The Barnes & Noble Review
Shaman's Crossing, the first book in a trilogy by Robin Hobb, is equal parts military fantasy, spiritual journey, and coming-of-age tale. Protagonist Nevare Burvelle, the second son of one of Gernia's new noble families, is destined to wield the sword for his kingdom. But when a life-altering mystical encounter with a savage plainsman opens up his mind to the reality around him, Nevare's perception of his provincial culture, his ruthless military academy, and the pagan tribes being uprooted and destroyed by the ever-expanding kingdom of Gernia changes him in ways that he can barely comprehend…
Being born the second son of a nobleman has fated Nevare to the strictly regimented life of a soldier. Even in childhood, his father incessantly instructed him and taught him the harsh lessons of warfare. But when Nevare's father hires a stoic plainsman warrior -- an avowed enemy of Gernia -- to tutor his son in the austere ways of the nomadic savages, Nevare's life truly changes forever. While living with the razor-toothed plainsman in the wilderness, Nevare experiences an extraordinary vision: one that opens up to him a surreal otherworld filled with powerful shamans with shadowy agendas…
Fans of Hobb's previous works (the Liveship Traders trilogy, the Tawny Man trilogy, et al.) will be completely bowled over by her newest saga. Featuring an unfathomably deep hero in a vast, wild realm filled with dark mysticism and strong supernatural undercurrents, Shaman's Crossing is the beginning of what could easily be Hobb's best work to date -- Terry Brooks meets Carlos Castañeda. Paul Goat Allen
In this first book of the Soldier Son Trilogy, a younger son embarks on an interior "hero's journey." Nevare Burvelle is the second son of a Gernian "New Lord" of the East. In Gernia's highly structured society, first sons of the nobility inherit the title, second sons join the military, and third sons the clergy, with birth order determining one's career path. Daughters either marry or enter religious orders. Destined from birth to be a soldier, Nevare dreams of serving his country. In this fascinating tale of a world where honor, duty, and an unthinking submission to custom have prevailed for centuries, Nevare's ideals are pitted against the actual corrupt society in which he really lives. As a military cadet, Nevare finds that many students from the old nobility consider him and others of the "new" nobility fair game for hazing and worse. He survives, barely, through help from the gods of the Plainspeople, who are resisting Gernian expansion. Nevare finds himself questioning his loyalty to Gernia as he begin his military service as a despised "Scout" on the fringes of Gernian expansion. Through the eyes of both Nevare and his female cousin Epiny, Hobb demonstrates the rigidity of Gernia's caste system and the hypocrisy within it. As Nevare and Epiny question their societal roles, the reader questions with them. This multilayered work is a fast-moving fantasy adventure with philosophical and moral underpinnings and is highly recommended for high school libraries. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2005, Eos/HarperCollins, 277p., Ages15 to Adult.
Accompanying his newly made noble father to the new lands acquired by the nation of Gernia, young Nevare Burvelle aspires to bring the benefits of civilization to the primitive inhabitants. When he attends the King's Cavalry Academy after coming of age, Nevare finds that many students there consider him and others of the "new nobility" little more than backwoods yokels. To make matters worse, he finds the subtle magic of the plains tribes insinuating itself into his belief system, leading him to question his loyalty to Gernia. Displaying Hobb's gift for creating unusual and compelling worlds ("the Tawny Man" trilogy), this latest series opener maintains her high standard of storytelling and belongs in most fantasy collections. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Shaman's Crossing Book One of The Soldier Son Trilogy
By Robin Hobb
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 Robin Hobb
All right reserved.
Magic and Iron
I remember well the first time I saw the magic of the Plainspeople.
