1. That koalas, cute though they may be, are actually incredibly gross animals who basically feed their babies poo, and who are so dumb they can’t even recognize a eucalyptus leaf when it’s removed from a branch and offered to them.
2. The Spanish Inquisition.
3. To three-star most of this series.
This is one of those series (and authors) people have been recommending to me for yearrrrs now. And many of them have done so while telling me it’s one of their favorites. So, no pressure or anything. Actually I’m being serious. I don’t give a poop about hype or pressure or whatever. I find it very easy to ignore what other people think of things and form my own opinions. (This is one of the reasons I don’t understand why people go on and on about hype, negatively or positively. Different people like different things, and I find it simplest to assume that if someone tells you they like something, it’s because they actually like it, and if I don’t, it’s not a big deal or my fault or the book’s fault or whatever else. The End.) But regardless, I didn’t expect to have such a hard time with this series. I had the most luck with the first book, but in retrospect, I think that’s because it was the shortest of the three. There are lots of factors at play here, I think:
- The pace and style. Hobb uses first person POV, something that most epic fantasies avoid. We are necessarily limited to Fitz’s perspective; even a close third person would give more of a view to what’s happening outside his head. And events do not happen quickly, shall we say. She also dwells on incidents (in service of tone) I’d prefer she would have skipped. This is obviously personal preference.
- Fitz is not super pleasant and wonderful. I find him, in fact, to be infuriating. I know he’s had a hard life and everything, but at the end of the day, he’s stubborn, oblivious, a bit uncaring and selfish, impulsive, and headstrong. He’s not super empathetic or understanding. He’s unappreciative and willful, and very much stuck in his own head. And so are we. This whole series is him growing up and out of a lot of those things; I do get that. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
- I find the behavior of most of the characters in regards to a couple of things extremely annoying. Prince Regal is the most obvious of all villains, but for some reason, every character except Fitz (who is otherwise practically useless) cannot see this, and refuses to take action, right from the very first book. As a result, I had a super hard time caring when Regal fucked everything up for all of them, because they could have all very easily prevented it by having him jailed and disinherited after the first 250 pages of book one. I also REALLY hate everyone’s inexplicable hatred of people who are Witted (animal magic). The basis for this is NEVER explained, and it never made sense to me why it disgusted people so much. And there weren’t any characters in the middle, like there would be in real life, who had more reasonable views about it. Only people who fully embraced it, or loathed it (including Burrich, who should have fucking known better).
- Fitz’s life is a neverending shitstorm of terrible things. He’s a tragic character, and that’s baked in, but for me the balance was way off. If you don’t have a good balance between terrible and good and great and mundane things in a character’s life, it just becomes tedious and unenjoyable to read about. The tragic is only truly tragic when it’s sitting beside those other things for comparison. Tragic thing after tragic thing after tragic thing just becomes numbing after a while.
- The second two books, especially this one, were too long. Too indulgent. One could argue this as “character work”, but even if we left some of what I view as unnecessary in, at least half of it could have been cut out.
I think it might have helped if I’d done the audiobooks instead. I find that slower paced books like this are easier to read that way, and the pressure to finish in the 2-4 days I normally like to finish books in is diminished. I do want to keep going in this series and give it another chance in different circumstances, because I’ve heard later books are great. But if I pick up any of Hobb’s books up again, I’m definitely switching to audio. I just had suuuuch a hard time getting through this. It took me months, and I nearly always would rather have been reading something else. Like the first two books, though, once I got to the climax and ending, things picked up considerably and I remembered why I was still reading the series in the first place.
[2.5 stars, rounded up for the ending]