“The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince” by Robin Hobb

I can’t believe I’ve read the entire Realm of the Elderlings books and there are no more books in the series for me and Emily at Embuhleeliest, my buddy-reader in all things Hobb, to devour. We were lost and wanting more, so we turned to this novella, a prequel to the massive series we wrapped up last year.




Realm of the Elderlings, book 0



Goodreads summary:

Long before the time of Chivalry Farseer, there was another indiscreet member of the royal line. Princess Caution Farseer, in defiance of her name, was headstrong and willful, destined to fall dangerously in love where she ought not.

The child she bore, a Witted boy known as the Piebald Prince, rose to favour despite his questionable bloodlines. But the dukes of the Six Duchies backed Canny Farseer for the throne. And so both young men competed for power… But this was not their only struggle: for they both fell in love with the same lady. Such rivalry could end only in bloodshed…

A tale of love and secrets, magic and manipulation, heartbreak and murder most foul: only a true-tongued minstrel can reveal the real story of the Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince. (Goodreads)

My thoughts: (minor spoilers)

This was not at all what I expected, not that I knew what to expect. The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince gives us the rundown on how the Wit, a magic system in the Realm of the Elderlings series, became taboo. And, OMG! So much drama went down, but it was such a good read!

The story is set years and years before King Shrewd’s reign. Way back then, a king and queen gave birth to a daughter they named Caution, but it seems they didn’t fully bind the name to the child because that princess was anything but cautious. It’s her maid Felicity who gives us the whole story. Felicity’s son, a minstrel named Redbird who only sings the truth, asked Felicity to write this account of what really happened to the Piebald Prince. What Felicity tells us is a story filled with drama, deceit, and political intrigue that sometimes had a hint of the fairytale to it. According to Felicity, after completing her account of what happened, she will hide a copy in the Buckkeep library and another in a place known only to her. When I read that part, I wondered if Chade (from the Farseer books and later series in the Realm of the Elderlings) ever read that scroll. Of all the characters in the series, Emily and I think he’s most likely to have read it.

I thought the whole thing was good. I have no complaints. It was so good with such great, complex characters. We get much development in them, about as much as we get in Hobb’s hefty novels, despite the story being so short.

I didn’t like Princess Caution, but I admired her because she directs her own life. Of course, many nobles grumbled about this saying she needs to settles down, but her parents basically allow her to do what she wants, and even her father admits that if she was a boy, people wouldn’t grumble as much about how she is. My favorite part is when she told the people of her land to accept her as she is — pregnant outside wedlock — and acknowledge her unborn son as her heir (although no one knows who the father is).

In contrast, we have Felicity who’s so unconfident that she allows her mother to control her for much of her life, leading her to make unwise and disastrous decisions. Oh man! I didn’t mind Felicity until the point where she lies to Caution about Lostler in an attempt to protect Caution’s dignity but instead rips Caution’s heart to shreds. I wonder if there was any way to prevent the disaster to come. After all, many people have plans for the throne, and Caution’s illegitimate pregnancy had already made things worse.

Lostler the hostler was a mystery. Back in these days, it wasn’t taboo to be Witted and people weren’t hunted for having such magic. It was accepted, at least at Buckkeep. No one suspected that Caution carried Lostler’s child until after the child was born and they saw his mottled skin. Based on what I know about the Wit from the other books in the series, I wonder if Lostler was much too young when he bonded with his horse. It seems that the horse is the dominant one in their relationship and probably overcomes Lostler sometimes. I think that would explain why Lostler doesn’t talk much and why the horse avidly watches Lostler and Caution when they are intimate. (Well, that’s my guess because it was odd.)

The Piebald Prince, too, is interesting. Charger Farseer is his name. I enjoyed reading about his rivalry with his uncle Canny Farseer, who really wants the Farseer throne. Okay, I lied. My only complaint about the book is Lady Wiffen from Bearns, who I didn’t like because she made the rivalry between these two men worse and, I think, cause the Piebald Prince’s death because she couldn’t make up her damn mind. However, part of me also thinks she and Canny planned that out (when she cussed out Canny in public and ran off to Charger’s room) to shame the Piebald Prince. Either way, I think the Piebald Prince got the last laugh in the end regarding who inherits the throne.

So, what I got from all this is that Fitz probably got the Wit from both his father’s bloodline and his mother’s.

Overall: ★★★★★

Of course it’s 5 stars. It wouldn’t be anything less.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Get it and read it, but only if you’ve already read all the Realm of the Elderlings books.


17 thoughts on ““The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince” by Robin Hobb

  1. I enjoyed this novella, though I felt it was more bitter than the average Farseer novel (and that’s not an easy feat! ;)) I think it was because of the setup – Felicity telling the story without having the benefit of omniscience. And I really didn’t like Lady Wiffen, and had similar suspicions as to her relationship with Canny (i.e. they set up Piebald Prince together). All in all, I agree it’s a good read after one has completed the Fitz and Fool sequence, it nicely answers some lingering questions 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was, wasn’t it? Bitter indeed. And I agree on your reasoning too.
      I thought it was great and I like the subtleties in it because it’s not stated outright whether or not Wiffen set up the Piebald Prince or if there really is a bastard child at the end, but the story slyly hints at it. I love that so much is packed into this short story.

      Liked by 1 person

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