Book Review: The Inheritance / Author: Robin Hobb, Megan Lindholm / Publisher: Harper Voyager / Release Date: Out Now
Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb are the same writer, two sides of the same coin, if you will. The former fills half of The Inheritance with seven short stories, while the latter takes only three, including the title story. With such contrasting styles on offer, there’s a possibility that they may clash, each making the other seem redundant. They don’t; in fact, they compliment each other brilliantly. The Inheritance is a superb collection of tales, even the longest of which never outstays its welcome.
Lindholm is first, starting with the brilliant A Touch of Lavender, the longest of her stories. Here, mankind has had contact with an alien race, the members of which live on our planet like refugees. It’s a fascinating tale of addiction and poverty, with characters any reader could sympathise with. It drew me in completely, stripping me of my surroundings and enveloping me with its warmth. For me this was the best of the Lindholm tales, with Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man coming a close second; again, the characters and the situation are enthralling, even if the ending is slightly predictable. The other stories are excellent, suffering only in comparison with the two fantastic tales that start the novel. For me, Cut is the weakest. The author herself admits her concern that such stories shout their morality at the reader, and while there may have been no bellowing from the highest tower, the message was clear from the start.
That’s a petty grievance, though. The Lindholm stories were so impressive, I doubted Hobb could be equally as good. I read Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy years ago, and while I enjoyed it, I felt the story was bogged down slightly by its description. Surely, with short stories twice as long as those I’d just read, I’d be disappointed to find them to be the same.
I was delighted to be proved wrong. Yes, there’s more description – a lot more – but never does it feel forced or unnecessary, an info-dump so the narrative can move on. Homecoming could have suffered so much with its wealth of description, yet every word is made relevant. Hobb’s stories are much longer than the Lindholm tales, they never suffer for their length; on the contrary, they are better for it. Hobb’s tales are set in the world of her books, although my limited knowledge of it didn’t prevent my enjoyment of all of them. Parts reminded me of what I’d liked about the Farseer Trilogy (how could I forget about The Wit?), while others made me want to read more. While the first two stories are very good, it was the last, Cat’s Meat that I favoured. What could have slipped into melodrama at the hands of a lesser writer is made into something much more by Hobb’s talent, with the lead character’s despair almost dripping from the page. It’s beautifully done, with a crafty twist at the end.
I enjoyed every moment spent reading this book. Strip away the fantasy elements of each tale, and you have sympathetic characters reacting to situations in a believable way. Both author’s styles, however contradictory, contain the same fluid, thoughtful prose that is the product of any good writer. It’s a book I’d recommend to everyone; those who don’t like cats may have to look beyond the cover, but what waits on the pages in between is nothing short of breathtaking.