Review: The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

Title: The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince
Series: Realm of the Elderlings 0.2 | Farseer Trilogy 0.5
Published by: Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0007498136
ISBN 13: 9780007498130
Published: October 2013
Pages: 157
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Realm of the Elderlings

The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince (novella) focuses on two generations. Told by Felicity it starts when she’s very young, and pushed by her mother to make herself indispensable to the Princess Caution. Her mother being the Princess’ wetnurse. She goes as far as allowing Felicity to be taken and kept at the castle even after her services are no longer required, incredibly determined that her daughter will have a better life than she has.

Sure enough, Princess Caution and Felicity grow up together. Her mother comes back to wetnurse occasionally, and often counsels Felicity in what to do or say, with it often being to always keep Caution happy, always support her, take the blame where possible, and make it that she’s always around so that she also happens to learn exactly what Caution does. So she learns to read and write, history, and all the rest of it. Though she’s careful to never let the princess see that she may be smarter than her in some areas.

Time passes. Felicity indeed remains by Caution’s side throughout her life, and goes on to be wetnurse to Caution’s own child, Charger. Because her mother told her to get pregnant by any means as soon as Caution is, and then takes a dreadful tonic that brings on early birth so that she is available to Charger from his very first night.

The second half of the book is about Charger and Felicity’s son, Redbird, who, like Caution and Felicity before them grew to be close throughout their young lives. Redbird is always there for Charger through thick and thin, and goes onto be his minstrel, forsworn to sing always the truth and nothing else. It’s Redbird himself who asked his mother, Felicity, to write this book so that the truth of it all can be remembered, though if it’s lost for a few decades in the castle’s scroll library then so be it.

I first read this when it came out in 2013, and back then my comment was ‘Beyond all expectations, beyond beautiful and such a joy to read.’ This remains to be true – back then my expectations would be high as they are now, and it was still better than I remembered. Robin Hobb will always have a special place in my heart. I’m so very behind in this challenge that Bethwyn and I are doing, and it’s not because I find her work hard to read (even though it’s sometimes pretty depressing), because it’s always so well-written that it’s a joy to read, regardless.

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Books Upcoming: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (Teixcalaan #1)

Release Date: 26 March 2019

Tor Books

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

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The first four chapters make up this preview, and introduce both the universe (literally) and Mahit to us. In this world technology exists to have memories and knowledge uploaded and shared, which allows them to be used, for example, by ambassadors to have a full and expansive history passed down by predecessors to the current holder of the position.

Mahit only has one predecessor to learn from, and his knowledge is 15 years out of date, as the prior ambassador didn’t get in contact with his home world for a long time before he vanished, and a new one was requested by the empire. Yskandr, in his memory form, is about the same age as Mahit, and they’re still learning how to get along and work together.

As the blurb alludes to, this is going to be a murder mystery (but set in space), with the political complexities that come with trying to figure out who killed her predecessor without insulting anyone, getting killed herself, or causing offence. There are several cultures described to the reader that make things that could otherwise be simple, perhaps not, and then there’s the whole big thing about the huge empire that isn’t letting anything stand in its way just to ramp up the fun.

I’m already in love with the memory-implant idea from reading Aliette de Bodard’s work and I’m thrilled to be able to read another take on it. I hope to get my hands on the rest of the book because this preview alone isn’t going to let me sleep tonight. Luckily, the rest is out in a few days.

Review: Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis

Series: The Harwood Spellbook #2
Published by: Five Fathoms Press
ASIN: B07N1R1MSP
Published: February 2019
Pages: 186
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Spellswept – The Harwood Spellbook #0.5 | Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook #1)

We’re back with Cassandra and her supportive small family, with the new edition of her niece.

We rejoin them right on the cusp of the opening of the Thornfell College of Magic to see that she’s realised her dream and made it a reality. If Angland is still going to stick so firmly to tradition and expect women to run the world and the men to deal with magic then the Harwood family will break the ice themselves – with Cassandra’s brother being the first in the family to not study magic, and Cassandra being the first woman to not only attend the stuffy main college all men of good standing do, but then to also open her own, and train other women.

Only nothing is ever easy, especially when it comes to Cassandra. Several delegates from the Boudiccate arrive to follow each lesson and make note of whether the school is safe, and in amongst the delegates is a woman who bullied Cassandra when she was young and seems to be hellbent on ensuring no one in the Harwood family has any happiness. Including Amy, Cassandra’s older sister-in-law.

The themes throughout the novel continue to revolve around family, and bucking tradition, especially when tradition doesn’t suit as many people as it maybe did once long ago. It’s empowering that we see adults putting differences aside and being able to understand and forgive, whilst also supporting those who have to make tough decisions.

