Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb is the second book in The Fitz and The Fool trilogy, which itself is the third trilogy about those two characters (following the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy). I previously reviewed the immediate prequel, Fool's Assassin, but the other related books were all read long before I started this blog. This review, and the blurb, inevitably contain spoilers for the first book in the series.

After nearly killing his oldest friend, the Fool, and finding his daughter stolen away by those who were once targeting the Fool, FitzChivarly Farseer is out for blood. And who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained and deadly former royal assassin? Fitz might have let his skills go fallow over his years of peace, but such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten. And nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose…

This is not a book to read without having read the previous volume. I'm not sure it's a book to read without having read the two main previous trilogies, either. Unlike Fool's Assassin, which started out more self-contained, Fool's Quest relies not only on its immediate prequel but also on more background knowledge than I think a reader who had only read the prequel would have. A large portion of the book is set at Buckkeep Castle and Fitz spends a lot of time remembering events from both earlier trilogies. I read those six books long enough ago that my memory is quite hazy and I wouldn't've objected to a refresher. The narrative did remind us of the relevant events pretty explicitly, so it wasn't a big problem for me, but I imagine it would be a bigger problem for a new Hobb reader.

The only frustrating thing about this book was Fitz not bothering to tell people things. I was shaking my fist at him several times. In a case of "the reader knows more than the characters", it was abundantly clear that if Fitz had just spent a few minutes filling people in on some details (mostly the Fool), then he could have put certain pieces of the puzzle together sooner. Of course, that would probably have made the story much shorter, but it was annoying.

On the other hand, this book made it more clear than the previous one that Fitz has grown as a person since he was a teenager and younger adult. He is sixty now, so that's hardly unexpected, but there were a lot of parallels to his earlier adventures and instances where he would once have run off without thinking but doesn't now. As much. Mostly.

The thing I thought was particularly well-handled in this book was the discussion of rape and other atrocities. Firstly, it's always called rape not "forced himself on her" or any other euphemisms and the perpetrators are immediately referred to as rapists. One character is even called "the handsome rapist" for a long time before we know his name. The consequences of rape on the victims and bystanders is also explored. I don't actually remember if there was much/any rape in Hobb's earlier Fitz books but the way it was treated in this one was appropriate and felt in touch with modern discourse. It also wasn't gratuitous or very on the page; the consequences were much more present. Whether or not there was rape in the earlier books, I feel sure that a younger Fitz would not have been able to comprehend the situation as well as he now can, which allows for this thoughtful portrayal.

All that said, this story is really about Fitz, Bee and the Fool. At the end of the previous book we see Bee kidnapped and getting her back is obviously a central focus of this book. Just not quite in the way you might initially expect. (No spoilers.) The Fool's situation is also very central to the book. And people who adore the Fitz/Fool relationship will not be disappointed.

As with most of Hobb's books, this was an excellent read. If you're a fan and are otherwise up to date, definitely pick up this latest instalment. If you're new to Hobb and have read this far down in my review anyway, I suggest starting with Assassin's Apprentice. I am looking forward to the concluding volume as I wonder how it will all pan out.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2015, HarperCollins
Series: book 2 of 3 in Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which follows directly on from the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy and the Liveship Traders trilogy (and probably less directly on from the Rain Wild Chronicles, but I haven't read those and didn't feel lost as a result)
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Kobo store

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