Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb
Review by Floresiensis
The triumphant conclusion to the tale of the Farseers, in which kingdoms must stand or fall on the beat of a dragon’s wings, or a Fool’s heart. A small and sadly untried coterie – the old assassin Chade, the serving-boy Thick, Prince Dutiful, and his reluctant Skillmaster, Fitz – sail towards the distant island of Aslevjal. There they must fulfil the Narcheska’s challenge: to lay the head of the dragon Icefyre, whom legends tell is buried there deep beneath the ice, upon her hearth. Only then can their marriage proceed, and put an end to war between the two kingdoms. Having abandoned the Fool in Buckkeep, Fitz is guilt-stricken; but determined to keep the fate of his beloved friend at bay, since prophecy foretells the Fool’s death if he ever sets foot on the isle of the black dragon. But as their ship draws in towards Aslevjal a lone figure awaits them…
It was with both anticipation and regret that I began the final book of The Tawny Man series. This is the ninth book set in Robin Hobb’s immaculately built world of The Six Duchies and it has been a staggering achievement to maintain such a level of literary excellence through so many books. Not one of the nine is weak; each is as lovingly created as the last. This is epic fantasy at its very best; the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the White Prophet and his Catalyst. The Fool’s Fate hangs over the entire book – will the prophecy come true and see his death or can destiny be changed without risking the future of the world?
Fitz, Prince Dutiful, Thick and Chade are the main characters in Fool’s Fate. Fitz is a character that we now know almost as well as ourselves, Prince Dutiful is now fifteen years old and maturing into the King he is set to become while Chade, as ever, is the stubborn and intelligent weaver of events and news. Thick is a revelation; from a very small role in The Golden Fool he often steals the show with his stubborn and simplistic outlook on life. Fitz and Dutiful become very protective of the half-wit and you, as the reader, also want to protect him from the looks and comments that he receives for just being how nature made him. Characterisation is one of the many strengths of Robin Hobb; these really are old friends.
I don’t want to find out,’ the Narcheska commented quietly. Her eyes were huge. As we drew closer to the bay, the railing became crowded as we all stared toward our destination and the solitary ominous figure that awaited us there. It was only when we dropped anchor in the bay and our small boats prepared to ferry us and our supplies to shore that he moved. He came down to the beach, and stood at the high tide line. Even before he threw back his hood, something in my heart turned over. I felt sick with dread.
It was not until the ninth book that I realised that one of the things that made Hobb’s fantasy tales so realistic, and that helps avoid the absurdity of some offerings, is the use of well thought-out and sensible names. Names like Chade, Molly, Fitz, Althea, and Burrich – these are not names that you will come across every day but are names of people that you could conceivably meet in the “real” world.
Fool’s Fate is written in the first person, the tale is seen through the eyes of Fitz, and we know everything about him by now, his every thought, his every need and his every desire. Only the first-person narrative can give this and only an author as talented as Robin Hobb can deliver it. The settings were also impressive, the Out Islands and Aslevjal breath new life into the trilogy as we move away from Buckkeep and visit new lands, meet new people and experience new adventures. Oh, and there are dragons as well, of course. Fool’s Fate is pure and simply a pleasure to read, extremely profound with more substance in a single chapter than in some other author’s entire book.
She leaned back on her furs. ‘How tedious. You capitulate much too easily, FitzChivalry Farseer. You didn’t even wait to witness the demonstration. Well. I shall not deny myself that pleasure. Dret! Introduce him to my dragon.’
In the Tawny Man series Robin Hobb successfully manages to tie up all the loose ends and, even more impressively, show that The Liveship Traders books have as just much bearing on the events as the Farseer trilogy. The experience of reading of a Robin Hobb book is one to be cherished; there are no safer hands that you could place your leisure time in. From the first page to the very last you are treated like royalty with a tale that will last with you for a long time. I could not recommend Robin Hobb’s books highly enough – the Farseer, Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies are a must for every fantasy enthusiast. As a body of work, the nine books are arguably the finest fantasy series ever written.
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