The Soldier Son Trilogy (Shaman’s Crossing, Forest Mage and Renegade’s Magic) is not my favorite of the many trilogies from the amazing Robin Hobb, but whenever I think of unlikely or unusual heroes, I think of Nevare, this trilogy’s central character.
Nevare begins as a sure-fire hero type. Born to be a soldier, he is well built, strong and smart. As the son of a nobleman, he is eligible to attend the King of Gernia’s elite training academy where he endures with intelligence and grace the trials that break lesser men. But while there he contracts a plague planted by the Specks (indigenous forest dwellers who are in bitter conflict with Gernia) which decimates the academy’s troops yet leaves Nevare alive – but changed.
Now, no matter how hard he works, no matter what his regimen, regardless of his diet, Nevare gains weight. He becomes fat. Not just chunky, but massively, obscenely fat. He is still strong, still smart, but grossly obese. As a result, his fiancée deserts him, most of his friends turn against him, and his father, disgusted, casts him out. He remains a soldier, but everywhere he goes, people make fun of him, taunt him, and cruelly treat him as less than human, all because of his massive weight.
In time, we learn that this inevitable obesity has marked Nevare as a powerful shaman – but in the Speck tradition. It is something that he cannot understand or resist. Revered by some Specks, he is mocked by others, and is challenged to prove himself as a true shaman – but to do that, he must betray everything in his past, including those very few who have never stopped believing in him.
Eventually, Nevare does triumph, but he never stops being fat, nor does his obesity become less of a detriment to his happiness. This is why I love this hero so much – because there is no fairy tale ending, no miraculous transformation. There is only acceptance – and that ends up being enough.