So back seven years ago, I read Robin Hobb’s Fool trilogy, and realized that it had turned her Farseer Trilogy and Liveship Trader books into a trilogy of trilogies, telling three apparently-separate stories that tied together into a single long epic. It was a satisfying structure for a super-long-form fantasy.

So when I saw Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, a new four-book series set in that world, I was a bit dubious—the meta-series had reached a satisfying conclusion, and it hung together so elegantly; did we really need more books in this world? But I’ve loved all of Hobb’s stuff, so obviously I was going to read them anyway. The good news is that they’re excellent.

These are an almost direct sequel to the Liveship Trader books, featuring some of the same characters and places. In standard Hobb style, she begins by subverting the happy ending of the last book; this is something she’s so practised at by now, that you look back and wonder how you ever thought the previous ending could possibly be happy, with all those problems lying just over the horizon. From there, the plot stays gripping and focused, and it’s no spoiler to anyone who’s ever read a Hobb book that her characters come in for some hard times, but things never tipped over into excessive grimness to my (perhaps idiosyncratic) tastes.

So as a series of four books, they’re certainly worth reading. As a continuation of the Farseer world, though, it’s a bit more complicated. On the plus side, this series gets more deeply into the mysteries and history of the world, finally revealing some things we’ve wondered about from the early Assassin books. But on the minus side, it seems a bit more tacked-on and less integrated than the previous nine books.

But then, I see on Hobb’s blog that she’s finished the first volume of her next trilogy in the world, so it’s entirely possible that this will end up feeling more essential before it’s all done. And even if not, I couldn’t recommend skipping the series merely out of abstract meta-series structural concerns.

Highly recommended to those who’ve read previous Hobb; for those who haven’t, her Farseer Trilogy remains highly recommended if you’re okay with a bit of darkness in your fantasy.


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