Review: Assassin’s Fate

Review: Assassin’s FateAssassin's Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3) by Robin Hobb
on May 4th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 976
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
Goodreads

The final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy.

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 is a magnificent tour de force and with it Robin Hobb demonstrates yet again that she is the reigning queen of epic fantasy.

SPOILER ALERT: SPOILERS FOR BOTH EARLIER ROBIN HOBB BOOKS AND THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE FITZ AND THE FOOL TRILOGY

If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll be well aware I am a huge Robin Hobb fan (see here, here, and here!), so it’s probably no surprise to you that Assassin’s Fate was without a doubt my most anticipated read of 2017.  Knowing that this was the finale not only to the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, but to The Realm of the Elderlings as a whole, I went in with both huge anticipation and nerves.  I didn’t feel I had time to re-read the whole Realm of the Elderlings series, but the long wait between Assassin’s Quest and Assassin’s Fate gave me plenty of time to re-read the first two books in this trilogy before Assassin’s Fate so that I’d be fully refreshed on the details before Assassin’s Fate.  I finished Assassin’s Quest on holiday and immediately picked up Assassin’s Fate.  Over the ten days it took me to read it, I wanted to fly through because it was so addictive and because I so desperately wanted to know what happened, and yet I also never wanted it to end. Reading on holiday worked out as a reasonable compromise, because we were so busy I didn’t actually have that much time to read, so I got to savour a little longer!

Don’t do what you can’t undo, until you’ve considered well what you can’t do once you’ve done it.

In this final volume, Fitz, Lant, Perseverance, Spark and the Fool are heading to Clerres to seek revenge on the Four and the Servants, while Bee is unwillingly being taken to Clerres by Dwalia.  Those two plot-lines are addictive in different ways.  Bee goes through even more character growth than she did in Assassin’s Quest, and she’s come a long way from the little girl we first met in Fool’s Assassin.  She has to explore how ruthless she’s willing to be as she and Dwalia try to survive their trip to Clerres, often having to choose between the enemy you know versus the one you don’t.  Hers is a fairly isolated journey, and although there is plenty of danger on the route, there’s also a lot of internal conflict but it’s no less intriguing for that – the snippets of Bee’s dream journal in particular make for interesting mysterious reading.

Fitz’s journey in comparison, is full of people and the complex relationships between them that Hobb is so good at writing and which I have such a weakness for.  The relationships between Lant, Perseverence and Spark, as well as their interactions with both Fitz and the Fool are interesting enough on their own, but of course it’s Fitz and the Fool’s relationship which remains, as it always has from my perspective, the most mysterious, the most intriguing, the most intricate.  In this book, as they read Bee’s journals, the two also form a bond with Bee, and the way those bonds differ, as well as the way they impact the Fitz and Fool’s relationship adds another layer of complexity to their relationship.

She could be prickly and exacting, critical and demanding. But she was like that in the confidence that they shared a love that could withstand such things.

As well as all of that, the journey takes them through many lands familiar to us from previous books, and Hobb ties up the whole Realm of the Elderlings series, showing us glimpses – and sometimes more involved appearances – from characters we’ve loved in other trilogies.  Hobb’s characters feel like old friends – in some cases, very old friends – and even as you’re addicted to the storyline in Fool’s Assassin, the nostalgia may well have you adding a re-read of the other books into your reading plans too.  My boyfriend said to me at one point that Assassin’s Fate was like my Avengers movie, and I agreed that it was – but better.  The liveships, the dragons, the white prophets, the Bingtown traders, the Pirate Isles – it’s all here, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more.

Hobb’s writing is, as usual, one of my favourite things about the books.  I re-read favourite sentences, I copied down quotes, I just-barely restrained myself from reading bits aloud to my other half (who has only read the original trilogy so far).  The way Hobb ties up the series as a whole, bringing in previously loved characters never felt awkward or contrived.  Despite the fact we haven’t seen some of these characters in years, there’s no info-dumps; the characters are there, as interesting and three-dimensional as they’ve always been, and so, particularly for more minor appearances, when Hobb assumes you’ll know who they are, you just do.

