Assassin’s Fate: Thank you, Robin Hobb

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Assassin's Fate: Book III of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy Kindle Edition by Robin Hobb (Author) Book 3 of 3 in Fitz and the Fool Trilogy (3 Book Series)Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

“We follow you, Fitz, to the end, no matter how bitter.”

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb epic fantasy book reviewsKat: If you’re a fan of Robin Hobb’s REALMS OF THE ELDERLINGS books (which include the FARSEER SAGA, TAWNY MAN trilogy, LIVESHIP TRADERS trilogy, RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES, and the FITZ AND THE FOOL trilogy) you know as well as we do that you don’t need to read this review to decide whether to read Assassin’s Fate (2017), the last book in the FITZ AND THE FOOL trilogy and, possibly, the last book in the entire REALMS OF THE ELDERLINGS saga. There’s just no way you’re planning to skip this book. Let us assure you that Assassin’s Fate is everything it needed to be and more. Bill and I both agree that it’s a spectacular finale to one of the finest epic fantasies ever written. We loved it.

If you have not been reading REALMS OF THE ELDERLINGS, get thee to thy bookshoppe (or library) posthaste… and be warned that there are mild spoilers for the previous books in this review of Assassin’s Fate.

Here’s the basic plot: Bee, Fitz’s strange little daughter, has been kidnapped by the servants of the White Prophet, those horrible people who tortured and blinded the Fool and who now want to use Bee for similar evil purposes. Fitz and the Fool set out with a small company to rescue her. To accomplish their mission they will need help from the Rain Wilders, the Liveship Traders in Bingtown, and the dragons. As they quest, readers will get to revisit some old friends (e.g. Brashen, Althea, Malta, Etta, Amber) and learn how all of their stories intersect. Much that was fuzzy finally becomes clear as all the pieces come together in an epic ending that is intense, exhilarating, beautiful, and heart-breaking.

Bill read the print version published by Del Rey Books. I listened to the audio version produced by Random House Audio and narrated by Elliot Hill. It’s 39.25 hours long. Hill has the perfect voice for FitzChivalry Farseer’s morose introspective personality and he does a great job with most of the other characters, too, including the females. He’s superb with the animals. It annoyed me a bit that half the time he mispronounced Vivacia (yes, he actually changed his pronunciation back and forth during the story). That is a mistake that shouldn’t have been made, but still I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the audio version because he’s so good with Fitz.

On to the story… Actually, not quite yet… Let me first mention Hobb’s acknowledgement at the beginning of the book which caused me to burst into tears (the first of several times I burst into tears while reading Assassin’s Fate):

To Fitz and the Fool, my best friends for over twenty years.

Fitz and the Fool Trilogy (3 Book Series) Kindle Edition by Robin Hobb

FITZ AND THE FOOL trilogy

That’s the way I feel about Fitz and the Fool, too. They’ve also been my friends for over twenty years. I love them. For that reason, I dragged my feet finishing Assassin’s Fate. I desperately wanted to know what would happen, but I was dreading it, too, because I didn’t want to be finished with Fitz’s story. When I got to the end (in tears, of course), I loved and hated it. The ending was perfect. It was glorious. What did you think, Bill?

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb epic fantasy book reviewsBill: I didn’t drag my feet while reading it, but I absolutely held off picking it up way longer than I would have normally with a new Fitz book because I was pretty sure I knew where we were going here, and I (like the characters) just didn’t want to face that. And yeah, that ending. It felt wholly inevitable, absolutely perfect as you say, and yep, I both loved it and hated it. I’m pretty sure that will be the consensus view of other readers as well.

Kat: Bill and I both read TAWNY MAN and LIVESHIP TRADERS. It’s necessary to read TAWNY MAN before FITZ AND THE FOOL and, while it’s not strictly necessary to have read LIVESHIP TRADERS before reading Assassin’s Fate, it sure does help. For me, it made the experience of Assassin’s Fate even more satisfying because I already knew and loved those characters and it was rewarding to see what happened to them after their story finished in LIVESHIP TRADERS. Did you feel that as well, Bill, and do you feel that reading RAIN WILD CHRONICLES (which I have not read) also increased your enjoyment of Assassin’s Fate?

