This epic fantasy book is set in the complex, layered world Hobb has established over twenty years and some fourteen books, starting with the first book Assassin’s Apprentice, where we first encounter Fitz as a boy. As a solid fan of Hobb’s writing, I have read all of the books in this epic fantasy series in order and before you so much as open Fool’s Quest, my firm advice would be to go right back to the start and at the very least, read The Farseer Trilogy, which tells of Fitz and where he fits into the story. If you find yourself beguiled by Hobb’s writing, then move onto The Tawny Man Trilogy, which gives the history of the Fool. While Hobb is too smart a writer to leave readers floundering, I think that this world is simply too special and complex to crash into sideways. And then, don’t start with this book – go back to the first one in the series Fool’s Assassin – see my review here.
Happy endings never last… Years ago, they freed a dragon from the glaciers on Aslexjal. Then they parted ways, the Fool returning to far off Clerres, while Fitz finally claimed a wife, a family and a home of his own. Now, betrayed by his own people and broken by torment, the Fool has made his way back to the Six Duchies. But as Fitz attempts to heal his old friend in Buckkeep Castle, he is not at Withywoods to protect his young daughter, Bee. A mistake…
That’s a very shortened version of the rather chatty blurb that drops far too many spoilers for me to want to repeat it. I love Hobb’s writing and thoroughly enjoy her worldbuilding and Fitz is a special favourite – although that doesn’t stop me wanting to shake him until his teeth rattle. So I quickly became engrossed in this doorstep of a book, which had my arms aching long before I finished it.
It’s my favourite kind of epic fantasy – where the action stays focused on a handful of characters we come to know and care about. However, be warned. If you enjoy foot-to-the-floor non-stop action, then this won’t necessarily tick your boxes. Hobb provides plenty of adventure, but she lays the groundwork first, thoroughly establishing her protagonists, their motivations and providing the world in plenty of detail. While I love the way she crafts her books, I’m also aware it isn’t to everyone’s taste.
We also get far more of the Fool in this book. He has always been a mysterious character, whose backstory has never been fully told, so the revelations provided in this book regarding his origins and his backstory are a particular delight to read. There is a special joy when an author provides a world where in Book 15, you learn a vital slice of the story that began in Book 1. Hobb is good a writing enigmatic characters that don’t irritate me, which is something of a feat as I generally am a tad short-fused when I feel an author has gone all mysterious because she hasn’t figured how to fill a certain plothole she discovered far too late in the day. Chiefly because I trust Hobb sufficiently to know that sooner or later, she will fill in the gap in her narrative, thoroughly and imaginatively such that I’ll love the journey.
So does Fool’s Quest match the standard set in the other books? Yes, I think it does, though there were places where I felt the pace was just a tad slow. Thing is, I was quite pleased, because it meant the book wasn’t coming to an end, yet. Did I mention I loved her writing? But, be warned, the book does not tie anything up. Hobb leaves the whole story on a cliff-hanger ending. So I’m quite relieved that my TBR list has become ridiculously long – I’m far too busy trying to catch up to be pining after the next book, which isn’t scheduled to appear until 2017.
In the meantime, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of Hobb magic, why don’t you make a start on the first book? That will give you time to complete the whole series before Assassin’s Fate is released…