Book of the Year 2014 (see all)
Anyone who has read reviews here at Fantasy Book Review for any length of time will probably remember the love Lee (our editor in chief) and I have for anything written by Robin Hobb. For many years we struggled over just how important we considered her 9-volume work – ‘The Realm of the Elderlings’, now including the 4 ‘Rain Wild Chronicles’ books, pushing the number up to 13 – especially the original two trilogies – the ‘Farseer Trilogy’ and the ‘Liveship Traders Trilogy’. So beautifully paced, cast, and set, these trilogies were easily the equivalent of anything else we had written – right up alongside Tolkien, Sanderson, and others.
Things sort of fell away for a while for Robin Hobb, sadly, with the ‘Soldier Son Trilogy’, and her return to the Realm of the Elderlings was not as heralded as she may have hoped, focusing so entirely on previously-minor characters.
That’s all going to change now, and no doubt reawaken discussions between Lee and myself as to just how important Robin Hobb is to the fantasy genre, and how bloody brilliant she is as a writer!
‘Fool’s Assassin’ comes out in August of this year, but I was lucky enough to acquire a review copy. Within a few days of it arriving on my Kindle I had finished it, and I can tell you that if you had any doubts about her talent waning as the years moved on, you can dismiss those concerns right now! Robin Hobb is at the top of her game again, and returning to her most beloved character – FitzChivalry Farseer.
Starting out maybe a decade after the events of the ‘Tawny Man Trilogy’, Fool’s Assassin does a masterful job of returning us to the world of the Six Duchies. With the conceit that Fitz’s forced Skill-healing has kept him from ageing like others, we have the luxury of literally stepping back into his world as if no time has passed at all. But it has, and he has the scars to prove it – from the loss of Nighteyes and his separation from the Fool to the many that are carved during the story.
The pacing is slow, but not in the way you think. Robin Hobb draws this book out like a great cup of tea, or the way a fire smoulders to life with the right attention. Taking place over more than a decade, this book treats us to the slow reintroduction to the life of Fitz, with all the heartache and joys that come with growing up. The highs and lows are just that, and Fitz tries to muddle through on his own, despite the fact he is surrounded by people who love him and want the best for him. It’s a perfect return to one of the best characters in fantasy literature.
Fool’s Assassin is, quite simply, one of the best books I have read in years. Brandon Sanderson might have all the attention at the moment, but there is something to be said for the quiet simplicity of a FitzChivalry Farseer story and the world around it. Robin Hobb has dealt a serious blow to all those contending for best book of 2014, and I believe is set to return herself to the centre of attention with this new series. If you haven’t ever read Robin Hobb before, now is the time to jump on – but beware, if you like this book, I can guarantee that you’ll be hankering for more. Thankfully, there’s 13 books in the same universe that will keep you sated until the second in this new series comes out.
Joshua S Hill, 10/10
Due to the fact that I am neither an author myself nor work in any form of editing I find that I can’t – and really shouldn’t – do technical reviews. So that leaves a review that comes purely from the heart of a reader who loves books. Sometimes an author is able to provide me with a lovely sense of well-being, comfort and enjoyment when reading their works: J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin and Steven Erikson are three such examples – and Robin Hobb is another, particularly with her Farseer books.
The Fitz books are all written in the first person and I find that when this narrative is done this well it is almost like sitting by a crackling log fire while FitzChivalry recounts the extraordinary tale of his life.
It had been a while since I’d read a Hobb Farseer book but within a few pages I again realised why she is a notch above many other excellent authors out there – her command of the language is exemplary (is that a technical observation?) and the ease with which she drew me – the reader – into the story was effortless. Within minutes I was completely at ease, confident with a hard-to-explain certainty that Fool’s Assassin was a book I would enjoy and remember fondly while waiting impatiently for the follow-up.
Of course there was the problem that I could not remember everything from the past 9 (12 if you count the Rainwild Chronicles) novels and I experienced a constant urge to re-read the whole damn lot, just to refresh my memory. Luckily, common sense and Wikipedia plot summaries prevented this from happening and once I had again remembered exactly who Hap, Nettle, Riddle and others were, I was able to relax even further into this perfectly-warm bubble bath of a book.
But I also soon remembered that Hobb is justly renowned for putting both her characters and her readers through the mill and Fool’s Assassin is no different in this regard. I’m sure it may have happened in another book but around a third of the way through I read a short sentence whose events and suddenness took my breath away and left me having to re-read it over and over again to make sure I had it right. Even know, a few days on, I am still feeling melancholy about it. And this is the power of these books – they force you to experience the emotions normally reserved for ‘real’ life. Also worthy a mention is a brand new female character named Shun, who is particularly odious and I really, really disliked her – again, brilliantly done.
Yes, there is a lot of angst involved, Fitz is older and less full of it but still has it in abundance and there are now his children to ably carry on his surly mantle. One thing I noticed was just how similar the Farseer and Liveship books are in style to say, Jane Austen, as the romantic elements, alongside the concerns with proper behaviour and an character obsession with social status, reminded me often of the great English novelist.
I would hesitatingly, but with underlying confidence, state this is not the place to enter the world of Fitz and the Fool – that would be Assassin’s Apprentice. So this recommendation is reserved for those who have, like me, journeyed a long way already with both – it is an outstanding book – read it.
2 positive reader review(s) for Fool's Assassin
City of Dragons, the third instalment in The Rain Wild Chronicles, will be published in the UK on the 23rd of April 2012. In advance of the book's release, Robin Hobb has kindly taken time to expound on the inspirations b [...]
Matthew from UK
Simply stunning, Hobb back to the peaks of her earlier work. Easy to read, engrossing, exciting and in places truly heart-rending (yes, I had tears in my eyes) - the best book I've read all year - for many years in fact. No one else brings life and love for their characters in the way Hobb does. I sit counting down the seconds until her next book comes out.
David from UK
I agree with your assessment Joshua. This is a cracking tale. I find Robin Hobb hit and miss but this is definitely a hit.
10/10 from 3 reviews