Discussion Post: Homecoming by Robin Hobb

Homecoming is the very start to the Realm of the Elderlings – a world that consists of five short stories, one novella, and 16 novels.

You can read my review of Homecoming here, and Bethwyn’s blog here.

 

Bethwyn: So we come to our first short! And I really enjoyed my time with this one. I think this really showed how Robin Hobb can create a character and then use that character to really introduce you to the world – she was showing us so much through the diary entry format that I felt like I was kind of there! That world does not seem pleasant, though.

We begin with Day 7 of the Fish Moon, with our main character (who is a bit… what’s the polite way to say ‘horrid’?) who is on the ship Venture and is extremely dissatisfied with their living conditions.

 

Katharine: I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t be too happy to be pregnant, two kids in tow, and having had to pack everything away onto some ship… but her issues seem to be more that she feels that people aren’t showing proper diffidence to her status. She expects her family should have better provisions, that certain people should be offering company, that others shouldn’t dare speak to them and so on.

 

Bethwyn: Yeh. It seems that Hobb really sets her up to be unlikeable in the beginning, which I thought was an interesting stance to take. But as we slowly begin to experience her entries into her diary, we learn more and kind of begin to understand – along with the main character – what is actually happening. I kind of began to like seeing things through her eyes, in a strange way.

 

Katharine: Originally she believed that they were on board as willing investors to colonise the Cursed Shores. Then it turns out that her husband (and so she and their children) are being sent away in disgrace as a way to earn their way back into society. The plan is that ships will follow next Spring to bring supplies and if, by then, that they’ve established lands and discovered gold and jewels that were supposedly left there, that they’ll give half to their king and then be welcomed back into Jamaillia.

This is a pretty rude awakening for her, and it only gets worse from there as they finally arrive only to find the land isn’t fertile at all. The river that they go down to that connects the sea to the land starts to eat away at the wood of their ships. The boggy lands make it difficult to walk in and also eat away at any material it touches – shoes, hems of clothing, etc. Skin is left with rashes and sores.

They don’t see any riches, and the land seems actively hostile. The thieves and other expats from the ship are soon left barely able to sleep and no clue what they’re meant to do next.

 

Bethwyn: Rude awakening indeed! Honestly, it seems like people start dropping like flies. The captain of the ship they’re on basically dumps them and leaves – he can’t afford for his ship to get eaten away anymore, which I get, but he can see that the people have very little chance of surviving in this new place, and yet…

Anyway, our protagonist spends a bit of time complaining and still thinking everyone is below her station – etc. etc. – but then kind of sinks into a depression of sorts. Understandable, given the conditions. She also (still pregnant, I might add) starts to have unusual thoughts and feel like the place isn’t completely uninhabited?

 

Katharine: Some of them start hearing voices, or hearing singing. They search for stable ground they can live on and ways they can sleep without sinking into mud, and also what food and water they can safely consume.

Then Lady Sarillion’s husband leaves. A party say they’re going to head out and see what they can possibly find and with them they take the majority of supplies.

Through limited remaining options our protagonist has to mix with the commoners. There are other pregnant women there, and one of the sailors seems quite intelligent despite his lack of formal education (shocking, I know).

But the singing is still there, and sometimes, in their wandering around, if they brush up against something they have visions of a busy marketplace, or other visions they can only assume are from the past when this dense marshlands was instead part of a bustling township.

Throughout people have been disappearing, just never returning from foraging expeditions or similar journeys. But then Lady Sarillion’s own children – the eldest (who’s been mixing with the other kids of commoners) is hearing the singing often, and all seem to be developing rougher skin – almost like scales – down their backs…

 

Bethwyn: I think Robin Hobb does a fantastic job here of evoking this strange and altogether ‘other’ landscape in this story – I found myself really drawn in. This is a short work, but not like ‘a couple of pages’ short, but I still read it in one sitting. I was just so intrigued.