Bill: Absolutely on both. Though I’d agree having read those two series isn’t strictly necessary; I think it’s not only helpful in knowing who these people are, but it adds to the emotional and narrative richness of the story. I was actually marvelling throughout at Hobb’s deftness at bringing all the multiple threads of this tapestry together. Often when authors do this sort of convergence, I find it feels forced or shoehorned in, not at all part of the natural, organic structure/plot of the story. And/or it has that sort of empty whirlwind feel of those advertisements you see on college classroom walls:  30 Countries in 6 Days! (Snapchat caption: “Church in Spain. Maybe Portugal. Possibly Lithuania. Never mind — it’s Cleveland”). This had none of that. All of the old characters and storylines were given due respect, and I just reveled in having a chance to spend a bit more time with them all.

Kat: I agree! I was amazed by this, too, and I think it was one of the best features of the book. I kept wondering whether all of this was planned out from book one (Assassin’s Apprentice). I have never seen this so deftly done. Assassin’s Fate is, in essence, the finale to five series of books.

Bill: That’s a great way of putting it and absolutely accurate. I had the same question about how much had been planned out. I’m guessing very little from the start, but that’s just further testament to Hobb’s skill. And it’s the sort of thing I’d expect from an author who, as I noted in our review of the last book, Fool’s Quest, deals “in the entirety of the complex web of human (and animal) interaction.”

Kat: I don’t know… it was so perfectly woven together than I suspect much of it was planned at least by the time she wrote LIVESHIP TRADERS (her second trilogy, published after the original FARSEER trilogy). Either way, she’s a genius.

Speaking of animal interaction, I loved the crow.

Bill: Oh that crow! In some author’s hands it’d be simple comic relief. And certainly it works that way here. But nobody is simply one thing in Hobbs’ worlds. And nobody ever stays one thing. A theme driven home by all the multiple identities, all the gender-title switching, all the evolving we get. It can, I would guess, get frustrating for some readers (wait, who is the “she” now?), but I like that it also gets frustrating for the characters, as when Fitz realizes he just doesn’t like Amber (one of the Fool’s many facets). But we don’t get to just pick the part of the people we like, we have to take them as their entirety, and I think that’s a beautiful theme throughout this book/series. A theme made explicit in an early conversation between Fitz and Perseverance:

“So that’s who she really is? A girl named Spark?”

“Spark is whoever she is. Sometimes that’s Ash. It’s like being a father and a son and perhaps a husband. All different facets of the same person.”

Kat: I was stunned when Fitz said he didn’t like Amber… I mean, I knew he didn’t, but when he actually said it, it (what you said above) hit me, and I thought it was brilliant of Hobb to bring that out that way.  

Bill: Yeah, and I laughed out loud when Per (I think) went “What?” after Fitz announced that. The expectations we put on people to be the people we want them to be, to play the roles we want them to play in the manner in which we want them played, is another running theme, and while we see that in traditional, realistic ways — disputes between parents and children for instance — the way Bee has to learn to fend for herself —, as can often be the case in fantasy, we also see how a metaphor can become literal in a subplot involving the Liveships and their own personal evolution.

Kat: Related to that, I think, are the different ways that we are able (or not able) to love someone and the different ways we are able (or not able) to express love. Fitz loves Molly, Bee, the Fool, Kettricken, Chade, and Nighteyes, and he loves them all deeply, but all in a different way. Just like we do, Hobb’s characters sometimes get confused and/or jealous about this.

Bill: Yes, and whether we’re talking about the love of a parent for a child, one lover for another, a mentor for a student, and others, it’s always mature love and mature expression and mature confusion. Not YA “which hot boy do I ‘like like’” or clichéd bad boy — good boy/popular-outcast or Hollywood “insta-love.” You feel the weight of experience behind all this expression/confusion, the heft of lives already lived, the onus of consequences from acts already taken (as opposed to the clean slate of history we see way too often). That last idea comes up repeatedly in a tag-line mentioned several times, either verbatim or in various formulations of the same thing: “Never do that which you can’t undo, until you’ve perceived what you can’t do once you’ve done it.” What a different world it would be were this our guiding light.

