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Shaman’s Crossing

Robin Hobb

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Voyager

Published : 2006

Copyright : Robin Hobb 2005

ISBN-10 : PB 0-00-719614-8
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-00-719614-2

Publisher's Write-Up

The first book in a brand new trilogy from the author of the Farseer, Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies.

Young Nevare Burvelle is the second son of a second son. Traditionally in Gernia, the firstborn son is heir to the family fortunes, the second son bears a sword and the third son is consecrated to the priesthood. Nevare will follow his father - newly made a lord by the King - into the cavalry; to the frontier and thence to an advantageous marriage, to carry on the Burvelle name.

It is a golden future, and Nevare looks forward to it with relish. For twenty years, King Troven's cavalry have pushed the frontiers of Gernia out across the grasslands, subduing the fierce tribes of the plain on its way. Now, they have driven the frontier as far as the Barrier Mountains, home to the enigmatic Speck people. The Specks - a dapple-skinned, forest-dwelling folk - retain the last vestiges of magic in a world which is becoming progressive and technologised. The 'civilised' peoples base their beliefs on a rational philosophy founded on scientific principle and a belief in the good god, who displaced the older deities of their world. To them, the Specks are primeval savages, little better than beasts. Superstitions abound; it is said that they harbour strange diseases and worship trees. Sexual congress with them is regarded as both filthy and foolhardy: the Speck plague which has ravaged the frontier has decimated entire regiments. All these beliefs will touch Nevare's training at the Academy; but his progress there is not as simple as he would wish. He will experience prejudice from the old aristocracy: as the son of a 'new noble' he is segregated into a patrol comprising other new nobles' sons, all of whom will encounter injustice, discrimination and foul play in that hostile and deeply competitive environment. In addition, his world view will be challenged by his unconventional girl-cousin Epiny; and by the bizarre dreams which visit him at night. And then, on Dark Evening, the circus comes to Old Thares, bringing with it the first Specks Nevare has ever seen...

Robin Hobb was born in California in 1952 and majored in Communications at Denver University, Colorado. Assassin’s Apprentice was her first novel, and was followed by the equally successful Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest. She lives outside Seattle, Washington.

'Robin Hobb is in a class of her own.'

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Review by Chrissi (180906) Rating (8/10)

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Review by Chrissi
Rating 8/10
This has been the first of Robin Hobb’s novels that I have read, and as an established science fantasy author, I suppose that I should have come to her before, but I suppose better late than never.

The opening of the new Soldier Son trilogy, Shaman’s Crossing details the early years of Nevare Burvelle, a second son of a noble family in a society where first sons are born to inherit their fathers estate, second sons are soldiers, and third sons are priests. Nevare’s father is a new noble, raised a second son himself, and then raised to the aristocracy through brave Cavalla (horse mounted cavalry) service to the King. Nevare knows his destiny and his father, a rather strict man, expects certain things from his son, leading to a rather strange decision to separate him at a young age from his mother and send him away with his enemy, Dewara , a man of a vicious nomadic people, the Kidona. Dewara is tasked to instruct Nevare in the ways of his people, a kind of know your enemy tactic.

What happens to Nevare is kind of inevitable, treated badly by Dewara and forced into a magical realm to do battle against an enemy of the Kidona, Nevare becomes trapped and part of his spirit is bound against his native people. Nevare is returned to his family brutalized and once healed, resumes his training with his fathers retainers, with a view to completing his education at the Cavalla Academy.

Nevare experiences strange dreams where he is a different version of himself, leading a life in a strange forest with a woman. He finds these hard to reconcile with his present situation although it is not until he meets his cousin, Epiny, and she says that he has a piece of his spirit missing, attached to somewhere else, that he starts to accept that he has never been complete since his experience with Dewara.

Whilst at the Academy, he sees his first Speck people, a forest dwelling race who live far from the city, whose forests are being torn down to make way for a huge road that will join the country to the sea on the other side of the mountains. After seeing these strange people, many inhabitants of the city are struck down with a strange plague, Nevare finds himself ill and whilst unconscious, sees the Tree Woman and does battle with her, taking back that part of himself she has kept a hold of.

Nevare is a beautifully crafted character, written with sympathy for his plight, torn between his father’s expectations of his future and the magical hold on him by the Tree Woman. He finds himself unable to reconcile the two, leading him to feel that he has betrayed one or the other in different circumstances. He is unwilling to accept any other destiny for himself than that he was marked for at birth, as a soldier son, and to be forced to act in any other way than that is extremely difficult for him. Unfortunately, it makes him a rather dithery character and sometimes you find yourself mentally shouting at him as you are carried along by the excellently written prose.

Having never read any of Robin Hobb’s novels before, I think that this has been a great start. I’m a sucker for well written Science Fantasy and this certainly has all the ingredients. Unfortunately, knowing that this is set to be a trilogy, it kind of goes without saying that life is going to get worse for Nevare before it gets better, so you just have to read the next instalment to find out how he gets on. I suppose that is the advantage of reading completed published trilogies, and I’ll have to make do with some of Hobb’s completed works, before I can get to the end of Nevare’s story.
Chrissi (18th September 2006)

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