As a huge fan of Robin Hobb and her Six Duchies novels, I was thrilled when it was announced that she was writing a novella which would focus on the Farseer line's magical power. With The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince, the author would finally reveal how the Farseer family acquired their mysterious powers. I was quite intrigued, to say the least!
Here's the blurb:
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.
The novella is split into two parts, "The Willful Princess" and "The Piebald Prince." The first one focuses on Princess Caution Farseer, willful daughter of King Virile and Queen Capable. It chronicles the events of her life, from her name-sealing day until the day she gave birth to her only child. From the beginning, Caution is a spoiled brat who'll become an annoying teenager, and then a capricious Queen-in-Waiting.
The tale is told by Felicity, daughter of Princess Caution's wet-nurse. Although low-born, Felicity will become Caution's best friend, confidante, and lover. Trouble is, Felicity isn't a very interesting or even likeable POV protagonist. And since the entire novella unfolds through her eyes, that creates a problem. I understand that for the secrets to go down through the subsequent Farseer generations, it needed to be recorded by a third party. Hence, Felicity and Redbird's importance cannot be put into question. It's just that Felicity isn't an engaging narrator. And given how critical and fascinating the truth behind the Farseer's mysterious magical powers will be in the two series featuring the beloved character FitzChivalry, I believe the tale would have been better had it featured POVs by Princess Caution, Lostler, Lord Canny, Lady Wiffen, and King Charger.
I feel it would have given more depth to the story. As things stand, with everything being recounted by Felicity, the novella lacks the usual emotional punch that characterize basically all of Robin Hobb's tales.
Beyond the secrets behind the Farseer line's mystical powers, I enjoyed how The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince also elaborated on why the Wit became so feared and Witted People became persecuted all over the Six Duchies.
Although Hobb's storylines are as absorbing as is habitually her wont, I found that Felicity's narrative could be a bit off-putting at times. The pace can drag a bit in certain portions of the first part. Yet the rhythm is perfect in "The Piebald Prince."
Regardless of its shortcomings, I found The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince to be a worthy addition to the Six Duchies' canon. Can't wait to read another novel/series featuring FitzChavalry again!!
The final verdict: 7.25/10
For more info about this title, check out the Subterranean Press website.