Review: The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince, by Robin Hobb
One of the darkest legends in the Realm of the Elderlings recounts the tale of the so-called Piebald Prince, a Witted pretender to the throne unseated by the actions of brave nobles so that the Farseer line could continue untainted. Now the truth behind the story is revealed through the account of Felicity, a low-born companion of the Princess Caution at Buckkeep.
With Felicity by her side, Caution grows into a headstrong Queen-in-Waiting. But when Caution gives birth to a bastard son who shares the piebald markings of his father’s horse, Felicity is the one who raises him. And as the prince comes to power, political intrigue sparks dangerous whispers about the Wit that will change the kingdom forever…
Internationally-bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Robin Hobb takes readers deep into the history behind the Farseer series in this exclusive, new novella, “The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince.” In her trademark style, Hobb offers a revealing exploration of a family secret still reverberating generations later when assassin FitzChivalry Farseer comes onto the scene. Fans will not want to miss these tantalizing new insights into a much-beloved world and its unforgettable characters.
This 184 page novella takes us to a time when the Wit isn’t just accepted in The Six Duchies – it’s admired. These people are a pack of fucking All-Purpose Cesar Millans in cow town. They’re curing your diseased ass livestock, they’re taming your dogs that keep killing all the chickens, they’re making your rooster stop being a crazy fuck. What’s not to love? Some Serious Shit had to go down to make the people of Buck decide it was better to slice-and-dice animal whisperers than to let them continue saving farms.
As the title suggests, this novella of Serious Shit Going Down is split into two parts. The Willful Princess portion follows Felicity, a wetnurse’s daughter. At her mother’s direction, she befriends Princess Caution in hopes of one day achieving a higher status than some royal family’s god damned cow. Caution does what she wants, and things spiral out of control when the princess falls for a Witted stableman and gets knocked up.
The second half, The Piebald Prince, takes a “hands-off” approach as it tells the story of Caution’s son and his eventual downfall that led to the Witted being outlawed. This should be some riveting shit, considering we’ve got people being minced and boiled here. Unfortunately, this section is still detailed by Felicity – and I think this is the novella’s greatest downfall. She’s not actually privy to any of what’s going on, so the second half feels like you’re still reading exposition in The Farseer trilogy. There’s very little dialogue, and no reason to care about the prince because it’s kind of hard to connect with somebody who doesn’t speak.
While the outcome of the events are heartbreaking, I can’t help but feel that much of the impact is lost by having the most dramatic events told secondhand.
The Willful Princess portion was riveting, and it strikes me as odd that it so vastly eclipses the main feature of this novella. Felicity and her mother were by and far the stars of the show. The style made me feel like I was reading a fairy tale, and I enjoyed feeling like a kid reading a bedtime story again – just this time with lots of murder and LGBT goodness.
Overall I was a little disappointed, but it’s good to know the exact details of this much eluded to legend that effects everything in Farseer and Tawny Man. It’s not so much an introduction to Hobb’s work for new readers as it is a collector’s piece for the most devout of Hobb fans.
An electronic version will likely be released at a low price soon, so check that out if you can. Otherwise this is mainly a collector’s item for the most devout of Hobb fanatics.
This is a Subterranean Press release which means that it’s PRETTY! I decided to snap a few pictures of the book to share with those who aren’t willing to shell out $30 for a novella and may be waiting for the e-book. I was only able to snag a trade copy, so it’s not as fancy. Sorry for that.
The illustrations may be considered SPOILERS!! So proceed at your own risk.
The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince
- LGBT fairy tale!
- Sheds light on some mysteries of the series.
- Great collectors item for die-hard Robin Hobb fans.
- The important bits are told rather than shown, so the impact is lost.
- Mainly a curiosity/collectors piece.