Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
Review by Floresiensis
Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb is the first book in The Tawny Man trilogy. The series begins fifteen years after the events in The Farseer Trilogy were concluded. Fool’s Errand is 661 pages in length and was first published in Great Britain by Voyager in 2001.
We are here, you and I, Fitz, to change the world. Again.
Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Red Ship War with the terrifying Outislanders. Since then, Fitz has wandered the world accompanied only by his wolf and Wit-partner, Nighteyes, finally settling in a tiny cottage as remote from Buckkeep and the Farseers as possible. But lately the world has come crashing in again, The Witted are being persecuted because of their magical bonds with animals; and young Prince Dutiful has gone missing just before his crucial diplomatic wedding to an Outislander princess. Fitz’s assignment to fetch Dutiful back in time for the ceremony seems very much like a fool’s errand, but the dangers ahead could signal the end of the Farseer reign.
You may have already noticed that FantasyBookReview.co.uk absolutely loved The Farseer Trilogy. Robin Hobb is a much praised and admired author due to the fact that she is a storyteller of rare skill with a unrivalled command of the English language. There is also, of course, the fact that her books are highly enjoyable and feature many strong and memorable characters. So it was, with pleasure and faith, that I started The Tawny Man series…
It was comforting to return to a story told in first-person narrative; they seem to be a dying breed but yet allow a connection with a character that no other style can. Although Hobb did not feel it necessary to include a “What has gone before” summary at the beginning of the book she does, very cleverly, recap everything you need to know in the opening chapters. We are re-acquainted with old friends (and this is what they really feel like) such as Chade, Starling and of course the Fool.
Once again you are struck by the author’s attention to detail and the chapters are easy to read and make you feel as if you are part of them. Something that is also worth mentioning in detail is the illustration of John Howe. The author and illustrator have worked together many times and the results are as near to perfection as is possible, the author provides a wonderful story, the illustrator supplies the perfect imagery that further enhances the reading experience.
The initial pace of the story is moderate; Hobb reacquaints us with the characters and lays the foundations for another trilogy. She is an author that has no interest in rushing and feels it is important (and rightly so) that we know what has transpired in the fifteen years since the end of The Farseer Trilogy. The initial third of the book sets the scene and the narrative really picks up as Fitz returns to Buckkeep to aid in the search for Prince Dutiful.
I was born a bastard. The first six years of my life, I spent in the Mountain Kingdom with my mother. I have no clear recollections of that time. At six, my grandfather took me to the fort at Moonseye, and there turned me over to my paternal uncle, Verity Farseer. The revelation of my existence was the personal and political failure that led my father to renounce his claim to the Farseer throne and retire completely from court life. My care was initially given over to Burrich, the Stablemaster at Buckkeep. Later, King Shrewd saw fit to claim my loyalty, and apprentice me to his court assassin.
Each chapter of Fool’s Errand begins with a brief history of the people and the world in which the tale is set. These do not reach the same extent as Susanna Clarke’s footnotes in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (which are a worthy book themselves) but provide an interesting filling out of the story, allowing Hobb to build a world and history worthy of her excellent characters.
Fitz has aged 15 years since the original trilogy and although he has matured and has the added responsibilities that come with looking after a son he has not changed unnoticeably from the teenager of The Farseer Trilogy. This is where the author has once again got it spot-on – the 35-year-old man is still the same person as the teenager except with added maturity. The thoughts of a teenager will still come out.
Shortly after finishing The Farseer Trilogy I read The Liveship Traders series, which is set in the same world but further to the south. Although it is not necessary to read this trilogy it does add a certain extra enjoyment to The Tawny Man series; mentions of Bingtown, dragons and The Rain Wilds have special resonance and there is a section in the book when Fitz visits Others Islands, a beach full of treasure. This beach has great significance in The Liveship Traders and those that have read the series will gain just that little bit extra from this book.
The Tawny Man Series is shorter in length than the Farseer Trilogy. As with Assassin’s Apprentice, the scene is set, the characters are given life and the theme of the trilogy is announced. This series is a must for fans of the Farseer Trilogy but thanks to Hobb’s clever recounting, also open to new readers. The suggested reading order is The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders and then The Tawny Man series.
The Tawny Man series promises to keep up the standard first set in The Farseer Trilogy.
“In today’s crowded fantasy market Robin Hobb’s books are like diamonds in a sea of zircons” George RR Martin
Shell from Winchester
Changing the focus from Fitz to the fool is a stroke of genius.
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