3rd in series of 3; also last in series of 9
The Tawny Man trilogy, the third that Robin Hobb has set in this particular world, has a different feel than the two previous trilogies. First of all, it takes place in a much shorter period of time; the total action of the three books takes place in a matter of months rather than years. This has two effects - it allows for more in-depth development of the action that does take place, and it makes the books feel shorter. Secondly, much of the world-shaking urgency is gone, because unlike the previous series, there is no large-scale war developing. Everything is on a smaller, more personal scale.
The Farseer (Assassin) series, the first, was Hobb's 'bastard prince' trilogy, where we are introduced to FitzChivalry. Her second, the Liveship trilogy (and her 'swashbuckling pirate series'), was set much further south and was seemingly unrelated at first. And I feel very, very stupid that I did not realize the significance of one particular character until it was all but spelled out for me. This trilogy ties the two previous ones together firmly.
Why am I spending so much time talking about the leadup to this book? Because you shouldn't read it without reading the others first, of course. This book is a culmination of the previous eight, and much of what happens loses its significance without the larger context. The climax actually happens fairly early, because the author needed time to tie up the series. I saw a lot of complaints on Amazon about the "happy ending" from people who don't believe that life is like that; Hobb has been giving us loose ends and hard endings for eight books, so I believe that the happy ending is finally justified. (I also feel that the vast majority of people in life end up with "happy endings", but that is a subject for another post.)
I found that certain occurrences in the novel were inevitable, given the fact that FitzChivalry is finally growing up (and about time; he's nearly forty.) There were certain consequences of actions taken years ago that I hadn't considered, however, and Hobb exploits them to good advantage. Mostly, I find this book very satisfying on a deep level, and that's probably because I finally don't feel like I want to slap some sense into the protagonist. Hobb has tied up the series in such a way as to make the reader feel that they don't need more, a 'happily ever after' ending that makes sure that any further books would feel like an intrusion.
If you've made it this far, you deserve this book. If you've never heard of Robin Hobb, you deserve to check her out. But start with the first.