“Don’t feel that much!” — FOOL’S QUEST by Robin Hobb

A killing rage rose in me, and Thick took a step back from me. “Stop,” he begged me. “Don’t feel that much!”

Roughly one-third of the way through FOOL’S QUEST, Thick pleads with Fitz not to share so many of his intense feelings through the Skill. In a way, I can certainly relate. Robin Hobb’s books about FitzChivalry Farseer are some of my absolute favorite books to read and re-read, but whenever a new book comes out, I find myself cautiously circling the book beforehand, like Fitz’s wolf Nighteyes might approach an injured buck.

Whether it was the quiet, lonely ending of ASSASSIN’S QUEST or the deaths of any one of any number of the characters in Fitz’s life, Hobb has the unparalleled ability to take a nice, quiet story and turn it into a gut punch.

There’s a scene about 1/3 of the way through FOOL’S QUEST in which Fitz is asked to attend a celebration, and in the course of events a number of announcements are made by the royal family, including one that directly impacts Fitz’s life in Buckkeep. It’s one of those scenes that only works when you’ve laid as much character-building groundwork as Hobb has, and even then it relies strongly upon Hobb’s writing ability to convince the reader to dive into this emotional journey. I’m not sure there’s anyone else in the genre today who could have written a scene like this.

Bringing Fitz back to Buckkeep and reuniting him with old friends gave the series a new energy after spending much of FOOL’S ASSASSIN with Fitz in the ill-fitting role of a minor lord. Thanks to the conclusion of the previous book, FOOL’S QUEST has more urgency than its predecessor, and despite Thick’s protests, angry Fitz is my favorite Fitz:

“We will discover the truth. And face it. And whatever it is, we will go after them. And we will kill them all, like the bastards we are.”

But part of what makes Hobb so effective is her discipline — we only occasionally see angry Fitz, and whenever he does appear, it’s entirely earned. I could argue that it took too long for Fitz to actually begin his titular quest, but I know that time was spent on character development, and that time will pay off in spades in the third and final book of the trilogy.

I can’t wait.

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