Can this book be read first?

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Elizabeth Anne Technically, yes. However, it's more enjoyable if you've read the others in the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. I know this from experience, having accidentally read this one before any others; I was able to follow it okay and liked it pretty well by the end, but it was somewhat difficult to follow at times. (I sometimes had to re-read to piece together some of the characters' history, even though it was explained pretty clearly; it was just a lot of information to keep straight.) I then went back and read the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies and then reread this one, and it was like going from black-and-white to color in that I cared so much more about the characters, understood their motivations more, etc.

Also, reading this first made it so I knew a lot of what happened to the characters in previous books already, and I prefer to be surprised. It didn't ruin the previous books for me, but I felt somewhat like I was rereading them. Now I'm going to read the Liveship Traders and the Rain Wild Chronicles, but I suspect I'll wish I'd read them in order all along.
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by Robin Hobb (Goodreads Author)
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