Review: The Farseer & Liveship Traders trilogies, by Robin Hobb

This is not so much a proper review as just a few musings on these books. Because they are fantastic.

Robin Hobb has been one of my favourite epic fantasy authors for years. I’ve read the Farseer Trilogy and the Liveship Traders more often than I can count, and have also read and enjoyed the Tawny Man trilogy and the Soldier Son books. In the last year I’ve been on a bit of a binge of new epic fantasy, but on a whim I decided to reread all nine Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man books before reading Hobb’s newer Rain Wild books. A couple months, six books, and several thousand pages later I have no regrets!

These books are massive, but to me they are completely gripping. I read all 903 pages of Ship of Destiny in less than five days over New Years, despite everything else going on. What amazes me are the characters. I remember on a previous reading of one of the Farseer books getting so annoyed at the protagonist Fitz that I threw the book across the room, only to have to rush to grab it and find out what happened next. All the characters are vividly three-dimensional, having complex but understandable personalities and histories, and frequently making mistakes. A key theme of all the books is how the decisions of individuals shape the destiny of all, and that these decisions are often made for selfish reasons.

The Liveship Traders has always been my favourite of Hobb’s trilogies. I think it’s because I love the serpent, dragon, and Elderling plotlines, and how they are slowly explored and woven into every part of the story. I have a weakness for a good resurgence of magic story, and who doesn’t like dragons? Everything about the liveships is fascinating, particularly the theme of memories becoming life, which was also touched on in the Farseer trilogy.

I think I appreciated the Farseer trilogy more this time around. Maybe I’m more accepting of Fitz’s many imperfections. I’m about a hundred pages into Fool’s Errand, the first Tawny Man book, where he is once more the main character, and I think I’m also enjoying this trilogy more this time. I’ve only read the Tawny Man trilogy once before, and at the time I didn’t like it as much as the other trilogies. We shall see how I go this time!

 

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