Fool’s Errand: Fitz is back

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“Alone again. It isn’t fair. Truly it isn’t. You’ve the saddest song of any man I’ve ever known.”  ~Starling Birdsong, minstrel to Queen Kettricken

I squealed with delight when I recently opened a box from Brilliance Audio and found a review copy of Fool’s Errand inside. This is an old favorite that, for years, I had planned to re-read. Since Hobb’s new book comes out next week, this seemed like the perfect time to get back into FitzChivalry Farseer’s world.

We first met Fitz back in Assassin’s Apprentice when he was a boy. As bastard son to a Farseer prince, he was brought to court and trained as the king’s assassin. He inherited the Skill, the magic that the Farseer family uses to communicate telepathically, from his father. Unfortunately, he inherited the Wit, the maligned “beast magic,” from his mother. He has had to hide this magic, and his wit-bond with his wolf Nighteyes, from others. Folks in the Six Duchies are suspicious of Wit users and often burn them at the stake. The next two FARSEER books, Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest, follow Fitz as he grows up, learns to use and control his powers, falls in love, and does the ugly duties that are required of the king’s assassin. By the end, Fitz has served the Farseers well, but he’s lost just about everything in the process.

I remember how devastated I was, years ago, when things didn’t turn out well for Fitz. A few days later I found out that Fitz’s story wasn’t over. As soon I realized that it continued in Fool’s Errand, the first book in the TAWNY MAN trilogy, I immediately sent my husband to Barnes & Noble. (I had the flu that day.) I don’t think I was ever so happy to get my hands on a particular book, and I felt that way again when the audio version showed up unexpectedly at my door a couple of weeks ago. Déjà vu!

And so Fitz’s story continues. For the first half of Fool’s Errand, we see Fitz and Nighteyes in their little home in the wilderness. Fitz is 35 years old and he’s been away from court for fifteen years. Almost everyone, including the woman Fitz loves, thinks he’s dead. Occasionally Fitz gets a visit from someone at court who urges him to come back. He is a Farseer, after all. Finally, Fitz is convinced to return when Prince Dutiful goes missing and the Witted Piebalds are suspected of being involved. (You can read the Piebald origin story in Hobb’s recent novella, The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince.) Fitz’s partner on his quest to find Dutiful is his best friend, The Fool, who he hasn’t seen in years.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe brilliance of the FARSEER stories is that Fitz feels so real and evokes such sympathy due to his circumstances that I am content just to be around him, even if he’s doing nothing more exciting than feeding the chickens or fixing the roof. I just want Fitz to be happy and content and to find a place where he belongs. I suppose I might get bored if Fitz fed chickens for 700 pages, so at just the right time Hobb takes him away from his cozy little home and he goes off to have an adventure. First we get to revisit Buckkeep, where Fitz grew up. Then he’s off to find Prince Dutiful. His quest is dangerous and he uncovers a plot that is sure to result in a major political upheaval. In the end, Fitz loses out again and it’s clear that his old comfortable life with Nighteyes is over. It’s devastating. And now we have another boy to worry about: Prince Dutiful. In many ways his situation is similar to Fitz’s.

This is the series I recommend first to anyone who asks me what they should read. But if you don’t want to get involved, I won’t blame you. FitzChivalry Farseer’s life is one of the most bittersweet (emphasis on “bitter”) stories in epic fantasy. He struggles with his identity as an orphaned bastard. Now that he’s an adult, he knows the importance of having a father, yet he has sired two children who he can’t be a father to. He has been bullied from all sides and has been hated and mistrusted because of the Wit. He has been overworked nearly to death by the people who should love him most. He deals with addiction and difficult moral choices. He loses so much. In the entire world there are only a couple of people and one wolf who truly understand and love Fitz. That makes these few relationships so powerful, which is part of the beauty of his story.

James Langton narrates Brilliance Audio’s version which is 25 hours long. I loved his voices for all the characters and I’m looking forward to re-reading the next book, Golden Fool, in this format. I really hope it arrives soon.

THE FARSEER SAGA — (1995-2013) Words Like Coins is a short e-story published in 2012. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a related prequel novella published in 2013. Publisher: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill — and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is  growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

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LIVESHIP TRADERS –(1998-2000) Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships — rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her — a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea’s young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the Vestrit family — and the ship — may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles… and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will…

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TAWNY MAN — (2001-2003) For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But that is about to change when destiny seeks him once again. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished and FitzChivalry, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony — thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment… or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him or how his loyalties to his Queen, his partner, and those who share his magic will be tested to The breaking point.

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THE RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES — (2010-2012) Publisher: Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive. People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life’s work to study all there is to know of dragons. But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done. The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them. To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils on the journey to a city which may not even exist…

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FITZ AND THE FOOL — (2014- ) Publisher: FitzChivalry — royal bastard and former king’s assassin — has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire. Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past… and his future. Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFool's Quest: Book II of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy     Fitz and The Fool: Coloring Book Paperback – May 10, 2018 by Robin Hobb (Author), Manuel Preitano (Illustrator)


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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 and conducts brain research 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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2 comments

  1. Can’t wait to see what you think of the new one (only 300 pages of feeding chickens . . . )

    • Bill, I’ve got a review copy of the audio version, but I want to read the other two TAWNY MAN books first. It’s also time to re-read LIVESHIP TRADERS, I think….

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