Fool’s Assassin – Robin Hobb

About the Book

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.

688 pages (hardcover)
Published on August 12, 2014
Published by Del Rey
Author’s website
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This audiobook was borrowed from the library. Yay libraries!

I finished this audiobook today, and friends, it absolutely gutted me. Before I continue on, I want to say that I listened to the audiobook, and it was fantastic. The narrator did an incredible job with different voices and inflections. He was so natural with it, I was sucked all the way into the book, and when it was over it took me a few minutes to resurface and rejoin the world. The book was amazing, but the narration really created a 1-2 punch that really bowled me over.

Now, as I said, this book gutted me. Robin Hobb books always gut me. They are routinely amazing. The woman is one of the best SFF authors out there, and there’s a reason for that. She makes the books she writes interesting, from the smallest details to the most important moments.

Fool’s Assassin is a different breed. Hobb’s books are always so full of emotion, packed with them, from the happy ones to the darker ones. This book is largely full of grief, coping, adjusting, dealing, awkwardness, frustration and the like. However, there are plenty of happier moments, plenty of moments that balance out all that angst and darkness. They are quieter, but perhaps more powerful due to that.

This book is also different due to the two different points of view, one of Fitz, and the other of Bee. Fitz is older, jaded, and reclusive. Bee was an invigorating thrust into the narrative. She’s younger, and Hobb does an absolutely incredible job at juxtaposing Fitz’s jaded, tired demeanor with Bee’s lifelike, energetic and exploratory one. The two voices really balanced each other out and gave readers two really different views into what is transpiring throughout the book.

Furthermore, much of this novel is Fitz and Bee learning how to live with each other and learning how to live without Molly. There’s struggle, and awkward moments as these two very different people get to know each other. Bee is different, and a lot of her differences aren’t realized as such by either party until revelations toward the end of the book. This just makes everything a bit more complex. As the reader, especially if you’re familiar with previous books of this nature, you understand what is happening, while Fitz and Bee both seem a little blind to it. This just makes everything all the more interesting.

One way Hobb excels is that the woman could take the most mundane moments of daily life, and make them interesting. When I think about this book, a huge chunk of it is just two people living life and learning how to live with each other after a loss. Sure, things happen. There are hiccups, conflict, resolution, evolution, transformations and all that, but so much of this is Fitz and Bee just learning how to live again and discovering each other. There’s a lot of this that is quiet, but full of intensity.

And truthfully, it says a lot about an author when she can manage to take so many of these mundane, daily, quiet moments and just make them positively riveting. I mean, I couldn’t stop listening to this book, and while a lot is happening and being built up, so much of it is subtle and background. You don’t realize how important so many of these mundane character building elements are until everything comes to a head. Furthermore, you don’t realize how the story is ramping up, how all these side plots are being conveniently laid out until the last hour or so (audiobook, remember?) when it all sort of boils over in a really intense, horrible, tear-jerking way (yeah, I had tears, damn it, and I was at work, so that was fun to explain. “Why are you crying, Sarah?” “I’m not crying, you’re crying!” ).

A lot of older characters make appearances, some in really surprising ways. Some fade out in equally surprising ways. There are new characters introduced, and old, familiar places revisited. Lots of nostalgia here, for people who, like me, love everything involving Fitz and the Fool with an overwhelming intensity.

There’s a lot I could say about this book. It’s like coming home again after a long trip and everything that makes Hobb a powerhouse author is on display here. There’s also a lot I don’t need to say. I don’t need to address what an absolutely fantastic, lyrical writer Hobb is. I don’t need to address her stunningly subtle plotting. I don’t need to talk to you about how intense and emotional her books are, or how engrossing this one is. I don’t need to say any of that.

All that really needs to be said is, Hobb is incredible, and this book absolutely ruined me in the best possible way. It gutted me. Eviscerated me. Tore me apart. Left me reeling and showed me all the reasons why Hobb is one of the best authors out there, and this book is a solid installment in any SFF reader’s library.

Have tissues ready.

 

5/5 stars

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