Fool’s Fate: Meets very high expectations

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I shouldn’t even have to write this review. Fool’s Fate is the last book in Robin Hobb’s TAWNY MAN trilogy, following Fool’s Errand and Golden Fool. If you haven’t read those (and preferably also the earlier FARSEER trilogy), you have no business reading this review. If you have read those books, there is about a 0.00416% chance that you’re not going to pick up Fool’s Fate, so it doesn’t matter what I say here.

But, since you are here, for whatever reason, I’ll make it short and just let you know that Fool’s Fate met, and maybe even exceeded, my very high expectations… which I knew it would because I read it ten years ago and have thought about it longingly in all the years since. This time I listened to Brilliance Audio’s recently released audio version which was superbly narrated by James Langton who is now, for me, the official voice of FitzChivalry Farseer. I absolutely adored his performance.

The story begins just where it left off in Golden Fool. Fitz is back at court, acting as Skillmaster and somewhat of a father figure for Prince Dutiful. The prince has gotten himself in a sticky situation — he impulsively accepted his fiancée’s challenge to behead a giant dragon entrapped in a glacier. Not quite believing that such a thing actually exists, he sets off with his retinue (including Fitz) to do the deed. Fitz is concerned about what they’ll find when they arrive because the Fool seems to think that this event is the culmination of his life’s work and that his death is imminent.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThat plot summary (and even the title of the book) makes it sound like Fool’s Fate is just another silly fantasy quest, but the quest, though it is integrally tied in with Hobb’s other work in LIVESHIP TRADERS and THE RAIN WILD CHRONICLES is mostly a vehicle for Hobb to give us both an epic tragedy and an epic love story. That’s what she’s so good at — giving us characters who we care deeply about. These people feel almost like family and we’re with them as they navigate the entire spectrum of human experiences. Each of Hobb’s protagonists goes through much pain, sorrow, and defeat, but each of them loves deeply and the pain makes that love even more beautiful. The story is powerfully emotional and few readers will come away with dry eyes.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, the FARSEER and TAWNY MAN trilogies are, in my opinion, the best that fantasy literature has to offer and my first recommendation for friends who ask me what they should read. Though I’ve read thousands of fantasy novels, these remain my favorites.

It surprised me this year when Robin Hobb gave us Fool’s Assassin, the first in a new trilogy about Fitz and the Fool. I didn’t need it — I thought that Fool’s Fate was a perfect stopping place — but I’ll be happy to see my old friends again.

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. Wow, Kat. That is a HIGH recommendation. I’ll be checking these out post-haste.

    • You’re not allowed to, Kate. If you get sucked into Fitz’s life, we might not hear from you for weeks, and that would never do.

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