To get back in the swing of regular blogging I’m going to start with a pair of reviews from last year’s reading – books #2 & #3 from Robin Hobb’s FITZ AND THE FOOL trilogy: FOOLS QUEST and ASSASSIN’S FATE.
When I did my review of book #1, FOOL’S ASSASSIN, many of you weighed in with memories of how much you’d loved this series. I may be rather late to the party, but I can truly say now that having read the whole set, it is a marvellous completion to the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, sad though it is to think we will not be returning to this character again.
So, here are my thoughts on books 2&3.
Happy endings never last…
Years ago, they freed a dragon from the glaciers on Aslevjal. Then they parted ways, the Fool returning to far-off Clerres, while Fitz finally claimed a wife, a family, and a home of his own.
Now, betrayed by his own people and broken by torment, the Fool has made his way back to the Six Duchies. But as Fitz attempts to heal his old friend in Buckkeep Castle, his young daughter Bee is abducted from Withywoods by pale and mysterious raiders who leave ruin and confusion in their wake.
Fitz must find a way to rescue his beloved Bee. At the same time it is the Fool’s fiercest wish to return to Clerres with the best assassin he has ever known, to gain vengeance and justice.
Can Fitz bear to take up the tools of his old trade again, even to avenge his dearest friend and save his child?
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Having decreed that the first volume in this series was rather slow, and more of a character study (very beautifully drawn, as one would expect from this author) than a plot-driven story, this one hits the ground running and never lets up.
Picking up instantly on the calamitous events at the ending of volume 1, poor Bee is enduring a range of hardships in her captivity, some inflicted upon her and some, seemingly the consequence of her odd nature. Back in Buckkeep Castle, Fitz is in ignorance of his daughter’s plight, but assailed by the Fool’s demands for vengeance upon those who tortured him to the edge of life and left him twisted and broken, both physically and mentally. Castle politics seethe as ever, and Fitz, finally revealed to the public as a Farseer prince (and oh, what a lovely scene that way!), is thoroughly off-balance, no longer sure where he fits in.
Even before the delayed news of Bee’s kidnapping is discovered, events turn at a startling pace, which only ramps up when suspicions rise about the strange lack of contact from Fitz’s home. The reader is subjected to the artfully designed frustration of knowing what is happening to Bee while Fitz does not, while at the same time being driven to read as fast as possible to find out what will happen when he does. At times, perhaps the suspense is sustained over-long, but when you set out to read a Robin Hobb book, you accept it’s going to be a long read, filled with exquisite detail and fraught with fantastic emotional depth.
I barely paused to take a breath at the end, before diving into the final volume of this set.
Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river.
Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.
Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected?
But Fitz and his followers are not the only ones with a deadly grudge against the Four. An ancient wrong will bring them unlikely and dangerous allies in their quest. And if the corrupt society of Clerres is to be brought down, Fitz and the Fool will have to make a series of profound and fateful sacrifices.Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What can I add to my opinions of the previous book in this jaw-dropping series? Every time you think you know where this story is going, it takes a dramatic unexpected turn. As Fitz and the Fool journey towards Clerres to wreak revenge on the corrupt Servants of the White Prophets, their mission is constantly diverted by the people they meet along the way, re-introducing us to characters and lands from other Hobb’s series, most notably the dragons and the liveships. Any reader would be well advised to delve into earlier series to fully understand the frequently shocking twists and turns of this, the final volume of Fitz’s story.
Hobb is at her masterful best with this book – wringing every last drop of emotion from the reader as we travel with these beloved characters, and answering along the way mysteries you often didn’t realise she’d posed in her earlier works. Both joyous and heart-wrenchingly sad, we say a final goodbye to characters we’ve lived with for years, or indeed, decades, as the story draws to an incredibly satisfying conclusion.
Thank you, Robin Hobb, for being the exquisite story-teller that you are.
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