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Book Review

Book Cover

Fool's Assassin


Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 744420 5
Publication Date: 16 July 2015

FitzChivalry Farseer, having suffered being an unwanted bastard and assassin for his king, has finally found a semblance of peace, living at Withywoods manor house with his beloved Molly. Hidden behind a new name, Tom Badgerlock, he leads the comfortable life of the lower aristocracy. During a seasonal celebration Fitz is distracted by his wife and a home full or revellers, when he is informed that a messenger had arrived to see him. With little time for such things he decides to leave the message until the following day with dire consequences…

Fool’s Assassin (2014) is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy, Fitz and the Fool, by Robin Hobb. The book is set in the same fictional realm as The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man.

On one hand very little dramatic happens in the book but, at the same time, it is full of compulsive incidences. The book is told from two perspectives, the first being Fitz, the other... Well, you have to read the book for me not to spoil the unexpected reveal.

The book does contain fantasy element, principally magic. This is split between the Wit, the ability to blend with an animal familiar, although mentioned here, because Fitz’s wolf has died, little of the use of this ability is discussed except that it is not well regarded and if granted to one of the aristocracy is likely to lead to your execution. The Skill is used much like telepathy, although the peoples of the Six Duchies are aware that it is capable of so much more, but time has hidden much of the knowledge. The third element is the standing stones, not altogether understood and oft times dangerous to use, they allow instantaneous place to place transportation.

One of the things that really puts me off a lot of fantasy novels is their lack of imagination, usually set in a Disney faux medieval world; the stories usually involve a character base born who finds their power and place in the world. The refreshing thing about Fool’s Assassin is that it completely avoids all these well-worn tropes. The three duchies are more akin to a Tudor period, plus the magic, and rather than overused plots the book spends a lot of time with Fitz.

Hobbs captures perfectly the Fitz’s torn nature. On the one hand he wants a normal life with Molly, but fears that she may be slipping away from him. A previous magical resurrection has left him with a body which repairs itself, giving him the look of a man twenty years his senior. Molly, however, ages normally and age is not kind to Molly. Fitz is initially delighted, yet sceptical when Molly tells him that she is pregnant. As time goes by, first one then a second year, he fears that his wife’s mind is breaking down.

Counter to this, Fitz is continually drawn back to his old life, not only as an assassin, but also the loss of his companion Fool. I don’t think that I’m particularly spoiling anything by saying that Fool does eventually return, after all the entire trilogy is called Fitz and the Fool, but, even before this, Hobbs is able to make the Fool almost another character in the novel, by the impact that he had on Fitz.

The real strength of the book is that it is character driven; readers who have previously spent time with the characters are going to be delighted that Hobbs has returned to this world. For myself I felt that the gentle pacing of the book made you feel like you had moved into Withywoods Manor with the characters, providing the reader with an intimate experience. The pace may be a problem for some readers, who are used to the swords coming out by page twenty, but then this book is about Fitz and the second narrator.

Overall this was a very pleasant surprise of a book, intelligently written, intimate but also providing sufficient surprises and intrigue to keep you wanting more. I look forward to the second book.


Charles Packer

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