Book Thread 2018^H9


For those of you who may have missed it, Robin Hobb is an incredible writer and her FitzChivalry series is every bit as important as Martin, Tolkien, Herbert, etc. etc.

I am in love, and I am in awe, and I am amazed that I did not discover her before.

Probably the generic titles, “Assassins Apprentice” and “Fools Assassin”, and the generic book covers put me off.

Big mistake. Expect anniversary hardcovers and a millennia of appreciation for her work.

Probably speaking to the choir here, but just in case…

This is nothing like Erickson. Ten novels in and each and every single book has been completely self contained and wildly entertaining. I couldn’t put any of them down. Good writing what exactly does that mean? Good prose? Understanding the human condition in a way that will relate to other people? She has it all.

And each book links to the next, to make the next one mean so much more. All her books.

Folks, she is a master and this is a symphony of the ages. Revel in the times we live.

I have two books to go in the FitzChivalry series. Bee is …


Yeah, it’s a great series. I wonder though how she is going to continue the series? There’s a major new POV character for sure, but most loose ends are tied up in the last book (and not always satisfactorily IMO).


I haven’t read the last two books yet.

Does she need to continue? If most loose ends are tied up… I can imagine how awesome that will be considering the last ten books. Does she also tie up the liveship characters?

@YakAttack let it be for what it is!!


I have read the first trilogy and am currently 150 pages into the Liveship Trilogy. She is perhaps a little wordy but she does know how to tell a story.


Agreed on the wordy. Skip paragraphs if you need to, but not the dialogue. The mistakes characters make are obvious. Pisses you off… but all of a sudden, she will make them own up to what you thought the character should have said the whole time! Then she takes that character one step further. So goddamn real.

The books hold special relevance to me, because in my life, for my circumstances I am FitzChivalry and I have a Chade in my life. I have a global position in my job with a huge multi-national company. I work at home. (It’s not an evil corp… graphics technology), but multitudes are involved.

I can’t tell my wife and kids all. Not for unethical reasons, but because I want the best for them.

Working at home, I’m lonely, but by choice. I know more about the situation than most. The Chade in my life is a mentor and completely logical. I’m more passionate.

I’m also a modern lit major. I’m quite sure that other folks will find relevance in these books completely separate from my own because they transcend.

Robin Hobb. Frank Herbert. JRRTolkein.

No joke.


Yes, but she doesn’t spend a lot of time on them, which is sad considering they are my favorite characters.


Eh, I think her writing is certainly on par with Herbert, and her worldbuilding is the equal of both of those, but she’s not as notable as either. And she’s not a genre influencer the way the other two are. There’s really not much in the Fitz stories that isn’t derivative. The Liveship books have some unique ideas and The Fool is a truly unique character (though the retconning of his Tawny Man character back into the original series and Liveship books is a bit clumsy and ragged.) But much of the rest of it is kind of just a riff on standard fantasy tropes: magic and dragons and a medieval European feel and bildungsroman and a Mary Sue main character. And, by modern standards, she’s a bit weighed down by sentiment: Fitz eventually marries Molly, Nighteyes sort of comes back for the final trilogy, etc.

I don’t know, she’s good and I really enjoyed her books, but I wouldn’t put her up in the fantasy writer pantheon. Then again, I don’t know who I would: maybe Daniel Abraham’s Long Price books, China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, Seth Dickinson’s Baru Cormorant, Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest. Those book are all filled with novel ideas and top notch writing. If we’re just looking at cultural influence, you can’t deny that George RR Martin is the most influential fantasy author of the last two decades.

Then again, I totally get that a series with a character who has special resonance with your own life is immensely satisfying to read emotionally. Glad you enjoyed them! I did too.


I think someone like Abercrombie has created more of an original “world”, at least in my limited reading. But Hobbs does things with magic that I have never read before. And her world is well thought out.

As far as GRRM goes, I think without the HBO show his influence would be greatly limited. Not that millions haven’t enjoyed his writing, the first 3 books of Fire and Ice are very good, but with 4-5 he pretty much lost his way. And we will never se a completion to the series, at least in print.


I guess for me this is why I give her so many accolades. It is so difficult to write characters that are true to life. These books are about real people written both literally and metaphorically. The fact that the setting is so recognizable is genius in itself, creating a fantasy backdrop that doesn’t get in the way of the main subjects- given that fantasy so often does the opposite. (Those silly names! See Erickson.)

This is genre, fantasy writing.

Character, plot, world-building are all specific disciplines. I shouldn’t downplay the other two. I love all three. I’d agree Martin excels at all three. He’s pretty even across the board, although some of ice and fire is questionable.

