Queer books you may not have read: Part Five

October 20, 2012 § 8 Comments

As I write this there’s drizzle pattering against the windows and a cake in the oven – so, time for some Autumnal comfort. Which, in my book (sorry, sorry) means reaching for The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. Yes, all nine of then – a trilogy of trilogies.


Admitting in public to loving a fantasy book is still a bit of a weird thing for me – most people I know assume I read nothing but deliberately obscure, dust-covered philosophical oddments I’ve found in the BL, and I hate to disappoint. Hobb certainly falls into many of the conventional trappings of post-Tolkien fantasy: pseudo Renaissance/Medieval setting, re-imagining of a European past with the addition of magic etc. But three things set these books apart: an extraordinarily deep understanding of human nature, the gentle lyricism of the prose, and just about the best androgynous character I’ve ever met.


Oh, and art by John Howe – another cliché for the list.


‘The Fool will always remain one of Buckkeep’s great mysteries. It is almost possible to say that nothing definite is known of him. His origin, age, sex and race have all been the subject of conjecture. Most amazing is how such a public person maintained such an aura of privacy. The questions about the Fool will always outnumber the answers.’


You know that precious, rare moment when you open a book and experience a jolt of recognition you assumed you’d never feel? These books have my heart forever because of that. A friend recommended them as  a way of relaxing during A-level revision, and I wasn’t expecting anything beyond a vaguely entertaining, forgettable way of switching off. And then I read them, and found something so affirming of who I was, and what I aspired to be, that I may possibly, um, have kissed the pages in gratitude.


So. A mysterious creature, appearing sometimes as an androgynous man, sometimes as an androgynous woman, answering all questions about their gender with riddles and complaints about the stupidity of conventional sex/gender models. An unreliable narrator who can’t quite get a handle on his love for (and possible attraction to) said androgynous creature – and the bigotry directed at them by those who assume they’re a couple. A story about being an outsider, about dealing with a society that has marked you out as unacceptable, about the unfairness of the world and how you have to try to save it anyway. All that and high adventure, heartache, pirates and dragons. A comfort read that forces you to think – sheer perfection. With a slight spoiler – I don’t know what the author did with the end. Seriously. Totally confused. I like to believe that it finished on page 644 of the final volume – maybe you will too.


Good for: People who like to pretend to be living out a fantasy epic (activism as slaying monsters!), those experiencing academic brain freeze, hopeless romantics.


Bad for: People who balk at the word ‘magic’.


Goes with: Mulled wine, real ale, parkin, a roaring fire, early music.


§ 8 Responses to Queer books you may not have read: Part Five

  • Jack says:

    Ah! These books are so my (guilty) favourites! It’s always startling to find out that other people have read them & love them equally as much. Good choice! Now I really want both to have time to re-read them, and all of the above food/drink/roaring fire.

  • I shall read them one day. Very much enjoyed the Liveships trilogy, despite some triggeriness.

  • Jonathan says:

    Nice youtube link 🙂 — I’ve seen/heard the Tallis Scholars numerous times.

    Did you ever check Cantum Barbum?

  • Cara says:

    Yes to all of this – I do love these books for so very many reasons! The Fool is brilliant.
    Agreed about the end – I have many ways I try to justify it to myself, but none of them quite work, so ignoring/pretending it didn’t happen is definitely best.

  • Emma says:

    Love those books, and the Fool is the most wonderful character created 🙂 The relationship between the Fool and Fitz is exquisitely beautiful and painful…

  • Hey. Your blog’s being almost creepily relevant today. I was feeling sulky about empathising utterly with the experiences of transmen in prison so thought I’d check out your blog in an attempt to feel better. First post reminds me that I have to buy a bridesmaids dress and somehow cope with wearing it and knowing that there will always be proof (no idea how you survived getting married in the traditional way, impressive stuff). Second that I’m supposed to be activating my new bank accounts but am too ill to bother (will try to remember to get an album at the same time). Third that I have Fool’s Fate next to me and have got to the awful part where the Fool first appears at the top of the cliffs and I don’t dare read more because although I can’t remember any of the plot I know the end for the Fool broke my heart and depressed me for weeks. What’s the chapter called that I should quit on? I don’t know what edition you have.

    Thank you for the blog.

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