Fool’s Errand: Fitz is back

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFool’s Errand by Robin Hobb fantasy book reviewsFool’s Errand by Robin Hobb

“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.

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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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  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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