ARC Review: The Fool’s Assassain (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #1) – Robin Hobb

20640707eARC provided by the publisher in exchange for fair review

Summary:

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…

On 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.

Review:

I remember reading the Farseer Trilogy way back when it was first published and enjoying it well enough. I lost track of Hobb’s books over the years, partially out of burn out on this kind of fantasy and partially because I simply stopped reading for several years. When I saw this book pop up I decided to give it a shot, see if I could slip back into the shoes of a once-familiar series and enjoy myself. On the one hand, this book wound up being kind of a nice character story. On the other hand, this book was slow – so slow that I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish it in time to get it out for a day-of-release review and the big “twist” of the book wasn’t much of one. I am horrible at figuring out twists and I figured it out about as early as you possibly could. That’s not a good sign.

So before I get into the mechanics, how is it as a new trilogy. Could a genuinely new reader pick this up and enjoy it? Given that it’s been so long since I’ve read the first trilogy so long ago that I might as well be a newbie, I have to say that Hobb did a great job at making this friendly to newcomers. Maybe I missed the occasional nuance, but at no time did I ever feel truly lost. She found ways to describe the basics of Wit and Skill and the relationship of the bastards to the Royal line. The basics are all there. I do think that there might be some confusion at the notion of the Wolf-Father, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to truly pull anyone out of the book.

So that said, how is the book?

Well…

Hobb did a great job of crafting a character study, especially of an older man (like late middle age) – a rarity in literature in general, let alone in genre like this. The vast majority of this book doesn’t have a lot of story. It’s truly the story of a middle-aged man, trying to adjust to living a life that prior to a few years ago, was completely foreign to him. It’s about love and how true love is strong enough to support your partner, even when you believe their mind to be failing or love your child, even if they aren’t “normal” by most people’s definitions. Oh, sure, there is the occasional threat, but for the majority of the book the drama is more centered on fights with his family and whether he’s a suitable parent, than on threats against him or the estate. There is a mystery that the book concerns itself with, that is  Fitz trying to decipher this message from the Fool, but like I said, it’s incredibly easy to figure out and it makes you wonder why Fitz can’t see it for himself. Oh, and that title? “The Fool’s Assassin?” It comes into play at the extreme tail end of the book as set up for the second book in the trilogy. If you were looking for a reunion between Fitz and the Fool, or for a greater deal of action and intrigue, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

I should also mention that at a certain point the book starts to alternate narrators. I’m still not sold on how effective it really was. It’s clearly necessary for the second book, so I get why she started doing so now and the voices are distinct so I can say it’s pulled off better than in other books where I’ve seen this attempted. That said, I do wish that the chapter headings indicated who was speaking though; it still generally took a few paragraphs to figure out the point of view had shifted again and that gets a little annoying.

Honestly, I seriously debated putting this book down. It’s an understatement to say that this book is slow, its nearly glacial. To give you an idea of just how slow this game is, this book covers almost fifteen years of Fitz’s life. The opening chapters happen, we skip ahead a few years, we spend a few more years with him and his wife, and then we skip almost another nine years ahead. Honestly, that’s a bit ridiculous. If you don’t have a fondness for the characters going into this, I’m not sure if this going to move quick enough to hold the reader’s interest.

So should you pick it up?

If you’re a fan of Hobbs, I’d say you should at least try giving it a look – I do really enjoy FitzChivalry here and the character was enough to keep me interested in his story. However, if you have no attachment to this series at all, I’d probably say to skip it and pick up the Farseer Trilogy instead. Although you can certainly get along just fine without having read the other series, I think that having investment in FitzChivalry really will make the difference between whether you enjoy it or whether you’re bored out of your mind. This is well written, but it’s not going to be to everyone’s liking. Personally speaking, I’m not quite sure if there was enough to get me to come back for more. Time will tell.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: Now. Happy Release Day!

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