Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

(9.9/10) Simply one of the best books I have read in years

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

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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.
Floresiensis, 9.5/10

Reviews by and Floresiensis

2 positive reader review(s) for Fool's Assassin

Our interview with Robin Hobb

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 [...]

Read interview

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Fool's Assassin reader reviews

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.

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

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Your rating out of 10

All reviews for Robin Hobb's Fitz and the Fool series

Fool's Assassin

Fitz and the Fool #1 written by Robin Hobb

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service [...]

Published: 2014

Our rating: 9.9 | positive reader reviews

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Fool's Quest

Fitz and the Fool #2 written by Robin Hobb

Happy endings never last... Years ago, they freed a dragon from the glaciers on Aslevjal. Then they parted ways, the Fool returning to far-off Clerres, while Fitz finally c [...]

Published: 2015

Our rating: 9.0 | positive reader reviews

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Assassin's Fate

Fitz and the Fool #3 written by Robin Hobb

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer's daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield grea [...]

Published: 2017

Our rating: 9.0 | positive reader reviews

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More Robin Hobb reviews

The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince

by Robin Hobb

One of the darkest legends in the Realm of the Elderlings recounts the tale of the so-called Piebald Prince, a Witted pretender to the throne unseated by the actions of bra [...]

Series: NA
Published: 0000

Score: 70

Our rating: 7.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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Assassin's Apprentice

by Robin Hobb

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Born on the wrong side of the sheets, [...]

Series: The Farseer Trilogy: Book 1
Published: 1995

Score: 118

Our rating: 9.2 | 22 positive reader reviews

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Royal Assassin

by Robin Hobb

Honesty is the bedrock for any relationship. But how can Fitz – royal bastard, trainee assassin, holder of secrets crucial to the security of the kingdom – bare [...]

Series: The Farseer Trilogy: Book 2
Published: 1996

Score: 95

Our rating: 9.2 | 3 positive reader reviews

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Assassin's Quest

by Robin Hobb

With the king no longer living and the heir, Verity, missing and declared dead, Prince Regal has treacherously seized the throne. Regal’s torture has left Fitz more d [...]

Series: The Farseer Trilogy: Book 3
Published: 1997

Score: 105

Our rating: 9.8 | 7 positive reader reviews

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Ship of Magic

by Robin Hobb

On the northernmost point of the Cursed Shores lies Bingtown, a bustling hub of exotic trade and home to a proud merchant nobility famed for its extraordinary vessels. Only [...]

Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 1
Published: 1998

Score: 100

Our rating: 9.7 | 4 positive reader reviews

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The Mad Ship

by Robin Hobb

Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but lives only to reclaim the Vivacia as her rightful inheritance. However, Vivacia has been captured by th [...]

Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 2
Published: 1998

Score: 102

Our rating: 9.9 | 3 positive reader reviews

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Ship of Destiny

by Robin Hobb

The dragon, Tintaglia, has been released from her wizardwood coffin, only to find that the glories of her kingdom have passed into ancient memory. Meanwhile, Malta Vestrit [...]

Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 3
Published: 2000

Score: 97

Our rating: 9.5 | 2 positive reader reviews

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Dragon Keeper

by Robin Hobb

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 t [...]

Series: The Rain Wild Chronicles: Book 1
Published: 0000

Score: 91

Our rating: 8.5 | 6 positive reader reviews

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Dragon Haven

by Robin Hobb

The dragon keepers and the fledgling dragons are forging a passage up the treacherous Rain Wild River. They are in search of the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra, and a [...]

Series: The Rain Wild Chronicles: Book 2
Published: 2010

Score: 91

Our rating: 9.0 | 1 positive reader reviews

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City of Dragons

by Robin Hobb

The dragon keepers and fledgling dragons have discovered a route to the lost city of Kelsingra but there is one problem: they need to be able to fly to cross the treacherou [...]

Series: The Rain Wild Chronicles: Book 3
Published: 2011

Score: 98

Our rating: 9.7 | 1 positive reader reviews

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Blood of Dragons

by Robin Hobb

Dragon blood and scales, dragon liver and eyes and teeth. All required ingredients for medicines with near-miraculous healing powers. The legendary blue dragon Tintaglia is [...]

Series: The Rain Wild Chronicles: Book 4
Published: 0000

Score: 88

Our rating: 8.8 | 0 positive reader reviews

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Shaman's Crossing

by Robin Hobb

Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The second son of a newly anointed nobleman, he must endure the rigors of military training at the elite King's [...]

Series: The Soldier Son Trilogy: Book 1
Published: 2005

Score: 93

Our rating: 9.0 | 3 positive reader reviews

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