So much of his life was mine and so much of mine was his.

I’ve followed Fitz from the very beginning, and here, at the end of the series, I wasn’t sure what to expect, or what to hope for.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll say only that it was perfect.  We got answers to questions we’ve had for a long time, we got the fantastic worlds and characters Hobb always delivers and we got a plot I didn’t want to put down.  When this ended, I genuinely found myself hugging the book and smiling.  Fool’s Assassin made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me ramble incoherently with excitement, and it only solidified my love for the series.  I’m not sure what else you could possibly want from a series finale really!

All I can say is, thank you Robin Hobb.  And whether she returns to the Realm of the Elderlings or writes something totally different, I’ll be happy to follow, because she’s never once let me down.

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Fool’s Quest

Review: Fool’s QuestFool's Quest by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz & The Fool #2
Published by Harper Voyager on 13-08-2015
Pages: 740
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

'Fantasy as it ought to be written' George R.R. Martin
Robin Hobb returns to her best loved characters with the second volume in a brand new series.
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?

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Addictiveness: ★★★★

When I read it…

I started this on August 5th 2015 and finished it September 21st (worth noting that my final MSc dissertation deadline was early September which probably explains what took so long).

What I’d heard before I read it:

Nothing – I never really read feedback on the latest Robin Hobb book until after I’ve read it to be honest.  My Robin Hobb process is pretty simple: I see the book is up for request, I request it, I wait hopefully with fingers crossed, I eventually read the book (proof or purchased), and then once it’s over I breathe a sigh of sadness that it’s over but also relief that I read it and loved it without seeing spoilers!

Assassins take no pride in fighting fairly. We take pride in winning.

What worked for me:

  • The writing: Obviously, I couldn’t have ended up with this much love for Hobb’s books if I didn’t like the way she writes, but I felt like there was something particularly beautiful about Fool’s Quest.  When the end of year survey came around and it was time to think of favourite quotes Fool’s Quest instantly came to mind, because I felt like we really truly connected with Fitz, and the writing is just so memorable, so poetic, so quotable!
  • All the feels: There are a lot of relationships I feel strongly about, but Fitz and The Fool hold a special place in my heart.  These two have been through so much, and their relationship is a complex, ever-changing thing that takes me on a rollercoaster of emotions every. single. time.  There were so many moments between these two that I adored, despite the fact they’ve come so very far from their roles way back in Assassin’s Apprentice.
  • The character development: Hobb’s characters are always amazing, and it’s why I love her books, but I especially loved the characters in Fool’s Quest.  I connected more with the new characters in the series, and I also felt like we got to explore more the changes in the characters we already knew and loved – Fitz is undeniably different from his early days in the series, and I felt like we got to see a bit more both about how he (and other characters) had changed, but also about how they felt about those changes.
If I enter the room as you are fastening your shoe, I can say, “There will be a lovely moon tonight,” and then you will call it to mind. But before I call it forth for you, you have forgotten the moon. One can swiftly understand that for most moments of our lives, we have forgotten almost all of the world around us, except for what currently claims our interest.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The hook: It took me quite a while to get hooked on Fool’s Quest.  It definitely didn’t help that I tried to read this over dissertation time, when reading time is of course limited, but even once my dissertation was finished, it took me a little bit of time to get engrossed.  I really do feel that this book – like the original Farseer trilogy – needed a bigger time investment to get hooked on than say the Rain Wilds Chronicles or the Liveship series.  Once I was hooked, I loved the story but I think it’s a book that suffers if you try to read it in short segments, whenever you’ve got a spare fifteen minutes.

Overall thoughts:

I really really liked Fool’s Assassin but it didn’t quite leave me with the same awe I’d felt from some of Hobb’s other books, which is why it only got four stars despite being a truly brilliant book.  Fool’s Quest had that extra something – the quicker pacing, the character development, the writing – to make it one of my favourite reads of last year, and to get me truly invested in this new series.  Hobb remains a favourite author and with good reason:  I loved Fool’s Quest now as much as I loved Assassin’s Apprentice the first time I read it, probably ten years ago.  I’m gutted that the third book won’t be out until early 2017… but I’m excited that it gives me time to re-read the first two books before then.