Around this time, Lady Sarillion goes into labour and has her child – she is lucky enough to have some of the ‘common’ women around to help her, but she never sees her child. Though she’s sure she heard it cry…

I think this event also sort of indicates the changes in people and how they are starting to band together a little more – Lady Sarillion begins to work together with the other women in trying to come up with little shack-type things for them to live in together. Initially the other folk kind of laugh at the women trying to make houses of sorts, but they do seem to be a little more comfortable and at least feel a bit safer.

 

Katharine: And from here it progresses further. Lady Sarillion (I’m just going to call her Carillion from now on – she’s barely a lady now anyway) takes note of what works and what doesn’t, and is soon constructing walkways and platforms up in the trees, where they’re safe from the corrosive waters. They’re learning what is safe to eat, and we can start to see how they’re going to survive in this eerie yet beautiful place.

One night, her son, Carlmin, comes to her, trembling and scared. He and another boy, Olpey, have found a partially submerged building that’s still able to be entered if you know the way and aren’t afraid of the dark, or of the voices that echo or the music that plays only to those who can hear it. Carillion and Olpey’s mother, Chellia, leave in the morning to investigate.

Olpey doesn’t want to leave the strange place as he’s found gold and riches like the sort they were all promised when this hopeless venture started (and what use is gold if you can barely sleep, eat, or find safe water?), but Carillion and Olpey’s mother drag him from there and return home, only to find that the men have returned. Her husband barely recognises her or their son, makes no mention of how Carillion must have lost the baby, and reports that they only found more swamp and lost five men in their journey. Olpey’s father was one of the men lost.

They did however find another group of people who were marooned further downriver from where their ship left them. They are in the middle of planning how they will leave and journey down the river and to the coast, hoping for rescue.

That is until, they notice the jewels Olpey’s still wearing, refusing to be parted from.

 

Bethwyn: Carillion’s husband seriously drove me nuts throughout the book – he just kind of expected Carillion and the kids to ‘fall in line’ about everything – he was the man of the family, so they should just follow his word unwittingly. So frustrating!

Anyway, of course he – along with many of the other men – insist on going to investigate the unusual sunken building, and Olpey disappears into it once more. His behaviour is becoming markedly strange – he hisses when people try to take away the jewels he carries, and he speaks like a middle-aged man rather than a playful young boy. Like he’s taking on the persona of another.

Carillion has started to have feelings for a sailor fellow, Retyo, who supported her and helped her and her two sons the entire time her husband was away. With her husband’s return, Retyo kind of disappears into the background once more, but you can tell Carillion is torn up about it, despite her feeling beholden to her husband, she still thinks of Retyo.

The people who have gone off to hunt for treasure rarely return, generally bunkering down and trying to find even more treasure. They seem to be becoming selfish, possessive, and violent at times. Carillion’s eldest son says that the music is even louder so that he can hardly hear himself think, and he insists he can see flashes of strange people that flicker in and out of existence….

 

Katharine: And so we come to the crescendo. The sunken building is starting to sink even more and they’re losing access, and rooms are starting to flood. Carillion, Chellia, Retyo and some other sensible people go in once more to get Olpey out and try to convince anyone else to come with them. Carillion’s husband demands instead that they’re leaving, and to go into the sunken room means they’re dead to him – he has his gold and riches and he (and some others) are going to start walking the coast until they can find a way to get back to Jamaillia. Carillion can’t leave her friend’s son behind though, and her husband is a jerk anyway, so we’re all just sitting her cheering as she and others go down into the dangerous and strange building.

 

Bethwyn: I did feel kind of sad that the husband took their younger son with him… that kind of sucked. What a jerk.

Anyway, things are really creepy down in that building – not only are the tunnels and rooms beginning to cave in and fill with soil, but everyone who is already down there is very Gollum-of-LoTR about their treasures: ie. very willing to fight and kill anyone who comes close. This seems like apocalypse level stuff. So glad that Retyo is back because he just seems like a good egg, and willing to help everyone as best he can.

