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The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince
by Robin Hobb
Subterrannean Press, $35.00, 184pp
Release Date: February 28, 2013
This lovely little novella is placed in the same world as Hobb’s Trader stories and, more particularly, the Farseer stories. One of the main backstory lines in Farseer is the idea that beast-magic, also called Wit magic, was evil but I don’t recall that Ms Hobb ever gave out why exactly…until now.

This story take place generations before FitzChivalry is born (the protagonist of Assassin’s Apprentice.) At this point in time, Wit magic is respected and many folk make an honest living using it. A princess was born named Caution who became Queen-in-waiting. Princess Caution had a low-born female companion since her infancy, a young girl whose mother was the Princess’ wetnurse. The young girl, Felicity, was witness to the Princess’ developing personality and, in many ways, responsible for it. The Princess, who was never denied anything, grew into a very willful young woman; so when she finally met a man who attracted her, it was inevitable that she would not listen to reason but follow her heart. Her heart led her to a stablehand who was Witted with a piebald stallion as his companion.

This sort of story doesn’t always end well – Princess and the commoner – but this story was also entangled with politics and jealousy. The real impact of the story occurred when the son of that ill-fated union took the throne. The events after that are what led to the Witted being hunted and banned and the historians didn’t write the true story, as usual. But Felicity was there and she saw just about all of it. At the urging of her son, a bard, she chronicled it all.

If you are a fan of the Farseer stories, then this will be a delightful addition. It is written in the first person and is rather like a memoir. I enjoyed it but I have to admit the price of this little book was a big bite for little substance. However, if it hadn’t been published by a small press as an exclusive (hence, the high price) it might have been years before it saw the light of day. And it is a beautiful presentation with a laid-in signature sheet and two colored illustrations.

As to the story itself, as a memoir, one is not expecting the same structure as a novel. But there was a plot, and there was good character development. I found the pace a bit slow but that is to be expected. All in all, I enjoyed the little story but I could have waited for a short story collection. ~~ Catherine Book

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