Robin Hobb consistently excels in character, while being decent in the other two. She rolled a 19 in character averaging that for the full twelve!! book series and a 14 and 15 for setting and plot. I’m astounded at this accomplishment given the sheer quantity of material. Is it all perfect? No. Is it consistent? Well, yes. The best part is that each book enriches the previous.

I’ve heard Erickson does something similar, but Hobb is in a whole different league when it comes to character.

Martin rolled a 16 in all three criteria, averaging ice and fire. Five books? Storm of swords was definitely 18 across the board, but consistency counts, and he is not. Nor was Herbert.

Is Robin Hobb among the greats? I’d say yes and put money on it for the ages.


Not sure I’d call Fitz a Mary Sue. Hobb really puts him through the ringer physically and emotionally. Many of his difficulties could be considered self-inflicted. He’s manipulated by nearly every important person in his life. And he gets his ass kicked and significant others stolen on a pretty regular basis.


I still have book 11 and 12 to finish, but I’m not seeing any “Mary Sue” characters here. That’s a pretty huge accomplishment considering the large cast.

Even the all powerful dragons get put through the ringer…

Martin is known for treating his characters realistically, killing them off unexpectedly.

Hobb is far more brutal to hers. Sometimes it is better to die than to live…


He’s powerful in both the Skill and the Wit. He’s a reluctant but skilled assassin and warrior. He’s a bastard prince, a White’s Catalyst, and ages very slowly. He’s powerful martially, magically, and politically while also retaining the freedom of action that would be denied him if he had any official capacity. Bad things happen to him sure, but if there’s a power, he’s got it. If there’s a momentous action to take, he does it.


He’s also super handsome but he’s very humble about it and denies it!


A Mary Sue is a very specific thing, though. People way, way WAY overidentify characters as that thing when they do not actually meet all the criteria. In this case, sure, Fitz ends up (eventually) being a very talented and capable character, but he fucks up regularly, has plenty of flaws, and suffers like hell and Mary Sues do not fuck up, do not have (real, story-affecting) flaws, and in their purest form never really have any sort of long term negative consequence to their actions.


Term comes from Star Trek fan-fic:

Mary Sue stories—the adventures of the youngest and smartest ever person to graduate from the academy and ever get a commission at such a tender age. Usually characterized by unprecedented skill in everything from art to zoology, including karate and arm-wrestling. This character can also be found burrowing her way into the good graces/heart/mind of one of the Big Three, if not all three at once. She saves the day by her wit and ability, and, if we are lucky, has the good grace to die at the end, being grieved by the entire ship.

I don’t know. Maybe you’re right though–he’s the protagonist, and Mary Sues are typically ancillary characters who upstage the protagonist. I guess what I was trying to convey is that Fitz is the typical kind of fantasy protagonist who is a naive youth who becomes the Most Powerful Prophesied One, and that Hobbs’s series does not do much subversion of fantasy tropes in this regard.


But that’s not the case at all. How many books in the series have you read? Because complete spoilers if you haven’t read them all (up to the last Fitz and the Fool series! be warned)

He is sort of propheised, but just one among others and he’s more or less used by the Fool to achieve a particular vision of the future. He’s potentially strong in the skill magic, but he is by no means the strongest, and gets weaker through the series through drugs and neglect. He’s strong in the wit, but abandons that path completely when nighteyes dies. He learns assassination skills but most of his attempts ends badly in one way or the other. Pretty much nothing goes smoothly for him, ever. 2 of his series end with him in obscurity, and the last ends with a pretty unheroic death (death by parasites?). I’d say there’s a pretty strong case for subversion of generic fantasy tropes (although I don’t think that was ever Hobb’s intent).


I am not sure I agree with that either, but that’s a different discussion. I get annoyed with people calling characters Mary Sues when they aren’t because it’s a fairly specific and egregious form of poor writing and one can fall into tropes etc without actually making it that far down the chute.


Thank you. I really hate the term, because it is so overused and dismissive.

Is Batman a Mary Sue? I could make as strong a case for him as for most other characters the term is applied to.

Sorry, it’s really a pet peeve of mine. I can’t speak to this book/ character in particular as I’ve not read it.


Don’t forget he literally gets beaten to death and buried (death #1 of 3 so far, plus a foiled suicide attempt) for having the wit. Not one of his better days IMO.


Okay so what’s the term for alpha-male badasses that always win, the sort that provide adolescent male fantasies? I’m thinking Altered Carbon for example, superficially, maybe the Sword Itself (It doesn’t apply because IMO as the story develops the protagonist is someone you pity for being broken.)