My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are books that you read in which you’re mostly invested in plot. You want to know the what, where, why and how of things. When those stories end it often feels like you’ve been on a grand adventure–maybe the protagonist has been all over the world, overcoming a series of obstacles of increasing difficulty–and you’ve been witness to it all through their eyes. Done well, these books tend to have fully fleshed out characters with believable relationships. Most fiction I read is of this type. I love these books.
That’s not what Robin Hobb gives us in ‘Fool’s Assassin.’ Her Fitz and Fool books are all about the people, and they are amazing. Maybe it’s the first person point-of-view, but I’m hesitant to even call the deeply introspective Fitz a character at all. He feels more realized as an actual person, than some actual people do. Taking place essentially in one location, the grand adventure of ‘Fool’s Assassin,’ is largely a matter of relationships, and I don’t know an author that handles them better than Hobb. Don’t assume the relationships I’m speaking of are necessarily the traditional human to human type that may have come to mind. I can also easily say she almost singlehandedly set my beliefs on same sex relationships with one of her earlier works, and she didn’t even explicitly write one. Before that time I didn’t have a belief. I don’t mean that to say she’s emotionally manipulative, or that this isn’t a fantasy novel, because she isn’t and this undeniably is, but when she’s at her best (as she was in her ‘Tawny Man’ trilogy)?I think she produces the best writing that fantasy has to offer, the writing I want to share with non-fantasy readers…the writing that sticks with you.
As much as I loved it, one problem I had with this book, was that after the more than 10 year gap since the last book in this world was published, the start of this one felt like I was jumping on a stationary bike and the pedals were already spinning. It was a minor issue, but it took a little while for me to get some of the names, and previous plot points in order.
As for the plot, I didn’t want to give any of it away in this review because even a little would be too much, in my opinion. And if you’re interested in reading ‘Fool’s Assassin,’ you’ll have to read the six novels that come before it, as you should. An aside: as the first books begin when Fitz is a young child, they seem more plot driven like the books I mentioned at the start, and grow into these rich, complex character pieces. Regardless, they’re all important works of fantasy, that I highly recommend.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read Hobb’s ‘Liveship Traders’ trilogy, or her ‘Rain Wild’ books yet, and I could barely stomach her ‘Soldier Son’ trilogy. I received a free ARC of ‘Fool’s Assassin,’ under the condition that I would review it, and make my review available to the publisher.