on February 28, 2004
I find I shouldn't leave the Fitz books without saying goodbye in a review. The series as a whole is perhaps my favorite story to come out in the last decade. Fitz is a splendid protagonist, the Fool perhaps the greatest fantasy character of all time. The Assassin trilogy in particular renewed my faith in the emotional power of story, after I thought I'd been pretty well jaded by adulthood. I could hardly put those down; I could hardly put Fool's Fate down, but read most of it off in one compulsive and completely irresponsible afternoon.
Hobb makes you read. I think it's because she drives the story with major secrets, but keeps feeding you partial resolutions throughout, so that you can hope the end of the next chapter is a good stopping place (you tell yourself you hope this, but of course, you don't), yet when you reach that resolution, another tension has begun. She interlocks her plot-tensions brilliantly--a wonderful writer.
Fool's Fate reads less like a novel than like an autobiography. Fitz, Dutiful, Chade travel oversea to slay the dragon Icefyre (or to prevent the slaying, as the case may be) and win for Dutiful the lovely, cool, and politically-advantageous hand of Narcheska Elliania. The dragon element of the plot--indeed, the novel's ostensible driving force--is resolved with 200 pages to go, however (as opposed to Assassin's Quest, the final book of that trilogy, when Verity flies off with 20 pages to go); the remainder of the book finds Hobb clipping off, one by one, all the taut ropes of Fitz's life, so that we see Fitz, at the end, slack and content in a situation of his own deep liking.
When I was reading the book, I liked this, because I've been with Fitz from the beginning, and am frankly more interested in him than I am in the quest for the dragon. I want him to find answers for his life, for my sake and for his. But in the end, I have two complaints about the extended denouement: Hobb answers too many of his life's questions, and she does not answer them in sufficient depth. I give you, for example, the Old Blood/Piebald scenario, which we had been led to care about in the first two books of this series, but which resolves itself in this book thoroughly and with scarcely a mention. Fitz wasn't there to see it. As an autobiographical ploy, this makes sense (a lot of things which affect our lives we aren't around to see to completion), yet as a device in a novel, it leaves the reader unsatisfied. The ending is far too cursory; months, seasons, years go by in pages.
What this amounts to is a lack of integration between Fitz's personal life and the novel's plot, a notable difference from the Assassin trilogy, where Fitz's life and identity were the plot. Perhaps because of this, Hobb's justly-lauded emotional machinery begins to clank (especially apart from the excellent character Thick). Sometimes I just didn't buy the character motivations, felt instead like "of course this had to happen for plot purposes," as if plot led character, not vice versa. Despair and the joy of discovery--the source of much tumult and plot-generation in the first four books--are gone. Perhaps Fitz is too old for either of those things. One hopes not.
Do these complaints mean that you shouldn't read the book? No, no. Hobb is still Hobb; there are lovely--even perfect--plot twists (e.g., the relationship the Fool wants with Fitz), delicate emotional moments (e.g., a reconciliation between Thick and Fitz), a richly-detailed fantasy world (welcome to the Outislands), and a lot of people you can't help but come to like.
on March 29, 2004
Every now and again you encounter a character so profoundly moving and real that you have a hard time believing he's fictional; one who shakes you up and alters your world to the point where it makes you feel silly for getting so involved in a book, and then you reread your favorite scenes and it happens all over again, and eventually you have to stop feeling silly in order to just focus on feeling.
This book gutted me. The Fool is incomparable.
But don't just pick up Fool's Fate without having read the rest of the series. Start with the Assassin books, skip the Liveship Traders if you're in a hurry (I was), then read the Tawny Man series in order. If you read Fool's Fate on its own, you may still be struck with Hobb's fabulous storytelling and the intricate nature of her world. But you'll miss the opportunity to slowly fall in love with her characters as they grow and develop. Do not deprive yourself of getting to know the Fool through Fitz's eyes.
I think I'm in the minority; I hope that Hobb will never write another book in this series. Fool's Fate left me with such a bittersweet sense of completion that I don't see how a new tale could compare. I love the Fool, and I miss him, but I won't let my "reader's greed" for a sequel interfere with the Fool's powerful final sacrifices, and the beauty of untouched, lingering possibility.
on January 5, 2003
What to say of FitzChivalry Farseer? An epic character, who's, thanks to Robin Hobb, life unfolds before us. So many different things happen within "Golden Fool" that it feels like real life. You know you had something for dinner a couple nights before but you just can't remember what.
