Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb is, first and foremost, a book about closure. But as much as it is about endings, it’s also about new beginnings. Really, it’s the perfect sendoff for a character that is much beloved and one which many of us have spent countless pages journeying along with. Assassin’s Fate is the third and final book in The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, but it is also the final book (for now, anyway) in the Farseer books as a whole. Hobb has created such a rich world, full of so many memorable, engaging characters, though, that I could easily see additional books coming from her set in the various worlds of the Six Duchies, Rain Wilds, or Kelsingra. Speaking of all of those places, Assassin’s Fate is worthy of a Marvel film in that it intertwines the various worlds Hobb has concocted and spent entire series delving into by giving us the penultimate crossover as Fitz comes face to face with many of the characters from both the Liveship Traders books and the Rain Wild Chronicles. It really is a treat to see all of these disparate worlds come together into a seamless whole. I’ll admit I felt a bit of a thrill when Fitz revisits the map room in Kelsingra, the very same room he visited all those many years (and books) ago when he and Chade first began experimenting with the Skillstones.

Unlike the previous two books in this series, I’m giving Assassin’s Fate a solid five rockets. The reason previous installments fell short was because there were just too many pages where nothing significant happens. Not so with this final book. This one is full of plot moving material as we pick up right where Fool’s Quest left off. Fitz has healed a number of Kelsingra’s residents whose dragon initiated changes have done more harm than good. This is applauded by the Kelsingrans, but not so much by the dragons, who threaten Fitz’s life for interfering with the changes they have made in their keepers. Fitz escapes this harrowing predicament unscathed, for he must continue his quest for vengeance against those who killed his daughter, Bee. Of course, Bee is not actually dead, a fact Fitz eventually comes to know.

Speaking of Bee… She’s a character I did not like much in the first two books. She’s a bit of an oddity most of the time and, when she isn’t off doing her own thing, she’s a distraction to Fitz’s story. But in Assassin’s Fate she really comes into her own, seizing her place in the world as it were, as she flies into a final confrontation with her abductors. Looking back at the whole, I found her story arc refreshing. She’s admittedly very dependent early on, but when it comes time for her to stand up for herself, she does so admirably well.

Discussing the ending of Assassin’s Fate is tough because I don’t want to give anything away. I’ll say only this: Hobb concludes the series and the story of FitzChivalry Farseer in the only way she could. It’s a marvelous ending for a character you’ve hopefully grown to love as much as I have. Yes, Fitz can be frustrating beyond belief at times, stupid at others, and selfless past the point of heartbreak, but he’s also a man of duty and honor (in the way of an assassin, at least) and possesses a stubbornness that knows no bounds. If this book is truly his farewell, then I say Hobb gave him the royal treatment. The road getting there was harrowing, suspenseful, horrible, and wonderful, but completely worth it from a reader’s perspective when you can look back at everything he accomplished.

It should come as no surprise that I feel Assassin’s Fate should be on every fantasy reader’s reading list. Do yourself a favor and start with the first book in the overarching series, the first book in The Farseer Trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice. The journey will be well worth every page.

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb is the second book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. In some ways this book is a departure from the first novel in the series, Fool’s Assassin. In other ways, it is more of the same. This second book picks up right where Fool’s Assassin left off, with our two main characters just arrived in Buckkeep and Fitz’s daughter, Bee, just having been kidnapped by the very same people the Fool escaped from after a long ordeal of imprisonment and torture. Where Fool’s Quest differs from Fool’s Assassin is in the amount of forward progress we make in the story. Where Fool’s Assassin felt like a really long preamble, Fool’s Quest hits the ground running, and doesn’t stop moving until somewhere in the middle of the book. At that point the reader is eased back into Hobb’s methodically slow but still engaging storytelling up until the end when Fitz sets out to hunt down his daughter’s kidnappers and bring her safely home.

Because of the pacing, I tore through the first half of Fool’s Quest very quickly. There is so much setup done in the first book that Hobb (thankfully) uses this one to have Fitz finally take action. There’s still plenty of introspection (Fitz seems to find a way to blame himself for most everything bad that ever happens to anyone) but there’s also plenty of the “old” Fitz: the King’s assassin who will do his duty no matter the personal cost.

