This entry will be slightly different than the grid normally posted.
I started “Shaman’s Crossing”, the first book in Robin Hobb’s “Soldier Son” trilogy, on the 6th of January. Within 96 hours, I have read 464 of its 632 pages, just under three quarters.
The story is engaging, and has the customary flair for worldly descriptiveness. The main character is torn between two worlds, one he thinks he wants and one he is being forced towards but does not want. There are two concurrent conflicts, one within the world he thinks he wants, and a looming one from a different world that is drawing him in against his will.
While drastically different from the Six Duchies, Bingtown or the Rain Wilds, the story has got me turning the pages in spite of myself.
Yet, Goodreads tells me that the book rates at 3.36 out of 5, an average of just over ten thousand reviews for it on the site. The book, and the series as a whole, sit almost a full ratings point under the others three series, which all average around 4.1. Reviews from people who have loved the other series were scathing in some cases, putting it in ‘never to be finished’ pile of their bookshelf, or ripping into almost every character within it.
Why such a vicious response from some people?
The root of it is the fact that the story is not based in the world of the Six Duchies and the Rain Wilds. When so many readers hold a particular story world so highly in their esteem, the author attempting another story in a completely new world must be a particular shock to the system. The world is in essence Frontier America, a stark change to the more traditional English Medieval of the other series. The different world breed different characters, and a different way of things. The author does well to flesh out the ‘new world’.
Being a new story world, it seems that extra steps are being taken by the author in terms of world building. Whether it is to unequivocally demonstrate to the reader that we are somewhere completely new, or the author herself is trying to get her own mindset away from what must be a dearly held creation, it must have come across as overbearing to some. How that is possible, unless the readers were new to Robin Hobb, is hard to understand. Her eye for detail in description has never been frugal.
Different people like different things, but for those who loved her other works to so completely turn on the world of the “Soldier Son” trilogy is very surprising. I am enjoying the change of pace, and the groundwork being laid for the next two books has me interested. If anything, it may need some persistence from the reader to get into, which I recommend they do. The world of a novice assassin would likely be considered more interesting than that of a first year army cadet for a first book in a series, but respect must be given for attempting something new when one could easily stay in the same world and ‘cash in’.
Speaking of ‘cashing in’, a new series is due out in August this year. FitzChivalry Farseer and The Fool will be back, and we may be introduced to another new world. Let’s see if the reception to it plays out differently…