I really liked Robin Hobb's Farseer and The Tawny Man trilogies (I didn't care for The Liveship Traders on as much). So, when the first book of Hobb's The Soldier Son trilogy, Shaman's Crossing, came out in paperback, I knew I had to buy it.
That was a very good choice on my part, because this is a great book and looks to be part of a great trilogy. The Soldier Son books don't appear to be set in the same world as Hobbs' other series. This is a good thing, because while I like the other series, constantly reading about their world and characters would eventually get dull.
This is the story of Nevare Burvell, the second son of a member of the new nobility. According to the mandates of their god, a nobles first son is the heir, his second son is a soldier, his third is a priest, his fourth is a an artist (I think), etc. All sons of non nobles are expected to follow in their father's footsteps.
Nevare's people have recently conquered another people called the Plainsfolk, who have magic which is vulnerable to the iron of Nevare's folk. Now, Nevare's people have moved on and are trying to defeat a forest-dwelling race called the Specks, who have even more powerful magic than the Plainsfolk. The Specks seem to be controlling a horrible plague that is decimating enemy garrisons set at their borders. Nevare has unwittingly had a piece of his soul stolen by one of the Speck enchantresses, and their using it to kill his fellow recruits at the military academy.
Hobb has done an exceptional job in building the world for this book. Instead of being a standard good-versus-evil plot, the characterization of both sides leaves little doubt that neither side is wholly good or evil. Navere's people are a lot like us (or like we were one or two hundred years ago); they believe it is their good thing to go out and "civilize" the barbaric people like Plainsfolk and Specks. They are fractious and constantly arguing over the recent creation of the new nobles. The Specks, on the other hand, seem to be more unified. They have to be, since they're defending their home from invaders. Unfortunately, the methods they use are pretty horrific.
Looking at Amazon's reviews, a lot of people didn't like this book. They think it was too slow. I think they're idiots. This isn't some actiony, sword and sorcery thing, and anyone who expects every fantasy novel to be like that is some kind of moron. This is really more of a coming of age story about a young man who is starting to learn to think for himself. Action really isn't the focus here.
I loved this book, and I give it a full five yo-yos.