Enter Nevare Burvelle, second son of a second son, fated because of his birth order to become a soldier in his king's cavalla (cavalry). Much of this first book in the series deals with Nevare's childhood: how his father initiates him into his birth-fate, begins to meld him into the man he must one day become, and, finally, sends him off to the King's Academy where he will learn the business of soldiering. Along the way, as you would expect, Nevare becomes entangled in a web that neither he nor the reader will fully understand until events unfold in Renegade's Magic.
I found Shaman's Crossing fully engaging. Nevare's early years on his family's estate draw you in from the start, introducing us to his father's war history with the Plainspeople and Nevare's own bond with one Plainsman in particular. There was almost a low point where Nevare is at the academy, what with the mundane day-to-day life of a student and all, but Hobb keeps the reader interested with a myriad of sub-plots and a cast of real, believable characters who each have difficulties or challenges of their own. It was a lot of fun reading the beginnings of what becomes a much larger story for Nevare, and I'd scarce put Shaman's Crossing down before Forest Mage was in hand and turned to page one.
This review at http://www.scottmarlowe.com/post/Review-of-Robin-Hobbs-Soldier-Son-Trilogy.aspx