Review: The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

Title: The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince
Series: Realm of the Elderlings 0.2 | Farseer Trilogy 0.5
Published by: Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0007498136
ISBN 13: 9780007498130
Published: October 2013
Pages: 157
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Realm of the Elderlings

The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince (novella) focuses on two generations. Told by Felicity it starts when she’s very young, and pushed by her mother to make herself indispensable to the Princess Caution. Her mother being the Princess’ wetnurse. She goes as far as allowing Felicity to be taken and kept at the castle even after her services are no longer required, incredibly determined that her daughter will have a better life than she has.

Sure enough, Princess Caution and Felicity grow up together. Her mother comes back to wetnurse occasionally, and often counsels Felicity in what to do or say, with it often being to always keep Caution happy, always support her, take the blame where possible, and make it that she’s always around so that she also happens to learn exactly what Caution does. So she learns to read and write, history, and all the rest of it. Though she’s careful to never let the princess see that she may be smarter than her in some areas.

Time passes. Felicity indeed remains by Caution’s side throughout her life, and goes on to be wetnurse to Caution’s own child, Charger. Because her mother told her to get pregnant by any means as soon as Caution is, and then takes a dreadful tonic that brings on early birth so that she is available to Charger from his very first night.

The second half of the book is about Charger and Felicity’s son, Redbird, who, like Caution and Felicity before them grew to be close throughout their young lives. Redbird is always there for Charger through thick and thin, and goes onto be his minstrel, forsworn to sing always the truth and nothing else. It’s Redbird himself who asked his mother, Felicity, to write this book so that the truth of it all can be remembered, though if it’s lost for a few decades in the castle’s scroll library then so be it.

I first read this when it came out in 2013, and back then my comment was ‘Beyond all expectations, beyond beautiful and such a joy to read.’ This remains to be true – back then my expectations would be high as they are now, and it was still better than I remembered. Robin Hobb will always have a special place in my heart. I’m so very behind in this challenge that Bethwyn and I are doing, and it’s not because I find her work hard to read (even though it’s sometimes pretty depressing), because it’s always so well-written that it’s a joy to read, regardless.

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