Friday, 2 September 2011

The Inheritance by Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm are one and the same person but they are very different writers. The Inheritance is a collection of short novels, novellas and stories, some of which are based in Hobb’s popular universe of the Six Duchies. Before each of the stories, Lindholm/Hobb gives a small snippet of history as to how she came to write the piece and I loved this insight into her working process. I have read all of the novels written so far by Robin Hobb and thoroughly enjoyed them but this was my first experience at reading anything by Megan Lindholm. I would say that I’d be tentatively willing to pick up a Lindholm novel in the future but I do prefer her work as Hobb.

The three stories by Robin Hobb – strictly, one short story and two novellas – were the strongest part of this collection. In particular, I adored ‘Homecoming’, a tale about some of the first settlers into the Rain Wilds. Lady Carillion, a noblewoman betrayed by her husband, was strong and capable, a joy to read about. The tale of the misfit group becoming the seeds of a new civilisation was just long enough to allow me to truly immerse and gave me a strong desire to re-read the Liveship Trader trilogy.

The shorter tales from the pen of Lindholm were more of a mixed bag (as is the case, I generally find, with anthologies). ‘A Touch of Lavender’ was a quirky and very enjoyable story of aliens – beneath the surface there is a darker discussion on the nature of drug addiction and motherhood that gave this short a very powerful edge. ‘Strays’ was also fantastically written; the punky Lonnie is a great character and one I would welcome a longer piece about. I spent the whole story wondering about how Lonnie came to be the kind of person she is and why she takes such care over stray cats.

I did not, however, like ‘Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man’ a great deal. This story, Lindholm confesses, was written for her husband and I feel it should have remained a private matter between them. I’m sure that if I was privy to the couple’s in jokes, then this tale would have been more fun. As it was, it was whimsical but incredibly lightweight and didn’t leave much of an impression. I had the same feeling of dissatisfaction after finishing ‘The Fifth Squashed Cat’ and ‘Drum Machine’. Both of these stories felt as though Lindholm only had the grain of an idea that she hadn’t developed effectively into a complete tale.

The Inheritance is not the strongest anthology I have read and didn’t leave me desperate to pick up novels by Lindholm. However, fans of the Six Duchies work by Robin Hobb will find this chance to read more about the world extremely satisfying, while newcomers can pick it up very successfully as well. Cautiously recommended.

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