Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Killing off the Bad Guy: Robin Hobb Series Finale

by Stella Atrium 5/1/13

I’m an unabashed fan of Robin Hobb and force copies her books on my friends so we can discuss the characters and inventive plot twists later.  Dragon warming stations! What a hoot!

I’ve read each series as they were published, and cried when the grey wolf died, and when the Fool and Fitz were separated in the fourth connected trilogy. I knew that Hobb had a talent for wrapping up story lines to a satisfying ending that signaled the reader that this character’s arch was finished now, as she did when Fitz settled in with his childhood sweetheart after his soul was made whole by the Fool’s most recent adventure with magic (trying not to give away the climax).

MartinHer stories have influenced readers and other writers who use (or skim) plot ideas that were made whole in Hobb’s fertile imagination.  GRR Martin allows certain characters, designated wogs, to ride-along on the spirits of animals, for example, even though he keeps that feature in the background of his series Game of Thrones.

Martin seems a bit trapped with Daenerys’ dragons, still infants in Book VI, because communication beyond hand signals will seem to imitate Hobb’s work. I wonder how he will resolve that conundrum.

HobbWhen Blood of Dragons was made available in April 2013, I had mixed emotions. I didn’t want the long-enjoyed world that leads to exploration of the fabled city of Kelsingra to end, so I actually put off the reading of  to savor the anticipation.

The first three books of this storyline presented stunted dragons and their malformed keepers who were young people just exploring girl-boy friendships.  I liked that Hobb included hard choices for the girls, and provided the girl characters with the presence of mind, prompted by queen dragons, to manage events. Too many writers for sci-fi or fantasy neglect the hunger of girl fans to engage with characters like them.

Robin Hobb has more well-drawn characters than she needs to finish the series, and only nods to Althea and Brashen (and their liveship Paragon) who readers have followed in earlier stories. She holds certain developments for the young keepers to the very end, and even brings old-world dragons Tintaglia and Icefyre back into the mix.

The richness of the stories almost invites new episodes in older storylines like the dime novels that use characters from an old Star Trek series.  Except Hobb’s endless invention for new twists would be missing from these.

Spidy villainIf I can add one sour note…  When the bad guys are removed, mostly by dragon anger or indifference, the story sorta falls flat. Many stories are bad guy driven, of course, like any Spiderman is memorable more for who played the villain than for who played Spidey. And Hobb’s villains are often without redeeming features.  But the power of the dragons is so overwhelming that the deaths seem puny, and the humans who kowtowed to the bad guys seem parochial in their fear.  Here’s a clear warning for Martin when Daenerys’ dragons are grown, hey?

The sci-fi reader should schedule reading Hobb’s books in order from the beginning (Assassin’s Apprentice) since certain secrets about the Skill and jitzin and flame jewels are revealed in this latest episode.  I hope there are more in the works! I envy the reader her many hours of solitary enjoyment ahead.