Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb (spoiler free)
|Book Name:||Fool’s Assassin|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||August 12, 2014|
This is a spoiler free review of Fool’s Assassin. HOWEVER it does contain spoilers for all of Hobb’s previous books. Read with caution if you’ve yet to finish her previous series.
It’s been a long journey. Fitzchivalry has survived torture, dragons, the loss of many close friends, enough psychological and physical damage to break a person. He’s endured death itself, and brought others back from the brink enough times that, finally, he’s deserved a rest. Yet here we are, watching as Fitz enters what truly must be the darkest time in his life. Fool’s Assassin is not a story about warring countries or rising dragons. It is not a story about a man enjoying his well-deserved peace and quiet. It is a story of family and its challenges, a story of friendship in the face of duty. It is a story of heartbreak.
Fitz is happy. He’s living in Withywoods, the old estate that belonged to his father, Prince Chivalry. Married to the only woman he ever loved, Molly, the pair enjoy a rustic, yet fulfilled existence. Fool’s Assassin, like many of Hobb’s beginnings, enjoys lulling the reader slowly into the story, this time, over the course of many years as mysteries weave themselves in and out of Withywoods. The threads are always there, but slip and slide out of focus just enough to leave the reader hungry, almost painfully so, for the answers that Hobb gradually brings.
Her plot moves at a smooth pace, centering around Fitz’s life in Withywoods. It’s almost painful to watch as Fitz deals with the everyday tangles of holding an estate: dealing with repairs, hiring new staff, holding Winterfest celebrations. It’s because we know, and always know, that beneath the life that Fitz shows, there is a blossoming darkness, an ever-present threat. It reveals itself in the visitations of pale messengers, hunted, bringing dark tidings that threaten Fitz’s well-earned retirement. It reveals itself in the awful truth that Fitz, after many Skill-healings, is aging at a much slower pace than his wife. And also in Buckkeep, where King Dutiful reigns alongside Fitz’s old mentor, Chade, and his daughter, Nettle, who will never relinquish their need for Fitz’s talents. And he will never refuse them.
After four novels set in the Rain Wilds, Fitz’s narrative feels almost like coming home after a long journey. The character is so familiar, and written so deeply, that it takes virtually no time before the reader settles into his head, to see the Six Duchies through his weary eyes. He deals with new challenges in Fool’s Assassin, but the old threads remain. His sadness at losing his wolf, Nighteyes. His mental scars after the tribulations of Prince Regal’s dungeons so many years before. But this isn’t the gentle rehashing of Hobb’s old plots. The story is fresh, burgeoning with original ideas. It’s inventive, Hobb having spent so much time in the world already that she can truly play around with it.
It’s Fool’s Assassin that really sets up the Six Duchies as a living, breathing place. It’s wonderful to see the growth, the evolution, that previous plot events have given it. Many authors can create a character and give them an arc that develops and enriches them. But to carry an entire world through fourteen novels and have it sparkle and dazzle with maturity…that’s a feat. The Six Duchies, no longer the provincial, backwards region from the Farseer Trilogy, has welcomed trade and alliances with far-flung cities under the governance of King Dutiful and his mother, Queen Kettricken. This is a world that is so rich, so deep, that closing the book afterward is like stepping through a door between worlds.
There are new characters to explore, most of whom, through one way or another, find themselves seeking sanctuary at Withywoods. There’s Shun and Fitzvigilant, two bastards that seek refuge after their lives are endangered. And then there’s Bee, who may be the most important character in the story after Fitz himself. There are, of course, the wonderful reappearances of older characters. Chade is as mysterious as ever, his skill magic a force to be reckoned with. Nettle, now Skillmistress in the capital, has grown into a talented woman, her relationship with her father an important facet in the novel. Lady Patience remains warm and wacky, the only mother Fitz has ever known. It’s great to watch Fitz deal with marriage to Molly, almost a relief to find him dealing with the challenges of marriages as opposed to Red-Ship raiders or Witted fanatics. And where is the Fool? Fitz’s best friend, the fantastic jester-turned White Prophet has been missing for many years. His absence is central to the plot.
This is a novel not centered around action or intrigue, but the challenges of maturity when, it seems, the world is saved. It’s a perfect set-up as Fitz finds that the world is not as peaceful as it first appears, and once again, he is in the thick of it. The next two installments will take Fitz into yet darker territory, the darkest in his life, and all around him will be threatened. If you have the stomach for yet more loss and suffering, Fool’s Assassin will not be disappoint. If you’ve followed Fitz this far, take heart, and remember that despite Hobb’s beautiful, natural prose, this is only a story. No matter how much it hurts.