Returning to the fictional universe of a favoured author is often fraught with disappointment, much like returning to the playing grounds of your childhood: nothing is quite as you thought; nothing is as enjoyable or perfect.
A few years ago Robin Hobb released the first in a new series of books that I felt were horrible. I could not even finish the first book, and subsequently my entire opinion of her writing was tarnished. I had come to her late – she had already finished all nine of her Elderlings books and had written the Soldier Son trilogy which so many people had disliked – and so to have new material put in front of me only to so dislike it was truly disappointing.
I may need to go back and revisit those books, because having just read her novella ‘The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince’ I feel I may have done her an injustice.
Reading Hobb’s original trilogy will reveal to the interested party mention of this tale, a tale passed down through the ages of how a pretender to the throne was thwarted by the rightful heir. Needless to say, history is written by the victors and this novella sets the record straight – as I believe was hinted at throughout Hobb’s original trilogy.
The story is told in two parts: part one is entitled ‘The Wilful Princess’ and is the better of the two, being a traditional first person narrative of events. The second part – ‘The Piebald Prince’ – is told from the perspective of the same narrator, but based mostly on events as told to the narrator by another party, which creates a distressing mode to the story. Throughout much of the tale the narrator continually refers to the desire of the original teller for truth in the retelling, and how that same teller related events to her, and therefore they were true.
It is a device that was not done very well, but could have been excellent if left to the right hands.
Nevertheless the story that is portrayed – a single long story told over two parts – is quite enthralling and kept me entertained right till the end. It was fantastic to return to the world of Buck Keep and the Six Duchies, the Farseer line and the world of Witted and non. It makes me crave for time to reread Hobb’s original trilogy.
If you’re a fan of the Elderlings trilogy of trilogies, then you’ll definitely want to pick this novella up. However, if you’re new to Hobb, I would recommend going back to the beginning, as there is enough to persecute a readers mind as to make it frustrating.
Review by Joshua S Hill
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