For some reason, I’d been putting off reading Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy. Partly, I think, because it hadn’t received the wholly glowing reviews of her other works on Goodreads, and partly because I’d been so sucked in to the worlds of Fitz and the Fool and the Elderlings, and didn’t think that stories set elsewhere would satisfy me. It wasn’t until I was bemoaning the fact that I still hadn’t got my hands on the latest Fitz trilogy that I decided to give The Soldier Son a go. It turns out that it’s just as good as her other works, pulling me bodily into the world of Nevare Burvelle, son of a new noble in a country that is rigidly structured along class lines.
In Gernia, the sons of every family have their destinies already mapped out for them. The first son is the heir, the second son a soldier, the third a priest, and so on. The second son of a new noble, Nevare has been raised to become a part of the military. We meet Nevare as he gets his education – first at the hands of the tutors at home, then at the hands of one of the plainspeople who are counted by the Gernians as foes, before joining the Academy as a cadet to receive his military education. Whilst with Dewara, his tutor in the ways of the plainspeople, Nevare learns about their magic, as well as being touched by the deadly magic of the Specks, forest-dwelling folk who are seen as foes by the Gernians and plainspeople alike. But it’s not until he joins the Academy that things get really tough. While making friendships amongst his platoon of sons of new nobles, Nevare encounters prejudice, spite and cruelty from the sons of the old nobles (who see the newer nobles as beneath them in every way), and even from those supposedly in command.
While Shaman’s Crossing is a slow-burner, being more concerned with character than momentum, I loved every second of this, even while I was railing at the world’s injustices and praying for the deaths of some of the shower of shits surrounding Nevare. I’m intrigued as to how things will change over the coming books and looking forward to learning more about the Specks, who have so far been set up as the trilogy’s Big Bad, although I’m sure that view will change as things progress. It won’t be long before I find out as I’m diving straight in to the next.