I was eight and my father had taken me with him on a trip to the outpost on Franner's Bend. We had arisen before the dawn for the long ride; the sun was just short of standing at noon when we finally saw the flag waving over the walls of the outpost by the river. Once Franner's Bend had been a military fort on the contested border between the Plainspeople and the expanding kingdom of Gernia. Now it was well within the Gernian border, but some of its old martial glory persisted. Two great cannons guarded the gates, but the trade stalls set up against the mud-plastered stockade walls behind them dimmed their ferocity. The trail we had followed from Widevale now joined a road that picked its way among the remains of mud-brick foundations. Their roofs and walls were long gone, leaving the shells gaping at the sky like empty tooth sockets in a skull. I looked at them curiously as we passed, and dared a question. "Who used to live here?"
"Plainspeople," Corporal Parth said. His tone said that was his full reply. Rising early did not suit his temperament, and I suspected already that he blamed me for having to get out of bed so early.
I held my tongue for a time, but then the questions burst out of me. "Why are all the houses broken and gone? Why did they leave? I thought the Plainspeople didn't have towns. Was this a Plainspeople town?"
"Plainspeople don't have towns, they left because they left, and the houses are broken because the Plainspeople didn't know how to build any better than a termite does." Parth's low-voiced answer implied I was stupid for asking.
My father has always had excellent hearing. "Nevare," he said.
I nudged my horse to move up alongside my father's taller mount. He glanced at me once, I think to be sure I was listening, and then said," Most lainspeople did not build permanent towns. But some, like the Bejawi folk, had seasonal settlements. Franner's Bend was one of them. They came with their flocks during the driest part of the year, for there would be grazing and water here. But they didn't like to live for long in one place, and so they didn't build to last. At other times of the year, they took their flocks out onto the Plains and followed the grazing."
"Why didn't they stay here and build something permanent?"
"It wasn't their way, Nevare. We cannot say they didn't know how, for they did build monuments in various locations that were significant to them, and those monuments have weathered the tests of time very well. Someday I shall take you to see the one called Dancing Spindle. But they did not make towns for themselves as we do, or devise a central government, or provide for the common good of their people. And that was why they remained a poor, wandering folk, prey to the Kidona raiders who preyed on them and to the vagaries of the seasons. Now that we have settled the Bejawi and begun to teach them how to maintain villages and schools and stores, they will learn to prosper."
I pondered this. I knew the Bejawi. Some of them had settled near the north end of Widevale, my father's holdings. I'd been there once. It was a dirty place, a random tumble of houses without streets, with garbage and sewage and offal scattered all around it. I hadn't been impressed. As if my father could hear my thoughts, he said, "Sometimes it takes a while for people to adapt to civilization. The learning process can be hard. But in the end, it will be of great benefit to them. The Gernian people have a duty to lift the Bejawi folk and help them learn civilized ways."
Oh. That I understood. Just as struggling with math would someday make me a better soldier. I nodded and continued to ride at his stirrup as we approached the outpost.
The town of Franner's Bend had become a traders' rendezvous where Gernian merchants sold overpriced wares to homesick soldiers and purchased handmade Plains goods and trinkets from the bazaar for the city markets in the west. The military contingent there, with its barracks and headquarters, was still the heart of the town, but the trade had become the new reason for its existence. Outside the fortified walls a little community had sprung up around the riverboat docks. A lot of common soldiers retired there, eking out their existence with handouts from their younger comrades. Once, I suppose, the fort at Franner's Bend had been of strategic importance. Now it was little more than another backwater on the river. The flags were still raised daily with military precision and a great deal of ceremony and pomp. But as my father told me on the ride there, duty at Franner's Bend was a "soft post now," a plum given to older or incapacitated officers who did not wish to retire to their family homes yet.
Our sole reason for visiting was to determine if my father could win the military contract for sheepskins to use as saddle padding. My family was just venturing into sheepherding at that point in time, and he wished to determine the real market for them before investing too heavily in the silly creatures. Much as he detested playing the merchant, he told me, as a new noble he had to establish the investments that would support his estate and allow it to grow. "I've no wish to hand your brother an empty title when he comes of age. The future Lord Burvelles of the east must have income to support a noble lifestyle. You may think that has nothing to do with you, young Nevare, for as a second son, you must go to be a soldier.
Excerpted from Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb Copyright © 2005 by Robin Hobb.
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