Monday, 28 May 2012

The Farseer Trilogy or 'There and not back again.'

I picked this trilogy up on browsing through Amazon's review lists. I'm trying a few 'epic'(?) fantasy series, not generally my normal fare but Game of Thrones brought me in. Normally I like the posh stuff, classics n' that but general recommendations were positive and Robin Hobb was on a number of readers' 'best' lists. This trilogy was up there or there about on many lists too.They're books I thought and I like books. I'll give them a go.

Nice metallicy covers.

Inititally, it took me couple of efforts to get past the first five pages. Not sure why. Perhaps having just finished reading George RR Martin's 'progress' in The Game of Thrones series, I guess I wanted something with the visceral immediacy of Westeros and its brutality and its sex. That's all here. But the pace is more measured, it's relatively less complex certainly and all is from a single point of view - Fitz the royal bastard - and not multiple perspectives. Having been bound to the story of the child Fitz like some sort of Wit-beast I soon grew into the story. Some of the phrasing flummoxed me somewhat - maybe they are Americanised sentence structures - but generally the narrative is fluent, engagingly descriptive and the world of the Six Duchies and The Mountain Kingdoms is soundly realised.
The narrative is also helped by the 'magical' element, if you can call it that. It's not sorcery and spells per se, the power is called the Skill and is a sort of mind control/telepathy/seeing from afar type thing. This helps bring in other parts of the story that are running narratively in sequence with the man action without the need for other perspectives or drifting from the location of the current point of the narrative. Also, to a lesser extent, this is true of The Wit - an animal bonding power, apparently much frowned upon in the Six Duchies However, apart from the bonds Fitz creates with particular animals there are elements of The Wit which are largely left to the side - oddly even when other characters with the same ability cross his path. Missed opportunity?
Maybe not. He's a bit of a loner see? Fitz. Not always a nice guy. Selfish. Humanly faulty. Sometimes I thought he was right, sometimes what happens isn't 'fair' and sometimes the arrogance of his youth is stunning. He does develop. As does the wolf. As does the charming (eventually) King's Fool. The assassin master Chade and the other characters too. No spoilers you can read the story yourself...I like the fact Fitz is not the all powerful magic man who comes through in the end. Though he sort of does. Well he would wouldn't he? He's just a  catalyst - so everyone keeps tellng him.
I don't feel that there is much difference in quality or pace in the three instalments - a criticism sometimes flung at Martin. The criticism seems to be that the ending is a bit short. I can see that but didn't mind that at all. It said what it had to. Did what it had to. I feel the point of the ending was made efficiently. I think people wanted more battle and more magic at the end. Not sure it would have made any difference.
Just one final point. I really enjoyed reading it. That's the point. And as soon as I put it down my son (14) picked it up and charged through it too. There are a few dodgy moments but as I said it's not Game of Thrones -and the language while advanced is accessible. He loves the idea of the Wit and has renamed our pets after the names of the 'witted' animals in the text. He thought Nighteyes wa s especially 'cool' - We are pack he said. I'm not even sure his lips moved.
Give it a go.


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