They do find Olpey, but he is in full not-actually-a-child mode and acting like he is middle-aged and like the building isn’t sinking, and they’re not all about to die. Around this time Carillion realises that when she touches the walls of the building, she sees visions almost overlayed onto the area they’re in – almost like she can see the world and what is was like before everything was abandoned.

 

Katharine: Which comes in handy, as when they try to escape they find their usual way out is no longer accessible and she’s able to access these visions to find another way out, and lead them (and the others they’ve managed to convince to leave also) back to sunlight.

It’s to find her other son stayed despite the father leaving, and together they all go to make a life for themselves amongst the trees. So at the start Carillion was a haughty and frankly painfully annoying piece of work, and at the end she’s with the lovely Retyo, has many more friends who can actually be relied upon, and has a far more rewarding life in the harsh yet beautiful surroundings.

That’s a win, surely.

 

Bethwyn: Agreed! I really loved the ending. And they also kind of mentioned the scales again, that seem to be popping up all over everyone’s bodies… Which I felt like was a hint about something that I know nothing about as yet! They specifically mention the babies being born, and that they are ‘as scaled as a snake’. Count me intrigued.

 

Katharine: We have a way to go into our Realm of the Elderlings read until you see more of these scales… but it’ll be worth it, I assure you.

Should we get going with it all so we get there sooner? :D



Bethwyn: Yes, please! :D

Review: Homecoming by Robin Hobb

Title: Homecoming
Collection: The Inheritance (2011)
Series: Realm of the Elderlings 0.1 | Rain Wild Chronicles 0.5
Published by: Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0007273770
ISBN 13: 9780007273775
Published: First published in Legends II (anthology) (2003)
Pages: 115
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Realm of the Elderlings

The Realm of the Elderlings starts here – in the short story Homecoming, which delves into the history of the Rain Wilds. Assassin’s Apprentice remains the main ‘start’ of the series, but for the completists we thought we’d include the short stories.

We meet Lady Carillion Waljin Carrock whose husband has chosen (or so we’re led to think) to invest his money, time, and family into travelling to colonize the Cursed Shores, despite the fact his wife is pregnant and miserable to be in an environment different to what she’s used to. The short story is written as her diary where she accounts of all the terrible things that have been done to her – the fact her goods were confiscated when boarding the shop – the fact they’re bundled into a tiny cabin along with the maid – or that the view of the sea is boring. I mean, really – how is she ever meant to cope?

It all gets much worse from there. Once they arrive they find that the Rain Wilds are an inhospitable place – the water eats at wood and fabric, and sends you crazy if you drink it fresh. They have maddening dreams, some hear music, many disappear, and overall the reader along with these colonizers learn how dangerous a land can be, and how it can protect its own when threatened.

Eventually, either those who are lucky or perhaps chosen by the land for some innate something within them, they begin to succeed. They find various options of food that don’t poison them. They manage to figure out what type of shelter will last in the marshy and corrosive wetlands. And then discover even more – that which has been left behind by those who used to live in the Rain Wilds.

It’s a good introduction to the series, though perhaps better read before the Rain Wilds series rather than Assassin’s Apprentice so it’d be fresh in your mind.

Review: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Series: Strange the Dreamer #2
Published by: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 144478904X
ISBN 13: 9781444789041
Published: October 2018
Pages: 514
Format reviewed: eVersion (from NetGalley)
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Strange the Dreamer #1

We pick up from where the first book left off pretty well seamlessly, except for a brief introduction of the second set of characters that we start to follow in this book – Kora and Nova, twins. Their sections of this book expand infinitely on the world as it was before Lazlo and Sarai etc all exist – how Skathis was when he was younger, what other powers there are in existence, and how there is so much more to everything than we originally thought.

I want to keep this review free from spoilers, so it’ll be short.