The Fool plays prominently in this book as well. His involvement in the larger storyline was hinted at plenty of times in the first book, but he never took center stage like he does here. Long time readers of the series will know the Fool well, though the character’s circumstances have changed significantly and not for the better. Having suffered at the hands of the Servants, the Fool is a broken man both physically and spiritually. Despite this, though, he remains driven by a singular purpose: revenge against his tormentors. The Fool and Fitz, reunited at the end of Fool’s Assassin, are at their best when together, their purpose while not exactly unified is at least headed in the same direction. Theirs is a relationship which has stood so many tests that it’s only a matter of time before their purposes become unified, whether by intention or trickery. Still, they do become unified as they head into a final confrontation with the Servants (presumably in the next book).

In many ways Fool’s Quest brings a lot of Hobb’s work full circle. Early on in the Fitz series, the reader is introduced to a lost Elderling city which Fitz visits via a Skill pillar. Later, the city is found by more conventional means and re-settled in the Rain Wilds Chronicles. Now, Fitz travels there once more, but this time instead of traversing a deserted city, Fitz meets many of the characters readers of Hobb’s earlier works know well. It’s a gratifying experience and one which gives the reader a sense of the scope of world building Hobb has slowly revealed to us over fifteen or so books.

There were numerous times while reading Fool’s Quest that I felt Hobb had earned a four rocket review from me, but I ultimately settled on three (the same rating I gave the previous book) because there just isn’t enough happening overall. Despite the book’s title, the quest doesn’t really begin until almost the end. If Hobb had moved things along more rapidly while not sacrificing her usual rich content, I would have given it a solid four rockets. But given what I feel is much room for improvement in that regard, I’m giving it three. Long time readers of Hobb’s will love this book. Others probably were discouraged enough with the slow pacing of the first book in the series that they didn’t make it this far to begin with. In any case, I’ve got the next book in the series, Assassin’s Fate, lined up for reading and reviewing soon.

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb is the first novel in Hobb's Fitz and the Fool series, her latest to tell the ongoing story of her beloved character, FitzChivalry Farseer. Hobb began Fitz's journey many books and series ago when the character was a child. All throughout, Fitz has built relationships, made enemies, served his king, loved and lost, and, above all, made nearly every sacrifice imaginable. It's been a long, hard road for the bastard son of Chivalry Farseer, but one that I can say with great relief isn't over yet.

Fool's Assassin picks up not terribly long after Fool's Fate. Fitz has settled into his persona as Tom Badgerlock, holder for the lands of his daughter, Nettle. Because of his past (and everyone thinking he's dead), Fitz must maintain this false identity for his own good and the good of the Farseers. Far from being resentful of it, Fitz has embraced the life of a holder since it keeps him far from the court intrigue and politics so prevalent in Buckkeep Castle. Even better, Fitz has been reunited with the love of his life, Molly, who now resides with him at Withywoods, where they lead an idyllic life. It would seem Fitz, who has sacrificed so much, has finally earned the quiet life he has wanted for so long.

That, in fact, how we find Fitz and Molly getting on for nearly the first half of the book. True to the author's style, Hobb moves us along very slowly. Longtime fans will not be surprised by this at all. It's a testament to Hobb's skill as a writer, though, that even sans many of the plot devices other authors dangle in front of readers to keep their attention, she is able to maintain the reader's interest over hundreds of pages while slowly doling out bits and pieces of the larger story to come. When the end of this first novel in the Fitz and Fool trilogy does come, it comes fast. It left me deeply interested in what's to come next for Fitz as he is finally reunited with his longtime friend, the Fool.

I will freely admit bias when reviewing anything penned by Robin Hobb as she has long been a favorite author of mine. Not that I've embraced everything she's ever written, but I, like so many other readers, has been on Fitz's journey for so long that I doubt there's any story she could tell about him that I didn't find of interest.

Even still, Fool's Assassin earned a rating of three rockets. I would have given it four if only Hobb had cut to the chase a bit and gotten to the real story sooner.