The general consensus seems to be that Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy is dull and boring and just not that good. In this case, though, the general consensus is insane. These are great books.
Start with the setting, which is absolutely unique, a combination of the British Empire with the American West with new subcreation. Or with the magical and religious bits of the world, which are different in each culture in the book, and feel unique and real and genuinely magical throughout.
Or take the people in the book, who are all wonderfully drawn and seem like actual genuine people. I mean, there’s even a female character who’s all modern and feminist-y but nevertheless is a real person who belongs in the context of the novel and not just authorial wish-fulfillment.
Or take the story, which twists and turns and is completely unpredictable. Hobb is one of the rare fantasists whose endings can’t be predicted at all, even when you’re two thirds of the way through a series.
Or, heck, take all of that and layer on chewy themes and superb writing (nobody can deny Hobb’s stylistic chops), and what you end up with is a series of big fat fantasies that I devoured as quickly as I could with many late nights of reading, and which never felt like empty filler.
As I say my opinion is a minority one, and a lot of people didn’t like these books. But I have no idea why, because I see nothing in them that would cause people to dislike them. I mean, yeah, Hobb tortures her characters, but I found it less oppressive here than in her other books, and there was always enough grace and redemption to not feel bleak.
Highly recommended, with the caveat that a lot of people just bounce off of these.