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Shaman's Crossing
Robin Hobb
HarperCollins Voyager, 535 pages

Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb, aka Megan Lindholm, was born in California in 1952. At the age of about 9 she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she graduated from high school. Later, after a brief stint at the University of Denver where she majored in Mass Communications, she married and moved back up to Alaska, where she started writing under her maiden name. She started publishing her short stories about twenty years ago in small magazines. Shortlisted for the 1989 Nebula Awards in the categories of novella ("A Touch of Lavender" -- also a 1990 Hugo Award nominee) and novelette ("Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man"), she was also nominated for the Nebula for her short story "Cut." She lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Robin Hobb Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Robin Hobb
ISFDB Bibliography: Megan Lindholm
SF Site Review: The Golden Fool
SF Site Review: Fool's Errand
SF Site Review: Mad Ship
SF Site Review: Ship of Magic
SF Site Review: The Farseer Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Farseer: Assassin's Quest
SF Site Review: The Farseer: Royal Assassin

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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Shaman's Crossing There are few things that interest me less than military fiction, so it's a real tribute to Robin Hobb (aka Megan Lindholm) that I found myself entirely engrossed in Shaman's Crossing, the story of a soldier's upbringing and his early career as a cadet at military academy. This first novel in a new trilogy from HarperCollins reminded me just a little of Master and Commander -- a movie I didn't expect to like but found riveting.

In Gernia, first sons are their fathers' heirs, second sons are soldiers and third sons enter the priesthood. It has always been that way, and it would never occur to Nevare Burvel to question his destiny as the second son of a second son. His father was a hero two decades earlier when the King's Cavalry conquered the nomadic tribes of the grasslands, and now he expects to make his own career on the new frontier -- the mountainous forest lands that will give Gernia access to another coast.

Still, he doesn't expect his father to send him for training with an old enemy -- a fierce Kidona warrior. And when he survives that life-changing ordeal, it is only to encounter worse perils from his own people. Nevare travels from his home on the plains to the city of Old Thares to enter the King's Academy, and discovers that deep divisions in Gernian society are reflected in the Academy, where brutal hazing rituals threaten to become murderous.

There's no question that this is a riff on the American frontier, right down to the level of technology. And yet, Hobb manages to put her own spin on the scenario, so it doesn't seem like a cheap horse opera or spaghetti western. This world has abundant gritty detail, and her society's politics are both complex and utterly believable.

Shaman's Crossing is not alternate history -- it's Fantasy. Nevare is introduced to a very real spirit world by the Kidona warrior, and the primitive peoples of the forest -- the Specks -- are using magic to fight for their own survival against an overwhelming and technologically advanced foe.

As always it is Hobbs' vivid characterization and emotional suspense that carries the novel. Long time Hobbs fans will be very pleased with this latest book, and new readers should discover a fine writer. Look for Shaman's Crossing to turn up on many award ballots this year.

Copyright © 2006 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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