Soldier Son #1. Author: Robin Hobb.
Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The second son of a newly anointed nobleman, he must endure the rigors of military training at the elite King’s Cavalla Academy–and survive the hatred, cruelty, and derision of his aristocratic classmates–before joining the King of Gernia’s brutal campaign of territorial expansion. The life chosen for him will be fraught with hardship, for he must ultimately face a forest-dwelling folk who will not submit easily to a king’s tyranny. And they possess an ancient magic their would-be conquerors have long discounted–a powerful sorcery that threatens to claim Nevare Burvelle’s soul and devastate his world once the Dark Evening brings the carnival to Old Thares. (Summary from Goodreads.)
Shaman’s Crossing started out as an interesting, slow coming-of-age story. Somehow, it managed to embody both the noble savage and the dirty savage tropes in the same tribes, which seemed something of an achievement. The straight forward coming-of-age story thread remained solidly interesting, as the main character advances through a military academy, making friends and enemies, and struggling to reach high standards. But the magic plot line just got stranger and stranger as it progressed. The ending was odd, confusing; it definitely needs the next book.
Sexual content: A couple boys/young men try to drag a girl into an alley, threatening in crude language to rape her. Speculation that a plague is spread by sexual intercourse with a non-human but humanoid species. Tribal character in telling stories to a boy brings out that the tribes (to which the MC does not belong to) do not believe adultery wrong. Mention of the fact that the main characters do not observe a pagan feast, of which it is said on that night a woman can be unfaithful to her husband and not be held accountable, for she must obey no will but her own. A kiss. Mention of some soldier cadets (not MC) using free days to visit “whore-houses”. Lewd stories about a party. Mention again of the Dark Night feast where licentiousness is not condemned. Brief, lewd scene with a near-topless woman at the carnival. At a circus, there is a naked humanoid woman of a different species in a cage. Circusman offers to arrange leaving young men alone with her later in exchange for money. (MC is disgusted, but other characters late admit to having taken him up on the offer.) MC has a vivid, carnal dream.
Language: 18 d***, 7 derogatory
Violence: Man backhands a boy across the face and breaks his jaw. Two men briefly fist-fight. Horse bites a man. Sword slices through character’s ear. Character shoots a horse. Hunter kills a deer. Old soldier tells stories about battles, including one where an entire tribe drowned itself rather than surrender. Story has man tortured to death (No details on the actual torture.) Major brawl between a large number of soldier-cadets.