Review of Fool’s Assassin – Book 1 of Fitz and the Fool series by Robin Hobb

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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 to the crown. But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…

foolsassassinOn a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing. Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger? Suddenly Fitz’s violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

There you have the blurb to this first book in Hobb’s new series. It was a real thrill to actually see her at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton in 2013 – see my reviews of The Dragon Keeper here; City of Dragons here and Blood of Dragons here. Hobb has set all her books in her world, the Realm of the Elderlings, with the exception of her Soldier’s Son trilogy. So this book, the first in her new series, is actually revisiting a character her fans already know well – FitzChivalary Farseer. Although Hobb is far too canny a writer to make it necessary to have read the previous two series featuring Fitz, the Farseer and Tawny Man series, my recommendation is to at least get hold of the Farseer series and read them before embarking on Fool’s Assassin, as you’ll get a lot more out of the book than if you haven’t yet had the pleasure.

I was immediately pulled into the narrative, once more bonding with Fitz as the dual narrative largely features his story – until the story suddenly took a left turn and I suddenly couldn’t put this brick-sized tome down… While I loved the story of the dragons and the Soldier’s Son trilogy holds a special place in my heart, Fitz bounces off the page with special vividness. He is such a layered, complex character with such a rich backstory that this tale of his retirement holds precious little peace or contentment – even at the start of the story, when in theory he should be enjoying a well-earned rest.

Do be warned, though, if you appreciate your Fantasy adventure brimful of action – Hobbs doesn’t start the story with a bang. Her smooth, accomplished style brings Fitz to life with Molly and his daily routine at Withywoods. When the sense of wrongness begins, we aren’t even completely aware what is happening – Hobbs is very good at pulling the rug out from under her readers’ feet and I was spun around several times before I began to grasp exactly what was going on. Hobbs is regularly compared to George R.R. Martin – they both weave complicated worlds packed full of politics and scheming. However, while Martin juggles a cast of dozens with plotlines snaking all over his books, Hobbs depicts the complexity of her world by centring the action and dilemmas around one or two characters. Hobbs deserves to be read every bit as widely as Martin, in my opinion – and if you haven’t yet done so, then track her down. You’ll be thanking me if you do…
10/10

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4 responses »

  1. Another writer I’ve been meaning to read for ages – and I keep forgetting! This one sounds really good, but since it’s not the first book featuring Fitz, I’m assuming this wouldn’t be the best place to start. Which Robin Hobb book(s) would you recommend newcomers to start with?

    • The best books to start with would be the Farseer trilogy, if you’re particularly interested in following Fitz’s fortunes, which starts with ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’.

      But if dragons are your thing – and I happen to think that nobody writes them better – then start with the Live Ship Trader series about sentient ships and the mystery behind what exactly makes them sentient… the first book in this series is ‘Ship of Magic’. This leads straight onto the The Rain Wilds Chronicles, which is ALL about the dragons, starting with ‘Dragon Keeper’. All her books are hefty – but if you like character-led action set in a detailed, interesting world she takes a lot of beating…

      • I think they’d all be up my alley, to be honest. *lol* And I don’t mind character-driven stories at all, as long as the offer a firm sense of conflict relatively early in the book. I’ll put the first books of the Farseer and Live Ship Trader series on my wishlist, then. 🙂

        Great review, btw! I meant to say that earlier, but forgot. *oops*

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