This is fantasy at its best. It doesn't get bogged down with side plots but revels in them, the characters don't develop but live as we do, and most of all you really care what happens to any single person, whether it be Queen or cook. One of the most amazing parts is Hobb's ability to make you recall a character, even if they seem so small in the plot you still know them as a close cousin. They may pop up for but a page but you remember and enjoy every part of their character and the life they share with our hero.
You live the life of FitzChivalry as you read the Tawny Man Trilogy. You don't see the history of the Six Duchies, but embrace it through his eyes. In the first novel, "Fool's Errand" you felt just like Fitz. Reading the first half you felt like you were always catching up, as if time was flying by, trying to remember everything of old. You always were playing catch up through out the whole novel. But "Golden Fool" is different. In this novel you feel the weight of duty, each day in Fitz's life seems like a month as he dives back into the court of Buckkeep. And just so every page seems like a chapter to you, the book expands beyond its page numbers. You will sit down for hours unmoving only to stop and realize you've only read through a chapter or two in awe. You'll wonder if you will ever get through this novel just as Fitz wonders if he will ever go back to his quiet life in the country.
It is amazing work, beyond words, though I have tried. The only problem is that you must wait another year for the last piece of the trilogy. That you begin this story in the middle and you end it there too. Until a novel is written in which Fitz's soul crosses over to join those that have left before him it will never end for you, you'll always want more of him, and perhaps even after that you will cry for more of the Farseers from this extraordinary author.
Final Thought: Robin Hobb's Farseer novels are not read, they are experienced.
on August 6, 2004
I've discovered something about Robin Hobb, something that has recoloured my view of Golden Fool. Hobb writes slow-paced character studies that emphasize that character over the action. She writes about relationships, and she writes them very effectively. I still found Golden Fool to be too slow with the character interaction not as interesting as she has shown she is capable of. However, I now have a bit more of an understanding of it. That is because I read the third book in the series, Fool's Fate. This book is more of the same, but I found it much more interesting. Fitzchivalry Farseer is still going through rough times, but it seems to have more of a point to it than it did in the second book.
Fool's Fate seems very unusual in that the "climax" of the book takes place almost two-thirds of the way through the book, with the rest of it dealing with all the scattered pieces of Fitz's life that Hobb has left and how Fitz attempts to put them back together. This is where I realized what the point of this series was. It wasn't just the story of a dragon-quest and a political alliance. It was the story of how far Fitz has come since the events in the first Assassin series, a story of relationships. The dragon is important, but only in relation to Fitz and Dutiful and the past that Fitz has to face. The pace of the book is extremely slow, but Hobb's strong writing makes it interesting (unlike the second book, which I think just came across as too depressing to be interesting). The text is dense and you won't plow through it in a day or two. That could be a fault if you don't like that sort of thing. I do, when it's done well, so I loved it.
Another strength that Fool's Fate had that Golden Fool didn't have was that it didn't seem as contrived. Many times in the previous book, Fitz had to be spying a lot so that the reader could understand what was going on. He was constantly sneaking through the secret passages in the castle so that he could watch, for example, the Bingtown Traders come for an audience with the Queen. That's a hazard of writing in the first person, and I thought it let Hobb down in the second. Not this time. There is a little bit of spying, but not a lot. Exposition isn't quite as necessary in Fool's Fate, it being much more immediate to Fitz. He's also directly involved a lot more, so what exposition there is comes more from a character relating the story to Fitz. In large doses this would be tiresome too, but Hobb minimizes it.
All of the characters are extremely interesting and three-dimensional. The only one who gets short shrift is the villain of the piece. I realize that's because she isn't that important in the grand scheme of things, but considering how evil she is and some of the things she does, I found the cursory way she was dealt with disappointing. Her influence is felt more in the surroundings than it is directly by her actions, and this is actually quite effective. Consider her even, with both a huge plus and a huge minus. Every other character, however, is far up on the plus scale.
The only other character fault is Thick, but it's not because he's badly characterized. He actually gets a lot of development and is one of the most three-dimensional characters in the bunch. However, I just found him annoying. His constant whining about not getting on a boat, constantly being sick, his single-mindedness, all of it was just aggravating. If he doesn't reach your annoyance threshold, then you will like this book even more then I did. And I did like it a lot.