Kat: I’d say that there are times when the love between some of Hobb’s characters doesn’t feel exactly mature (e.g., Fitz and Molly in the first book, two young couples in this book, perhaps even Fitz and Bee in the earlier books in this trilogy), but it always feels reasonable and weighty nonetheless because of all the space Hobb gives to each of her characters — we understand their attractions and feelings for each other. They make sense.

Bill: Yes, they do. And you’re right that it’s due to that “space” we get with them. And because Hobb spends so much time depicting both characters and their inter-relationships in such detail, and brings back so many characters and threads from other books/series, Assassin’s Fate is a pretty big book. I’ve been sick and in bed, so I basically read it in a few sittings over a single (long) day, and though I knew as I’d read that I’d have to talk about how yes, some people might find the pace a bit slow, I was shocked when I looked up its length for this review and saw it was nearly 900 pages in hardcover. I would have guessed more in the 600-page range, so while it has the trademark slow pace of a Hobb’s novel, it moves along deceptively fast (and yes, I realize that’s more than a little paradoxical — it’s fantasy!). And I’d argue that the length is pretty much necessary to contain all those elements and still have a sense of balance and richness, as opposed to dropping in prior characters for the equivalent of a Stan Lee cameo in a Marvel film. Hobb just doesn’t do shallow; whether a character appears on 500 pages or 5 or 1, they always feel substantive, fully alive and enmeshed in a network of connections even if we don’t alway see them. Even the crow.

Which is why that ending is so damn perfect, so damned inevitable and horrible and inspiring and cruel and warm and perfect (yes, I know I already said that). Why it left me buoyed and depressed, hollowed out and filled with joy. Hobbs stuck the landing, dropped the mic, freed the wolf, Fitzed the Fool. You want those pages at the end to both be done and to just keep going.

Kat: I experienced the same thing. I finished it on a day I was home from work, just around the time my husband got home and the kids showed up to greet him. I had the box of Kleenex and my eyes were red and I was quiet. My son said, “Mom, are you sick?” I said “no.” They waited… He said, “why all the Kleenex, then?” I said “I finished my book.” My husband rolled his eyes and says “that Robin Hobb book? You are sooooooo pathetic!”

They just don’t understand.

Bill: Yeah, if I hadn’t finished it at like three in the morning, I would have taken it up to the attic and told my family I and my ending needed to be alone for a while… Assassin’s Fate is a true gift to Robin Hobb’s fans, and sometimes a review can be summed up in two words: Thank you.

Kat: Thank you.

Publication date: May 9, 2017. The stunning conclusion to Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which began with Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest. “Every new Robin Hobb novel is a cause for celebration. Along with millions of her other fans, I delight in every visit to the Six Duchies, the Rain Wilds, and the Out Islands, and can’t wait to see where she’ll take me next.”—George R. R. Martin. More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre. Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain. As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return. For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who’s been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the “Notable Essays” section of Best American Essays. His children’s work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he’s not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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4 comments

  1. Great review, Kat and Bill! I’ve only read the very first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, but clearly I need to make room in my reading schedule for this entire series. Somehow, sometime …

  2. Christina /

    Dear Kat and Bill,

    as I adore Robin Hobb and her Realm of the Elderlings I thank you so much for this beautiful review. You put in words what I always feel, when I savour her wonderful stories about this very special world. I didn’t start with Assassin’s Fate yet, as I just don’t want the Realm of the Elderlings end now, but will read the complete last trilogy in my holidays coming soon. But your review made my hair stand up.
    The most amazing thing with Hobb’s books about the RotE for me is that they just never loose their beauty and depth whether you read them for the first or for the 10th time. And that is just pure Magic!

  3. Roslyn Connor /

    I cried more in this last series than any other I have read. Poor Bee had so many obstacles to overcome and Fitz was his usual frustrating self, never understanding what she really
    needed even though he loved her so much.
    I hope we have more of Bee to come and see if Elliana has the daughter she is hoping for so desperately. This book can’t be the end!

  4. You said everything that I wanted to...After Robin Hobb's character development, my favorite thing about her is her endings. I've yet to read another author who writes such perfect, sentimental and heartbreaking endings. While I might be blowing my nose, with a blotched, red, tear streaked face, her conclusions are always satisfying. It may not be the way you wished it to end, but it was the way it should have ended.

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