First of all, I think we should commend the author for showing enough artistic integrity and writing something different. Unlike writers such as R. A. Salvatore and Terry Brooks, who rarely take a chance to come up with something truly creative outside of their established niche, Robin Hobb elected not to cheat herself and her fans by writing another Fitz novel just for the sake of her popularity. Although I much preferred The Farseer and The Tawny Man trilogies, with The Liveship Traders not far behind, I found most of the concepts Hobb set out to explore in this latest series to be quite interesting. The Soldier Son might not be Robin Hobb at the top of her game, but the series is nevertheless better than 80% of what's out there.
Renegade's Magic is easily the best and most enjoyable volume of The Soldier Son trilogy. One of the main reasons why is that, unlike its two predecessors, this book doesn't suffer from a sluggish pace. The narrative flows extremely well, providing a fluid rhythm throughout the novel.
Of the three volumes, I found the worldbuilding in Renegade's Magic to be the most fascinating. We finally learn a lot more about the Specks. How their magic works is explained in greater details, as are their history, their traditions, etc.
As always, the characterizations are superior. The deeply involved humanity behind it all, Hobb's hallmark, is imbued throughout Renegade's Magic. Three-dimensional characters populate this book, and they all remain true to themselves. This aspect of her characterization is probably what I love the most about Robin Hobb. Her cast always include men and women who feel like "real" people with genuine personalities, good or bad or in between.
Once more, the rich prose characterizing all of her novels adds a little something extra to the reading experience.
Stiff-necked Nevare was a character that was not always easy to like. Unfairly, he will always stand in Fitz's shadow. And yet, this character has gone a long way and has grown on me. Hence, I found it much easier to follow his first person narrative in Renegade's Magic.
I feel that Hobb excels at playing with readers' emotions. Again, blame the author's subtle human touch found in basically every character. Some of the scenes can be very touching, and I feel that this is one of the book's strengths.
Hobb ties up a lot of loose ends from both Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage, with almost everything coming full circle. In a way, this just might be Hobb's most self-contained series. Many things make more sense now, giving me a new appreciation for the first two volumes.
The Soldier Son may not be Robin Hobb's best series to date. It's certainly not as accessible as her previous works. Still, it's ambitious, different, and more spiritual. I'm convinced that Renegade's Magic will permit readers to appreciate this trilogy on another level.
The final verdict: 8/10
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