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Merle

Merle

Renegade's Magic (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 3) - Robin Hobb I loved Shaman's Crossing and thought Forest Mage was okay, but Renegade's Magic was just too much.

The narrative point-of-view is probably the biggest problem here. Again, we have first-person from Nevare's perspective--the problem is, Nevare's alter ego takes over his body, and he spends most of the 700-page book as an observer. At this point, I've had it with Nevare's impotence. I don't require incredibly decisive protagonists (thought he was great in book one, when he was relatable), but when they lack free will and literally cannot control their own actions, it bothers me. There are a number of ways the author could have made this trilogy more palatable: for instance (1) by writing it in the third person, using 3-4 POV characters, (2) by using a different narrator for each book and having Nevare narrate only #1 or (3) by letting Nevare become an army officer and come to similar situations of his own free will. Hobb does none of these, so the reading becomes increasingly frustrating.

Like Forest Mage, Renegade's Magic comes in around 700 pages long and probably should have been 150 pages or so shorter. In earlier books the plot might have been slow but was always moving; here we get a dozen appearances by Orandula where one would do. Dialogue started to bother me here as well, as it has little in common with the way real people talk. Worse, interesting and important plot events happen in Nevare's absence. There's barely a climax--certainly nothing worthy of 2000 pages' reading--and the resolution was unsatisfying. Plus, there are some key continuity errors. For instance, Epiny has a brother. His name is Hotorn. The author seems to have forgotten his existence, along with that of Nevare's younger brother. (Someone please correct me if Hotorn died and I just forgot.)

There are still things to like here: we see more of the world and especially the Speck culture, which is fascinating, as are many of the supporting characters. There is also a handful of very well-written and memorable moments. I wish that certain supporting characters would have played larger roles, though; in a book that plumbs so deeply into the psyches and relationships of the characters, it's not good to be left wondering why certain characters (Nevare and Epiny, Nevare and Amzil) care about each other so much. And using only Nevare's perspective while he spends most of the book with the Specks means key supporting characters like Yaril never appear at all, while others have minimal screen time.

I still recommend Shaman's Crossing, but cannot recommend reading further in the trilogy.