but certainly doesn't know what he's doing or how he's doing it. Interestingly there seem to be two different uses of the term magic. One is in the more traditional sense - a power to achieve incredible things such as fast travel, or an influence on people's emotions. The second use seems more intangible. It seems to refer to magic, or more properly in this usage "the magic" as an entity. Perhaps it could be more easily imagined as fate. If "the magic" wants something to happen, it happens. I rather like the usage, especially as it appears to be a version of fate that has an active and opposable component.
Nevarre is a wonderful character to read, though he may not always be terribly likable, and as with all Hobbs characters, sometimes you want to bang his head against the wall and explain the thing he can't seem to comprehend. I suspect he was also a joy to write. His incarnation as half a personality, gives a fascinating perspective and is something few writers have attempted. David Gemmell's Dark Moon did something similar, but on a much smaller scale. Make no mistake, this series is on an epic scale. We have 2000 pages of extraordinary character realisation. I have just discussed Nevarre, but the fabulous three dimensional characters that Hobb builds up around him are a joy to behold. Epiny in particular is exquisitely drawn, albeit from Nevarre's perspective, as she strives towards an early concept of feminism.
This series is slow. Glacially slow, and yet contains very little filler. It's also horrendously addictive. I found myself blasting through the whole series in three days. If you want fast paced high fantasy this is not for you. Even avid Robin Hobb fans brought up on a diet of Fitz and the Fool may wish to pass this one by, but if you like your fantasy to challenge your expectations and make you think, then I can think of few finer series.
To end on a lighter note, one does get the distinct impression from time to time that the venerable Ms. Hobb may have been on a diet while writing this. Some of the descriptions of the food that the specks lavish on Nevarre are salivation-inducing. Do not, under any circumstances, read this series (or at least the latter two books) without access to a well stocked fridge...
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Renegade's Magic (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 3): Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb (Paperback - 1 July 2008)