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: A Game of Thrones (20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition)

Review: A Game of Thrones (20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition)A Game of Thrones: The 20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition by George R.R. Martin
on 18/10/16
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Hardback
Source: From my shelves
Goodreads

Published in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of George R. R. Martin's landmark series, this lavishly illustrated special edition of A Game of Thrones-with gorgeous full-page illustrations in every chapter-revitalizes the fantasy masterpiece that became a cultural phenomenon. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. At the centre of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a region of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavours to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

I got given A Game of Thrones a few years ago as a present, and didn’t really get into it.  I didn’t get very far before I gave up and put it down, but when I eventually came back and gave it another try I got hooked pretty quickly, and it’s become one of my favourite series.  I’ve been thinking about re-reading for a while now, since it’s been so long since I first read the books, but I’ve been putting it off because I’m worried about finishing the re-read and then still having another year or more to to wait for Winds of Winter – in which case I’ll have forgotten everything again by the time it gets here!  I knew when I first saw the Illustrated edition that I wouldn’t be able to resist it, and when I got it for Christmas I decided it was time to finally start that re-read.

The text itself of course, is the same as that of the original edition, but I found I enjoyed it at least as much if not more on second reading.  The story takes a little while to really take off, and I think knowing that it does pick up, and it is awesome, and it is absolutely worth investing the time in, made all the difference to my enjoyment – I wasn’t reading it and wishing it would hurry up, or daunted by the prospect that maybe the whole book would be slow, so I didn’t mind the pacing, and I really enjoyed getting to focus on the background set-up and details without feeling impatient.  Martin’s characters are amazing, and it’s funny how on second reading my opinions have changed: the first time around of course I loved Tyrion, Jon Snow and Daenarys, but the second time around, knowing so much more about the characters, I’m also analysing so much more some of my new favourites (like Jaime Lannister and the Hound <3).  The story is addictive, and although I don’t truly love Martin’s writing style all the time, there are some amazing quotes too.

The illustrated edition is truly beautiful, and I definitely felt like the illustrations added to the overall reading experience.  The images are stunning, and it’s impossible not to get sucked into admiring and analysing them everytime you come across one.  The book itself is pretty heavy, and I was conscious of damaging it, so in terms of practicality, it’s definitely one I’d rather read at home than carry in my bag to read on my lunch break.  The other thing that’s worth bearing in mind is that the illustrations aren’t always in the perfect placing – if you haven’t read the book before, there’s at least one illustration I can think of which comes right before a significant chapter and plot twist that would spoil things for you if you didn’t know what was coming.  Personally, I’d only pick up an expensive gift edition like this if I was very confident I’d love the story (either because I’d already read it, seen the show, or because it was a favourite author).  That, plus the fact that Game of Thrones spoilers abound, I think it’s unlikely you’d end up reading this not knowing what was coming, but it’s worth bearing in mind the possible spoilers if you are (somehow!) coming at it totally fresh.  A worthy purchase for any fan!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Shadow and Bone

Review: Shadow and BoneShadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Indigo on July 31st 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 308
Format: Paperback
Source: From my shelves
Goodreads

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Laini Taylor.

I’m not quite sure when Shadow and Bone first came onto my radar, but I’ve also associated it with A Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I think it was probably about the same time (honestly, before I’d read either of them I kept mixing the two up in my head!).  For one reason or another though, while I’d heard great things, I just never got around to reading it.  This month, it won the TBR vote so there was no more putting it off, time to see what the fuss is all about!

I think part of the reason I never picked up Shadow and Bone was that I knew the romance was going to be a big part of it: I feel like all I heard before picking this up was praise for the Darkling, praise for Mal, and lots of swooning over the romance in general.  BUT I loved the idea of a Russian-inspired fantasy, and I’m so intrigued by Leigh’s new Six of Crows duology, and although that can be read alone, I’d rather start with her original trilogy first, which is why I popped it on the TBR vote.  It took 63% of the votes and a lot of people said they loved it, so I tried to go into this with an open-mind, and I was pleasantly surprised!

I liked Alina, her feistiness and sarcasm, as well as her determination to remain herself even when put into totally new surroundings.  I also liked Genya and I loved Botkin.  I’m intrigued by the Darkling, but towards the end of the book he seemed to become somewhat flat – I’m hoping this is deliberate, and he’s going to reveal his true complexity in the second book, but it was a little disappointing.  I also wasn’t sold on his and Alina’s relationship at any point, and Alina’s opinion of him just seemed too easily swayed.  This, I think is more due to her general lack of confidence, because I felt the same way about her relationship with Mal, but it was frustrating nonetheless: I occasionally just wanted to give her a good shake!

I was pretty engrossed in the story from the beginning, and it only took me a few days to read.  I loved seeing the Russian inspiration, which helps to give Shadow and Bone a unique feel amongst so many YA fantasy romances.  I also liked the inclusion of some of the darker elements, though it’s hard to comment on those without spoilers! The writing is smooth and let me get absorbed into the story quickly, and overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Shadow and Bone.  While the romance was a big part, I enjoyed the story and the world too, which helped it feel like fantasy with a romance, rather than romance with fantasy as an afterthought which I’d feared.  I still felt like Shadow and Bone was light-fantasy, rather than true fantasy, and while I liked it I didn’t love it.  I enjoyed it enough that I’ve already ordered myself a copy of Siege and Storm,  and I’m hoping for some more depth in later books, which could bump the series from one I liked to one I loved, but at the moment it won’t be taking a place on my favourites shelf.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: The Broken World

Review: The Broken WorldThe Broken World (Ballad of Sir Benfro, #4) by James Oswald
Published by Penguin on September 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 572
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

The book, sir. The Llyfr Draconius.
You'll find what you need in there, if you know how to look.

