Friday, June 14, 2013

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb really seems to love writing tragedies. I'm normally not into reading something that's going to leave me more depressed than when I started, and I've had to stop reading a couple of Hobb's series over the years, when I just couldn't take it any more. However, she is a fantastic writer, and I've been able to finish several of the series, so I don't dis-recommend her.

This tale is far shorter than most of her books, so it was an easy read, but in true Hobb fashion, grew tragic in a hurry. The Willful Princess is the tale of Queen-in-Waiting for the throne of Buckland, Caution, who definitely does not live up the her name. She grows up horribly spoiled by her otherwise quite wise parents, and is aided and abetted by the character telling the story, her companion from cradle to grave, the low born Felicity (daughter of her wet nurse), who has seen to it that Caution's every whim has been granted, hoping to secure a better future for herself when Caution comes to her throne.

There's no way this can end well, of course, and when Caution buys a piebald stallion and its Witted (able to communicate with animals) handler, Lostler, from a Chalcedean trader one year, it begins to go predictably wrong. Caution begins by obsessing on riding the stallion, whom no one else can tame, and ends by riding the handler - ditto. She becomes pregnant by this commoner, and gives birth to his bastard son. When Felicity deceives her into believing her lover Lostler has been unfaithful to her, he and the stallion are killed in the ensuing struggle to banish them, and Caution pines her way to death, as well.

The Piebald Prince tells the story of how her son goes from being the bastard no one loves, to designated heir to the throne, and on to his own horrible tragedy, as well. Our tale-teller, Felicity, suffers horrible consequences, in the end, for her sad role in this tale.

Compelling writing, as always with Hobb. I can take depression in small doses.

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