The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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This is not a long book, in fact novella probably bet suits it. Returning to Hobbs Five Duchies home of such characters as Fitz and the fool, it takes the reader to the past. There is mention in the main novels - The Assassin novels and Fool books of a legend about the ruling Farseer family, of the horrific tale of the Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince. There are songs and stories all of which are quite dramatic and bloody not painting either character in the best of lights, serving to tell how the animal affinity magic, The Wit entered the Farseer family, and how it became so despised.

This book is a first hand account of the story written by someone who was there and witnessed the events at the time, a scroll that was then hidden away to be found at a later date. It tells the true tale, something that has been distorted and retold over the years, but the scrolls writer is prepared throughout to insist on her own honesty, and when you take into account her alleged connection with both the characters it makes you wonder just how honest she is being.

Hobb is obviously one of the best fantasy writers around today, and this slight ambiguity adds a level of distrust to the story that really works. You want to believe her version of events but there is just the slight doubt brought on by her insistence that what she tells is the truth.

The title basically says what the story is: A wilful princess who has her own way until it leads to a royal pregnancy, and her child the Piebald prince. It follows how he is seen at court and how he manages or tries to fit in, and ultimately in the way it ends, and it cannot end well.

As a whole the story works really well, gives a piece of history that readers have asked for, showing it in a different way to what might have been expected, while still giving that sliver of doubt that the events told here might not be exactly what really happened. Especially the twist ending.
 
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