Many things happen in this book we have been waiting so long for. ‘Fool’s Quest’ is the second in the Fitz and the Fool series, but is the sixteenth in the Realm of the Elderling’s story, Robin Hobb created involving the Farseer’s and the Fool. Hobb is extraordinary. If you haven’t read her the story needs to be read, for the most part, in order. The Liveship Traders series can be taken on its own, but The Fitz and the Fool cannot be. The true pay off of this book is rooted in a culmination of events in the making since Assassin’s Apprentice, book one of the first series, The Farseer Trilogy. I can’t express my feelings and attachment for these characters adequately. If you have any interest in fantasy these are the books I encourage you to read. They are beautiful, touching, violent, and immensely painful. Hobb is not traditional Grimdark, but it is Grimdark, and the best I’ve read.
Hobb ended The Fool’s Assassin with a distressing cliff hanger. Characters at Buckkeep Castle are ignorant of this information for a large portion of the book – building significant tension. The Fool is on the brink of death and Chade has ensconced him in his hidden chambers to protect the broken man. Fitz works in his traditional role for Chade, the work of bastard sons of the Royal Family, while keeping an eye on the Fool. His return in the dark of night made it easy for him to spy for Chade. It is a way he can pay back Chade, Kettricken, and Dutiful for taking care of his friend.
While Fitz and his family took steps to right old wrongs at Buckkeek, disaster struck Withywoods, Fitz’s home for the past several years with Molly and Bee. When he returns he sees evidence of invasion/violation. Magic has tampered with the minds of his people. They have no memory of what happened, the burned stables, and people killed. He blames himself, he wasn’t there to protect those he loves and those who are his responsibility. This time he’s not the only one. Lant and Shun were sent to Fitz to teach and protect as one royal bastard to another.
Fitz has always been one to act on impulse and emotion, but in this book he finally learns the necessity to take time for preparation. He’s old, whether he looks it or not, his body and Skill/skills are rusty. He must use everything he has learned in his life to reap vengeance. Back are his axes and back is the wetwork of an assassin – whether people like it or not.
Fitz, Chade, The Fool, Kettricken, and even Dutiful have aged. Where they fit, what they can, and are supposed to do have changed. They have many responsibilities. One of the biggest lessons in this book is to meet one responsibility means you must fail another. Hobb has a magnificent grasp of the complexities of life. Fitz cannot be everything to everyone. Just as he gets things he has always wanted he feels strings attached. They are not meanly meant. They just are.
I mentioned The Liveship Traders series can stand on its own in the Realm of the Elderlings. It’s the start of a parallel story. In the past I would have included the Rainwild Chronicles in that assessment, since there has not been obvious ties to The Farseer’s, but that has changed. If you are thinking to jump over the Rainwild Chronicles I would recommend against it after this book.
‘Fool’s Quest’ is beautiful. It caused intense joy and pain in me. There is nothing I would cut out. It might not always be obvious but everything Hobb includes had purpose.