The Inheritance, and Other Stories – by Hobb/Lindholm

If you’re a fantasy reader, chances are you’ve heard of – if not read – Robin Hobb, author of the Realm of the Elderlings (Farseer, Liveship Traders, Tawny Man trilogies and Rain Wild Chronicles) series and Soldier’s Son trilogy. You may be less familiar with Megan Lindholm, a name largely out of print and difficult to find in the United States, despite the critical acclaim for her forays into short fiction and various fantasy/sci fi novels in the 80’s. The author is one and the same, jumping from one pseudonym to the next depending on the style of writing she’s aiming for.

The Inheritance is a collection of stories from both personas: a nostalgic look into the past with seven previously published stories, and three new stories. From the dark, fast hitting stories she throws at you as Lindholm, to the sprawling and slow stewing dramas as Hobb, the difference in her writing styles become abundantly clear as you read. Lindholm raises challenging questions without being overly preachy, and as ever, Hobb’s slices of life are something to immerse yourself in and savor.

I’ve been a huge fan of Robin Hobb’s for years, but I’m loathe to admit that the only thing I’ve ever read of Lindholm was Wizard of the Pigeons and her short story, Cut. Hardly a scratch on the surface of the library she has to offer there. A reader accustomed to her epic fantasies may be surprised to find stories here about vampires, aliens in Seattle, or female circumcision. My favorite was Strays, a moving tale of a poor girl living with an abusive step parent who finds an almost magical refuge in the stray cats of the city. The ending, which would have been ridiculous had it been written by anyone else, sent me upright in my chair and heart pounding.

“She was already broken, already damaged past repairing. If you can’t fix something, then don’t worry about hurting it even more. The boys knew that. She wasn’t worth saving from them. It was like jumping on the couch that already had broken springs. She was just a thing to practice on.”

She takes us back to the world she introduced in Realm of the Elderlings for three novellas. Cat’s Meat being an entirely new story with an antagonist to make Joffrey Baratheon look like Justin Bieber on muscle relaxers. In typical Hobb fashion, these three stories take their time and consume as much page space as Lindholm’s seven. Of the three, I maintain that Homecoming is one of the best novellas I’ve ever read. The ground covered and the amount of character growth and development in such a small piece is nothing short of amazing to me.

Of equal interest are the author’s intimate “inside looks” in the preface and introducing each story. She discusses the choice to distinguish her writing styles with a psuedonym, and goes into the real life stuff that went into the development of each story – all garnished with excellent advice for writers from a seasoned pro. Even if you’re not a fan of Hobb’s, or a fan of fantasy, this book is worth a look if only for the autobiographical nature of the forwards.

“Writing fiction, my friend, is a game of sleight of hand that a writer plays with her- or himself. The writer takes key events, dazzling pains, gasping joys, and unutterable boredom and weaves them into a story that is always, inevitably, about the writer’s own life.”

The major downside of this collection is that most people buying it are doing so for Robin Hobb stories. Of the three, only one is new, and the other two are readily available in other forms. The real treasure here is the Lindholm stories, most of which have been out of print for years, and the author forwards. This should not be a deterrent, however, if you’re a hardcore fan or simply unfamiliar with her works as Megan Lindholm. Each story here is of the highest quality, and you may find (like me) that you enjoy many of the Lindholm stories even more than Hobb.

So if you’re looking for some quick fantasy to read, want to try some of her earlier work as Lindholm, or are just looking for a sample of the author in general – The Inheritance is a moving, thought provoking collection that deserves a place on any fantasy reader’s bookshelf.

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