For those who’ve read the first book we know we’re in a land of humans and godspawn (blue people who have powers, and whose parents turned the humans below them into slaves and concubines) who are all struggling to survive. Among the humans we have Lazlo who was an orphan and made his way into the Great Library of Zosma, and then to live among the survivors who want to get rid of the last vestiges of the godspawn (not knowing that a few children managed to survive in the towering palace that looms over them, cutting off all sunlight.)

Lazlo was once told that there are great people in the world who will achieve great things. And that there are also people who will help them achieve their greatness. He thought he’d be one of them – there to fetch and carry, and not say a word when others benefit from his grand work as it should be enough to know inside, you were a part of something great.

However, like any great story, it turns out that there was always something more to Lazlo than even he knew about himself.

Throughout this book we get to explore that, the boundaries and abilities of powers by those who hold them, but are still always learning more about themselves too – which is excellent. So often in books you see people with powers and that’s it. In this we get to see them try new things and hope, as, after all, none of them really had anyone left to show them how.

We see a lot of anguish in these characters, and how they need to either come to terms with the poor hands they’ve been dealt or lose themselves to their anger and vengeance.

There are a massive amount of characters in this series and yet they’re all developed, and pulsing with their own lives and manners, and all could easily pull off their own series of their own.

We were told this was to be a duology, and yes, the story could end here. There’s an image at the start and end of the book in what one can only assume are in two of the many languages we hear of in these books – and though I’ve translated them (and happy to share somewhere I won’t spoil anyone who wants to figure them out for themselves), it’s still not enough. I want there to be so much more! Surely Sarai and Lazlo will find the certain someone with that certain gift, and then their story together (although already well on its way) can really take off.

(And I need to see what happens next to Thyon and Ruza! Come on!)

(And what happens to Lazlo. Cough.)

(And who else they find.)

(And what Minya and Kiska eventually talk about.)

(And just, everything!)

Review: Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Series: The Murderbot Diaries #4
Published by: Tor
ISBN: 1250191858
ISBN 13: 9781250191854
Published: October 2018
Pages: 160
Format reviewed: eBook from publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) | Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) | Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)

Spoilers will appear beyond this point – novellas don’t really leave room for much to review other than fangirl gushing which I totally have in gusto for this series, however, is probably better for twitter and reaction updates rather than a posted review.

Continue reading

Review: The Dragon with a Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Series: Tales from the Chocolate Heart #2
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 1681196972
ISBN 13: 9781681196978
Published: August 2018
Pages: 240
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Related Review: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (Tales from the Chocolate Heart #1)

We return to the Chocolate Heart, the best chocolate shop in the kingdom of Drachenburg, however where the first book followed our favourite young dragon, Aventurine, this time we follow her friend, Silke. Silke, who also works for the chocolate shop (when she’s not helping her older brother at the small stall they have) who has a silver tongue and could either be an excellent media mogul or perhaps a conwoman… however, she is soon hired by the royal family instead.

When Silke first came to Drachenburg it was as an orphan. She and her brother had been travelling with their parents and a caravan of others when they had to cross a forest that was known for mysterious and terrible things… but they were desperately fleeing their home, so they enter anyway. And Silke never saw her parents again, and now lives on the riverbank in a tent that gets burned down every so often (the people of Drachenburg really do seem awful). So when Silke finds a better paying job in the Chocolate Heart (as we saw in the first book) she’s overjoyed (especially as hot chocolate is amazing generally, but even moreso when made by Marina and Aventurine) but even she can’t say no when the royal family offer her a challenge that, if she were to succeed, would result in her having a home within the castle walls forever.

The only problem is… it’s to do something quite terrifying. And means Silke will have to confront her past and her parents disappearance… something she hasn’t spoken about with anyone. Not even Aventurine.

In this book we get to see more of the royal family – the highly intelligent and ruthless older princess Katrin, as well as her younger sister who wants to be valued far more than she currently is, Sofia. We get to see other races in this world other than dragons, and we basically get nothing but excellent female characters getting things done, no matter what their age is.

This is a fun, middle-grade romp of an adventure. It’s sweet and sassy, and it reaaaally makes you want a super thick hot chocolate while you read.