Other Reviews of Fool’s Quest: The Dinglehopper | Silver Petticoat Review | Once Upon a Bookcase

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Fool’s Assassin (Robin Hobb)

Fool’s Assassin (Robin Hobb)Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited on 12-08-2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General
Pages: 640
Format: eARC
Amazon
Goodreads

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…

On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing.

Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Suddenly Fitz's violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FARSEER AND TAWNY MAN TRILOGIES STOP READING NOW! (and go read Assassin’s Apprentice instead)

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

The storyFitz is happily ensconced in Withywoods, married to the woman of his dreams, far away from the deceit of Buckeep Court and his old life.  He and Molly are raising Molly’s children, dealing with the normal pleasures and trials of family life, running Withywoods and their marriage – a far cry from his old life.  So when a messenger shows up in the middle of Winterfest, Fitz doesn’t think too much of it – until the messenger disappears without a trace.  Fitz has no idea who sent the messenger or why, and has no idea of the problems racing to catch up with him.

The story is definitely character-driven rather than a fast paced plot, but it’s still engrossing.  There are enough hints to the overarching plot to keep you guessing about where the story is going, but the day to day problems are also beautifully handled and it’s fun to sink into Fitz’s new life as Tom Badgerlock.

Fool’s Assassin is a slower read – I would say it’s more similar in feel to Fool’s Errand than to the original Assassin’s Apprentice – but not in a bad way.  I think everything in the story is needed – it helps you remember all those things you love about Fitz, and also see how he lives now, in his happy but Fool- and Nighteyes-less future. I personally loved the pacing; a slow, gentle ease into Fitz’s world, with a mystery that picks up pace slowly and I love where the story seems to be heading.  Having said that, I’ve always loved character-driven stories, so I can see how this might be something others don’t love.  I also loved the faster paced final section of the book and would have liked a little more of this, because to me it feels like Fool’s Assassin runs the risk of doing a little too much setting up for the rest of the trilogy rather than starting the story.  I would personally have preferred a little more length and a little more action even if it meant we had a book closer in length to Fool’s Fate.

 

The characters

Despite the fact there are 11 years between the publication of Fool’s Fate and Fool’s Assassin, Fitz is perfect.  After such a quiet period of happiness, he’s obviously changed a little but he’s still very clearly the same character.  He hasn’t changed fundamentally, his voice remains the same, and I thought Linette’s review which says it’s like catching up with an old friend is an absolutely perfect description.

There are some new characters in the story, some of whom are hard to talk about without spoilers, but suffice to say that as always, Hobb’s characters draw you in.  The characters in this are so real, so beautifully three-dimensional, you could easily imagine sitting in Fitz’s study listening to them.  Expect to laugh with them, cry with them, feel proud of them and feel furious on their behalf.

Although we return to Fitz, unlike the Farseer trilogy we get to see more points of view than just Fitz’s in Fool’s Asssassin, which works perfectly for the story.  Both points of view are told in first-person, so you still feel immersed as you did in the Farseer trilogy, but having more than one point of view really helps with the world-building and the setting up of new characters.  I did find it a little difficult at first to keep track of whose point of view was whose, as there’s no chapter headings or anything to give this away, but I found that it became more clear as the novel went on.

 

final thoughtsAfter more than 10 years, a return to the world of Fitz has been a long-term dream for many Hobb fans, and for me at least, it did not disappoint at all.  It has beautiful descriptive writing that never feels slow, characters who feel so real you could reach out and touch them, and the hints of a plot related to some of the most intriguing questions ever asked throughout the Realm of the Elderlings’ series.

 

Buy it? This is absolutely one worth buying for me.  Like…right now. Go!
In a nutshell: An emotional, beautifully character-driven start to a new series – I’m already wishing for the next book

 

Other Reviews of Fool’s Assassin: BookishSwint | Super Fast Reader | Avid reviews

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