The Prince must slay a dragon to win the hand of the Narcheska in marriage which will bring together two kingdoms that were recently at war. That is pretty cliché for a fantasy book but Robin Hobb finds a way to rise above the ordinary and shows how it should be done. Two factions have formed as the dragon-slaying quest builds to a conclusion and many members of the expedition now openly oppose the Prince's goal to slay Icefyre. Many additional mysteries remain as well but none more important than the true motivation behind the Narcheska's original challenge to Prince Dutiful. All of this keeps the reader engaged and eagerly awaiting the outcome which surprisingly comes well before the end of the book leaving plenty of time to explore the consequences of everyone's actions.
Book two of the Tawny Man series finally ties the events happening in the Six Duchies to those that occurred in the earlier Liveship Traders series. Now that Prince Dutiful has been rescued from the Piebalds he must face the fact that his life is not his own. He has been promised in marriage to the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands in the hope that such a marriage might heal the wounds between their kingdoms after the recent war. The two of them do not hit it off when they finally meet and neither of them wants to follow through on the arrangement. This angst leads to Dutiful carelessly offending the Narcheska and in return she publicly challenges him to prove he is worthy of her. She demands that Dutiful slay the Dragon Icefyre that legends say sleeps beneath the ice back in her lands. Before anyone can stop Dutiful he agrees to the challenge to show that he is worthy of this bride that he doesn't even want. Kids.
The Wit is both a blessing and a curse. This low magic enables a human to form such a close bond of kinship with an animal that the two share thoughts and even start to take on each other's personalities. Such an enriched life does come at a price though as the lifespan of most beasts is much shorter than that of their human companion and the death of the animal is a devastating loss. This magic becomes the focus of Robin Hobb's Tawny Man series as her story telling returns to the Six Duchies where it all started. Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Farseer Trilogy and it is time to catch up with our old friends Fitz and the Fool.
After thoroughly enjoying the Farseer Trilogy I was pretty excited about reading more of the books that take place in the Realm of the Elderings created by Robin Hobb. My enthusiasm was quickly dampened when I discovered that Ship of Magic was full of bratty kids, over-bearing parents, and a heavy dose of family squabbles. Normally fantasy literature is an escape from such mundane and stressful topics but not so with the first book of the series. Luckily some interesting magic systems and concepts intrigued me enough to continue on...
The Farseer family rules the Six Duchies as they have for many generations but dire times are at hand. The Red Ships are raiding the coastal cities and King Shrewd's health is failing. He has many sons so the line of succession is well defined and with the King in poor health Prince Verity does the majority of the ruling. Of course that doesn't sit well with Prince Regal, a selfish and cruel individual who is the son furthest down the line of succession and unhappy with his station. Sound familiar?