The war across the Twin Kingdoms rages on.
Queen Beulah has killed one sister and ordered the assassination of another. The Inquisitor Melyn journeys though the north-lands of Llanwennog in a merciless bid to overthrow King Ballah. Now in possession of Brynceri's ring, his power seems indestructible. Nothing can stop the invasion.
Captured by the travelling circus, Sir Benfro cannot shake their control, more powerful than Magog's malign influence. Errol Ramsbottom, left for dead, follows the trail of his friend's captors - only Benfro holds the key to Errol's beloved Martha's whereabouts. But both sides are set on a path of destruction - dragon against dragon, king against queen, man against man.
As the ancient spell that split Gwlad begins to unravel, it may be easier for Benfro and Errol to travel to Gog's world now. But what will happen when the barriers between the two worlds fail entirely? As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious?

A friend of mine adores this series, so I’ve been working my way through them on her recommendation, and while I’ve been enjoying the series so far, I haven’t been hooked on it.  I was a little nervous going into The Broken World (book 4) because of that, and I have to admit it took me quite a while to get into. Once I was engrossed though, I found it more addictive than the previous books – it took me 2 weeks to read the first 48%, and then less than a week to read the remaining 52%.

There are a lot of plot threads to follow in The Broken World, and a fair few different characters to focus on – we’re still following Errol and Benfro, of course, but we also get to see a lot more of Melyn, the series’ villain, Beulah, the reigning Queen, and a few other characters both old and new.  I love Melyn as a villain (and for once, I don’t mean in a ‘he’s just so damaged and I want to give him a hug’ kind of way), and I enjoyed getting some more insight into Beulah too, although she’s definitely softening which I’m not 100% sure about!

I love multiple character POVs, because even when you’re not hooked on one character’s current plot, there’s still someone else you simply can’t wait to get back to, so it helped keep me hooked and is probably why I found this more addictive than the previous volumes.  On the other hand, with so many plot threads going on, various clues building up to help answer some long unanswered questions, and a lot of world-building depth, this can all add up to make it occasionally difficult to keep everything straight in your head.  I enjoyed this book perhaps more than any of the earlier ones in the series though, and I’m looking forward to reading the fifth and final book this year.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: The Lost Hero

Review: The Lost HeroThe Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1) by Rick Riordan
Published by Puffin Books on October 6th 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 551
Format: Paperback
Goodreads

The Number one, bestselling title in this new spin-off series from Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan.
OLD ENEMIES AWAKEN AS CAMP HALF-BLOOD'S NEW ARRIVALS PREPARE FOR WAR When Jason, Piper and Leo crash land at Camp Half-Blood, they have no idea what to expect. Apparently this is the only safe place for children of the Greek Gods - despite the monsters roaming the woods and demigods practising archery with flaming arrows and explosives. But rumours of a terrible curse - and a missing hero - are flying around camp. It seems Jason, Piper and Leo are the chosen ones to embark on a terrifying new quest, which they must complete by the winter solstice. In just four days time. Can the trio succeed on this deadly mission - and what must they sacrifice in order to survive?

When I read it…

I read this between August 14th and August 17th.

What I’d heard before I read it:

About this particular book, not much – while I’ve heard great things about Rick Riordan in general, I’ve actually not heard too much about the Heroes of Olympus series, and about all I’d heard about this book was that it took my sister (who I’m borrowing it from) a while to get into and she was saddened by the lack of Nico…

What worked for me:

  • The opening: I loved that Jason had no memories, because it instantly drew me into the story. I not only wanted to know everything that he’d forgotten, but also how everyone would cope with his lack of memories.
  • The slightly older feel & the longer length: The Lost Hero definitely felt more like a young adult read than the Percy Jackson series, and I think the longer length probably helped a little with that too. I really loved having slightly older characters to follow as occasionally the young ages in Percy Jackson made the characters feel a bit too distant and therefore harder to relate to.
  • Leo & Piper: I really liked both Leo and Piper. Leo was witty and funny and instantly likeable so I warmed to him pretty much straight away. It took a while longer for me to warm to Piper, but I loved how she took no crap from anyone and how her confidence grew throughout the book.
  • Returning to Camp Half-blood: Of course returning to Camp Half-Blood was always bound to be fun, and I really enjoyed that we got to see it through fresh eyes all over again too.
  • The multiple points of view: I’m a BIG fan of multiple POV stories, so I loved that we got to see more than one perspective throughout The Lost Hero.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Jason: I didn’t hate Jason, but I didn’t love him either. He’s a bit too perfect (apart from his lack of memories)
  • The pacing: It took me three days to reach 49% – and then one day to read the other 51%.  It wasn’t a huge deal, but I felt like it took a little while to get really going.

I enjoyed The Lost Hero – possibly more than Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – and I thought it was a pretty good start to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel!

Other reviews of The Lost Hero: The Illiterate Reader | Novel Reaction | Blog of a Bookaholic

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