Among our Christmas presents this year was a copy of Shaman’s Crossing, the first book in Robin Hobb’s new trilogy, Soldier Son. This book marks a departure from the world made familiar by the Farseer and Liveship Trader books, and introduces a brand-new setting which by fantasy standards is relatively "modern", with guns, canons and a strictly traditionalist nation on a path to development and expansion.
The main character (who, like Fitz from the Farseer books, tells the story from a first-person point of view) is Nevare Burvelle, second son of one of the king’s "battle lords"; men raised to nobility for their deeds. As a second son, he is destined to become a soldier, and initially he rarely questions the rigid Gernian belief that one should never question the place in life allotted to oneself by the good god. But slowly doubts start to creep up on him, and he finds himself forced to accept that the simple, straight-forward rules that governed his life as a young boy cannot—and perhaps should not—always be followed.
Shaman’s Crossing starts out a little slow, but I soon found it quite impossible to put down the book (I started it on the eve of the 24th, and finished just a little while ago). Nevare may not be as interesting a character as Fitz as he is, at least initially, a far less troubled young man, but the story he tells soon had me firmly hooked. I wanted to know more about Gernian society, the cavalla Academy and, not the least, the strange, dappled Specks who seem to be seeking a way to repel the Gernian expansion that has already claimed the lifestyle of the once fierce and free plainspeoples. And now that I have finished, I am hoping the next one will be out soon.