The fey feature again in this story, and I love how we get real descriptions of them – their hair, their fingers, all seeming made of the forest, and much better than the ‘more beautiful than anyone can stand’ line I’ve seen in novels I’ve read lately, which, while true is harder to picture.

We also have everyone’s least favourite weather-wizard back but like I said, nothing around Cassandra is ever easy. Let’s hope some woman taints him irreversibly sometime soon and he settles down to be a good house-husband somewhere soon.

My favourite line in the novel is sadly a spoiler so I won’t post it here, but I will say that it’s said by Wrexham and bucks expectation by gender yet again, as we can always rely upon when it comes to this series. I love it!

Most importantly is the friendship between Cassandra and Amy. You don’t often get to see good matches between sisters-in-law – they usually hate each other for some strange reason – but here we have two women who care deeply about each other, and I love that, too.

Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Published by: Orbit
ISBN: 0356506991
ISBN 13: 9780356506999
Published: February 2019
Pages: 432
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

As a preamble I haven’t read Leckie’s ‘Imperial Radch’ series; I tried and didn’t manage to get through the first book simply because I didn’t get it though I appreciate that it exists, for sure. I simply didn’t feel smart enough to read it, like how some may struggle to read Shakespeare.

This is Leckie’s first fantasy novel – a genre I’m more comfortable in than science fiction (as much as I love it) so I thought I’d give it a go – Leckie is an amazing writer, after all. Immediately upon starting the book you see that she’s still doing clever things, writing in the usually-avoided second-person narrative, usually reserved for Choose Your Own Adventure books. It soon becomes apparent that that’s not what this is at all – this is a God, who is omnisciently witnessing everything that comes before it. By page six I was hooked.

There are two interwoven storylines, one present and one past, one where the God is talking about their very early days and the trials and tribulations that come with having anything and everything you say becoming immediately true – and one where the God is following young Eolo, who has come with his Lord Mawat (basically a Prince) who has returned home from fighting on the border to be told that his father has disappeared, and the power-hungry uncle has taken over the leadership ‘for the good of the people’. Eolo sounds like a farmer’s boy which lends people to underestimate him, giving chance for Eolo to hopefully discover what really happened to Mawat’s father.

This book is really very gripping – political intrigue aside – as it explores many different Gods and what takes up their time as hundreds and thousands of years pass by. The human characters, too, are interesting. I especially liked Tikaz who has been friends with Mawat since they were children, yet certainly is not in love with him. Daughter to one of the powerful advisors to first Mawat’s father and then his uncle, she is not without her own power which was excellent to see.

A very, very satisfying ending, too.

Review: Merry Happy Valkyrie by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ASIN: B07K8QF79W
Published: November 2018
Pages: 89
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

Lief is going home for Christmas. ‘Home’ is a remote part of Tasmania that rarely gets visitors, all for a very good reason. People who head in that direction get side-tracked, turned around, or face car travel, and few actually make it anywhere near the mountain – let alone up it.

She did the one thing that no one from Mount Valkyrie ever does, and that’s ‘leave the mountain’. After university she just never came back, and instead got a job with a television station as a meteorologist. And that’s something that a few family members have never forgiven her for.

So, one Christmas when being nagged to come home – she does. And brings a junior camera girl with her to get some footage of the infamous mountain that always seems to have snow on it no matter what the weather is like in the rest of Tasmania. She hopes this will satisfy the nosy parkers and will buy her family and friends some peace before the gossip starts up again.

Because there is something strange and mysterious about the mountain. And Lief is doing her bit to protect it, just like the rest of her family.

Only she isn’t the only one with a camera up the mountain, and isn’t the only one who brought others back with her. And then, because of course nothing can be simple, the mountain possible has its own plans to protect its interests… and they possibly don’t align with anyone else.

 

It seems that every thing Tansy brings out makes me want to (nicely) steal her, lock her up to her laptop, and have my own private writing women forever because I don’t know how I’ll survive without more of x, y, z right now. Problematic, no? Especially how it changes, and if I did steal Tansy to write more whatever forever then maybe the next amazing thing wouldn’t happen. So for the greater good, and y’know, Chidi-morals, I should leave her where she is.

This is everything I never knew I wanted. Tansy could possibly write some kind of hidden mystery behind a phone book and I’d still wanna steal her BUT this, seriously, is amazing. I want a crow of my own. I don’t want to detail specifically everything I adore about this as, since it’s a novella, it’s hard to get into details without heading into spoiler territory and this is one of the better ones to leave to the reader to discover as it happens.

So basically, absolutely amazing. I love everything Tansy does, but this is above the rest slightly. So that’s saying a lot, and I can’t wait to read more. Especially involving crows.