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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

I'm a fan of Robin Hobb, especially of the trilogies associated with the Farseers in some way:  The Liveship Traders, The Farseer Trilogy, and The Tawny Man Trilogy.   When I saw the novella The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince was a prequel to The Farseer Trilogy, I was eager to read it.  

The truth, however, is that I am not a great fan of novellas.  I prefer the layered depths of a novel to the efficiently concise narrative required of a novella.

If the purpose was to reveal the prejudice against Witted individuals, the novella served its purpose.  On the other hand, it did not engage my sympathies on an emotional level.  All characters were treated rather like in a fairy tale, with that surface depiction that allows the author to concentrate on the cautionary message:  the world is full of peril.  Power struggles, jealousy, torture, and betrayals, both intentional and unintentional, abound. 

Sometimes we assume a "fairy tale ending" is a happy one, but that certainly isn't true of older versions of fairy tales.  The endings are often unfair, tragic, full of sorrow.  Although some fairy tales reward the triumph of goodness, courage, and persistence,  others (in their original forms) lack a happy ending.

In that sense, The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince  reveals that sometimes evil triumphs, not only through the persistence of the villain, but through the flaws in the "hero."  Really, there is no hero in this novella, but a character with whom we can sympathize.

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince does serve to explain why the Witted were hated and hunted, but it does not provide the depth, adventure, and excitement I usually love in Hobb's work.  I am very fond of fairy tales, their history, purpose, and analysis, but prefer Hobb's long, involved novels with characters that live and breathe and tackle the impossible with occasional success to a fairy tale version.

Fantasy/Fairy Tale.  2013.  85 pages.


  1. I'm ashamed to say I've never read a single book by Robin Hobb! Where should a Robin Hobb newbie start?

  2. I happened on the first of The Live Ship Traders at the library, then eagerly devoured that trilogy, which is loosely connected to The Farseer Trilogy, which I did not discover until much later.

    The Farseer Trilogy might be the best place to start. I've read it more than once and love it.

  3. I heard Hobb speak a couple of weeks ago and from something she said I have a feeling that this needed to be written to enable us to move smoothly into the new trilogy 'Fitz and the Fool' the first volume of which, 'Fool's Assassin' will be published early in the New Year.

  4. A new trilogy! I'm thrilled. A pre-order might be in order.

    How lovely to be able to hear her speak in person.

  5. hm, I am not sure what to think about this... But, yay, for a new series from her!

  6. K -- I'm thrilled about her new series! Can't wait!