Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
The Inheritance is a collection of short stories by alter egos Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm. Containing both original to the collection and reprint stories, The Inheritance is an almost soul bearing group of stories, particularly those written under the Lindholm name, which stem from reflections of the author’s own life. Containing two stories set in Hobb’s Elderlings world, this book is a showcase of quality writing and thoughtful plots.
The first seven stories are nominally by Megan Lindholm. In her introduction, the author states that Lindholm’s stories are more concise than Hobb’s, while “Robin still tends to sprawl in her storytelling, so while she takes up as many pages, there are fewer stories by her in these pages.” (p. ix). So it is that the first half of the book are shorter pieces, tending to examine smaller pieces of life, but in a depth and beauty that’s hard to find in short stories today. Some stories are so slightly left of centre that they are almost mainstream, but only almost. The touch of speculation is always there, however covertly.
The collection opens with “A Touch of Lavender”, a touching, harsh and ultimately deeply sad story about alien contact on Earth. “Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man” will leave you wondering about the reliability of the storytelling, with a beautiful hopeful ending, while “Cut” was exactly the opposite, and was perhaps the only story in the book that I was a little dissatisfied with. It felt a little preachy and too short – I wanted the theme explored a bit more and the resolution to be possibly less cut and dried.
“The Fifth Squashed Cat” is about as icky as you might expect from the title, but it is an insightful look into people at the same time. “Strays” I remember reading in the anthology Warrior Princesses a couple of years ago. Loved it then, loved it now, absolutely adore the ending. “Finis” is a slight little paranormal piece, which despite its lack of depth is still a lovely journey (if a bit predictable). The final Lindholm story is “Drum Machine” is a fascinating sfnal story, that doesn’t quite take you where you think it is going to. The ending is ultimately quite bleak I think, which makes it even more powerful.
And then we come to the three Robin Hobb stories. It’s quite fascinating to see the change in style and structure between the two pseudonyms, which makes you wonder how on earth the author lives with all these different people in her head! I’m a big Robin Hobb fan, and these stories are very good examples of why.
“Homecoming” is a Rain Wilds origins story, describing the beginnings of the Rain Wilds traders. I first read this in the Robert Silverberg anthology Legends II a number of years ago and found I enjoyed it even more this time around. While those of us who have read the Liveship Traders and other books of Hobb’s will be more aware of the purpose of this tale, it stands alone well in its own right, and would be a good preview to entice new readers to the Liveship books (and of course the new Rain Wilds Chronicles series, though I’d recommend reading Liveships first).
I don’t think the title story “The Inheritance” offers the same introduction to the Elderlings world, but instead, it is simply an excellent fantasy story, that doesn’t necessarily have to hold connection to a larger story. It is certainly a Bingtown story, but you do not have to have read any of the novels to enjoy and understand the piece.
The same is true of the concluding piece of the collection, an original story titled “Cat’s Meat”. More connected to the Farseer novels than the Liveships, this story also stands as an excellent fantasy work in its own right. Readers of the novels will possibly have a greater connection with the magic behind the plot, but it still works well on its own.
In all, this was a most enjoyable book. The combination of Robin Hobb’s works which are the very definition of bleak fantasy with Megan Lindholm’s less, shall we say, obvious fantasy and science fiction pieces was an interesting juxtaposition, and the author’s entrees to each story were also engaging. Highly recommended for both fans of the authors and readers looking for a new addiction!