The elderling realm is not a single book. It is not even a series of books, it is a universe in which several series written by the author Robin Hobb take place. I completed three series out of five main series released till now. And I have thoroughly enjoyed her work. The books are very easy to recommend and are considered classics among recent fantasy novels. I will try to keep this review as free from spoilers as I can.
The world of the elderling represents a medieval society mixed with dragons, pirates and the slight touch of magic. The stories or I should say epics begin smoothly and are carried forward effortlessly. It never feels like the author was trying to make a point or desperately moving the story forward in a single direction. It feels as if you are watching a natural progression of events. The smooth and tranquil writing style of Robin Hobb is the best part amongst a stellar set of novels.
The first series, The Farseer Trilogy, depicts the life of Fitz Chivalry Farseer from boyhood to young adult. The story is narrated in first person, and at several intervals you will find yourself nodding at the judgement of the protagonist. You will find very slight magic throughout the story, completely different from the bespoken Harry Potter novels which have magic as their central theme. You will relate to every character in the novels and find them similar to people you meet everyday. Take note that actions in one series affect the others as well.
The second series, The Livship Traders Trilogy, follows the story of the Bingtown traders, the pirate isles, the Rain wild traders and the state of Jamalia. It is narrated in third person and frequently switches between several protagonists. The number of characters developed in this series is staggering. You may even feel overwhelmed while reading the first few books, since at first the stories feel disjointed. But they come together beautifully in the end and it contains some of the most cry able moments in any novel that I have ever read. Lookout for the words of Sa while reading this series, not because they impact the story but because they are filled with wisdom.
If you missed Fitz in the second series, you will love the third series, The tawny man trilogy. This follows Fitz and the farseer reign after the aftermath of the Red ships war from the first series. This series finds Fitz contemplating his decisions of the old. The series is filled with introspection and high tension. The events in this series tie together events of the previous two series and present a mesmerizing epic. The relationship between the fool and the Fitz presents yet another endearing examples of Friendship.
The works of Robbin Hobb have a general slow theme. The events happen slowly and the environments are immersive. The author takes ample time to develop the characters. The environments are vivid, and the author takes great time to make you hear the sounds, smell the smells and taste the tastes of everything noteworthy. You will have a true experience of living the Castle life, from the life of guards to the that of the Kings and more importantly Assassins.
I agree that these books are lengthy and consume a lot of time to read. But for someone looking for months of endearing fantasy, these are an easy recommendation. If you ever find yourself to be trapped by the never ending narrative, just finish the book, you will find yourself immersed in the next book before you know.
This series is an open recommendation to everyone who loves to read.
I will leave you with a quote that I love:
He shook his head pityingly. “This, more than anything else, is what I have never understood about your people. You can roll dice, and understand that the whole game may hinge on one turn of a die. You deal out cards, and say that all a man’s fortune for the night may turn upon one hand. But a man’s whole life, you sniff at, and say, what, this naught of a human, this fisherman, this carpenter, this thief, this cook, why, what can they do in the great wide world? And so you putter and sputter your lives away, like candles burning in a draft.”
“Not all men are destined for greatness,” I reminded him.
“Are you sure, Fitz? Are you sure? What good is a life lived as if it made no difference at all to the great life of the world? A sadder thing I cannot imagine. Why should not a mother say to herself, if I raise this child aright, if I love and care for her, she shall live a life that brings joy to those about her, and thus I have changed the world? Why should not the farmer that plants a seed say to his neighbor, this seed I plant today will feed someone, and that is how I change the world today?”
“This is philosophy, Fool. I have never had time to study such things.”
“No, Fitz, this is life. And no one has time not to think of such things. Each creature in the world should consider this thing, every moment of the heart’s beating. Otherwise, what is the point of arising each day?”
― Robin Hobb, Royal Assassin