Book Review: Renegade's Magic: Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb
rating: 4 of 5 stars
This, the final book in the Soldier Son Trilogy is a great book. While not rushed, none of the slow pacing problems that bothered me in the first two books appear in Renegade's Magic.
If you have read Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage, you should definitely read this book. If you are thinking of starting the entire trilogy, I would recommend it. The pacing is way too slow for my tastes in parts of the first two books, but the characters and the world make it worth reading even so.
This book follows Nevare Burvelle as he moves deep into Spec society. Specs are the mountain people whose shaman's spirits live on in magic trees that the Gernians (and Nevare is a Gernian) are trying to cut down to build a road to the sea. Civilization vs. Tree Huggers cranked up to eleven. We've seen Gernian society from the inside in the previous books, now we see the other side. He follows the Specs to their winter homes, where the climate resembles the Pacific Northwest where Hobb lives.
Hobb immerses her readers into the world view of hunter gatherers confounded by the approach of "civilization." It's not simply Specs are good, Gernians are bad, but she illustrates how alien they are from each other. Both sides do terrible things, and neither has a clue about the other.
This story is really an echo of the settling of the west by white America, but in a topsy turvy fantasy setting, where west and east are flipped, and the settlers have a blend of middle ages and western frontier culture.
Hobb manages to bring out strong emotion as you live the successes and failures of her characters. Navare/Soldier's Boy battles his own two selves, and both are drawn to Lisana, who wants to rejoin these two personalities living in the same body. Navare's feisty cousin Epiny, drawn up as a combination of suffragette, mystic, and frontier women remained the strongest, and funniest, supporting character.
There are many plot twists, and pretty much every character's arc is wrapped up. At one point, the entire story seems wrapped up, but there are over a hundred pages left in the book. At that time Hobb does her biggest twist, and starts it off with some serious creepiness.
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