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Renegade's Magic: Book Three of The Soldier Son Trilogy    by Robin Hobb order for
Renegade's Magic
by Robin Hobb
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This third in The Soldier Son trilogy (following Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage) comes full circle, taking its abused protagonist, Nevare Burvelle, away from his own Gernian people and into the world of the Specks - and then bringing him home again, despite the seeming impossibility of the author's making that happen. As it opens, Nevare flees Gettys, leaving his cousin Epiny, best friend Spink and lover Amzil with false memories of his death at the hands of a mob of fellow soldiers.

Nevare spends all the magic that has accumulated in his huge body to temporarily halt construction of the Gernian king's road that is destroying Speck ancestral trees. This expenditure of his hoarded magic is considered wasteful by Speck Great Man Jodoli, and by Nevare's feeder Olikea and her son Likari, who are sent by Tree Woman (forest mage Lisana) to rescue the depleted Nevare. With their aid, he makes the traditional Speck journey over the mountains to their Wintering Place. Along the way, Speck mage Soldier's Boy takes over the body that he's shared with Nevare since Lisana split him into two individuals in Shaman's Crossing and trained the more ruthless personality - whom she loves and who worships her in return - to do the magic's bidding. Nevare occasionally breaks through to make dream contact with his loved ones, but otherwise is a spectator in his own body, which has become fully a Great One of the Speck People.

Soldier's Boy and Olikea use a treasure hidden by Lisana to establish themselves and for trade. They are summoned by Kinrove, most powerful of Speck Great Ones, who has been responsible for sending the plague amongst Gernians - at a very high cost to his own people. Soldier's Boy is caught up in a Speck power struggle and aligns himself with young Great One Dasie in her plan to slaughter everyone at Gettys. But the Speck attack on the fort has mixed success, partly due to Nevare's dream warnings. Nevare/Soldier's Boy must ultimately let the magic have its way - with a rock he'd long since picked up and discarded, his journal that Epiny sent home to her father, and a mage's sacrificial dance as catalyst. Throughout, the god of balances hovers in the form of a croaker bird, repeatedly telling Nevare 'You owe me a death' - and the god takes his due.

This has been an unusual series for me - I was enthralled by Shaman's Crossing but found Forest Mage depressing, as the magic bloated Burvelle's body while systematically stripping our hero of everything that mattered to him - career, family, friends, and self-esteem. But it all makes sense by the end of Renegade's Magic, in which master fantasist Robin Hobb brings the trilogy to a remarkable conclusion that satisfies on all levels.

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