Sometimes when people wish to pay a compliment to an especially captivating actor, they say that they could listen to that person read the phone book and still come away thoroughly entertained. I’m not sure exactly what the equivalent is for an author, but I certainly feel this way about Robin Hobb’s books about Fitz and the Fool, whether they be the Farseer Trilogy, the Tawny Man Trilogy or this new chapter, the Fitz and the Fool trilogy.
Hobb has an unparalleled ability to shine a light on the quiet and routine moments and somehow make them fascinating just because they’re told in the voice of a character we deeply love, who we would happily listen to as they read a phone book. There are many quiet moments in this book, as the first 80-90 percent is largely character-centered, and through much of the book I couldn’t tell you what the overall story was, other than chronicling the continuing life of FitzChivalry Farseer.
The relationship between Molly and Fitz continues to fascinate, filling many of the quiet moments with enough magic to delight fans of the series such as myself, but it’s the introduction of Bee, a new POV character, that represents a major change from what we’ve realized before. Had I known before I picked up FOOL’S ASSASSIN that Hobb would introduce a new POV character, I would have been concerned — after all, these books have always been Fitz’s story, and I’ve never loved Hobb’s other series the way I’ve loved these books as told by Fitz. But Bee, the newcomer to this tale, holds her own as a viewpoint character, infusing a new energy in a series that has already included six novels told from Fitz’s point of view. The story benefits from Bee’s younger perspective, and once again demonstrates Hobb’s ability to describe the world from a child’s perspective. Bee’s voice lends new energy to the story, and she has already become my second-favorite Hobb POV character.
Upon completing FOOL’S ASSASSIN, it’s clear this is only the first chapter in a story that still has a long ways to go before the puzzle pieces come together. The book comes to a stopping point that leaves the reader eager for more, but it certainly takes its time in getting there. If you’re reading FOOL’S ASSASSIN seeking a self-contained story with an obvious plot arc, it simply isn’t there. The story’s character arc is all about the relationship between Fitz and Bee — the rest of the plotting simply comes to us in small pieces, and unless I totally missed something, we’ve only just begun to understand the path our protagonists will be carried on.
I’m sure that will frustrate some, but as for me, I’m just happy to be back inside Fitz’s head for another three books. When I finished the final book in the Farseer trilogy, as Fitz told us that he and Nighteyes dream of carving their dragons, I remember how awestruck I was — it was the best ending to a book that I’d ever read (or have since). Even though it was late, I got in my car and drove for almost an hour until I got to my girlfriend’s house and told her all about the series and the way it ended, just because I needed to explain it to someone and I didn’t want to be alone after reading a story that I already knew had changed my life.
This book has a similar moment, one certain to break the hearts of all who have followed FitzChivalry Farseer for seven books now. These character-centric moments, this unflinching examination of life — they are what make Robin Hobb so unique. She quietly draws you into this world, and while she doesn’t have George R.R. Martin’s reputation for killing the majority of her characters, she has proven unflinching in throwing tragedy after tragedy Fitz’s way. Be warned — it doesn’t get any easier for Fitz in FOOL’S ASSASSIN.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.