The relationship between the Fool and Fitz is very touching, a love that goes beyond lovers and even beyond family. I think that one of the strengths of Fool's Fate was that they weren't at each other's throats so much as they were in the second book. Their relationship colours everything else in the book, and the book lives or dies on it. They have their arguments in this one, but you don't feel like the heart has been ripped out of the book. What happens is almost tragic, and the way the relationship is left feels almost fitting. It's an ending and a beginning, and they have to decide whether being together will be part of that.
Finally, Hobb does a wonderful job with pulling together all of her series. If you read this series first, you will find out a lot of what happens in the first Assassin series, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. She ties together that series and the Bingtown Traders one into a cohesive whole, using elements of everything to leave the world in a different place than when she started. She also ends it fairly definitively, so there doesn't appear any chance of a sequel. This is a good thing, as it would be nice to see her try something new. I know she has written as Megan Lindholm, but it would be interesting to see where she goes as Robin Hobb. Here's to another book, but definitely in a different world. Give the whole series a try, reading the second book with an eye to what I said above. You'll probably enjoy the second book a lot more than I did, and then you'll have this wonderful conclusion.
on March 12, 2009
This book is enjoyable enough on it's own, and I think fans will enjoy most of the story. The ending, however, is a bit hard to swallow.
My main problem is that the author ignored 5+ books worth of character development just to make an attempt at closure and end the series.
*** SPOILERS ***
You could see where the author was originally going to take the story when Kettricken asked Fitz to take the initiative and give Chade orders directly. All three - Fitz, Kett, Chade - saw this as him taking his rightful place as Sacrifice (becoming the shadow king of the Duchies), at least until Dutiful came of age. Yet as soon as Molly showed up, Fitz the King was COMPLETELY forgotten as if it had been some minor development.
Fitz's decision to return to Molly and become a farmer was really out of sync with what had happened in the story up to that point. The entire 6-book story had led up to Fitz taking his place as a Farseer King, with Kettricken as his Queen (in all ways). The relationship between Kettricken and Fitz had been steadily building up, through both clear signs of attraction and masterfully implied sexual tension, yet was just shrugged off in the end.
Fitz saw the lovemaking between Verity/Kettricken in Royal Assassin, but instead of asking Verity to stop Skill-sharing, he went so far as to make love to Molly at the same time and came away remembering only blond hair and soft white skin (an image so important to him that he journals about it in his cabin years later). He became her closest friend, confidante and adviser. Nighteyes himself warned Fitz that his thoughts on her were not appropriate, pointing out that she already had a mate. Fitz may confuse his thoughts with Verity's, but Nighteyes would not make that comment unless it was what Fitz himself was feeling.
Which is another important link. Nighteyes shared a bond with both Fitz and Kettricken. That's no small detail. She even felt him die, despite being hundreds of miles away.
He wrapped both his Wit and arms around her nearly every time they were in a room together. When he was seriously injured, she personally sat at his bedside in her nightgown nursing him back to health. She even told him outright that were she not already married, there would have been something between them. There was also abundant and excessive kissing, among many other things, but I think I've made my point.
Fitz had decided that the "quiet life" had just isolated him from the people he cared about, and that he would not do it again. He went so far as to hold his father's sword and proclaim that he would leave his mark as King. What, his mark was to immediately retreat to the countryside to pick berries and mend horseshoes?
His relationship with Molly was very clearly revealed as just a "love of youth and a simpler time," not true love. Kettle, with her hundreds of years of maturity, pointed out (and Fitz agreed) that they fought at least as often as they played nice. Really, whenever they weren't in bed together, they did nothing BUT fight.
Think about how it could have ended: intrigue and power struggles with Chade as King Fitz's adviser; a romance with Kettricken that could not be revealed; two children he had to pretend were not his yet see every single day and open his mind to during Skill lessons; continuing the overriding story arch by giving his life to the throne with few knowing what he sacrificed; wondering when the Fool would return. These are the sort of things that we love about Fitz and what make him who he is. And he had finally accepted that life.
Instead, we have poor Kettricken knowing love for only ONE WEEK of her entire life, Dutiful making babies with a 14-year old girl and being a King at 15 (though no one thought he was mature enough), Burrich killed off just to free up Molly, the Fool permanently disappearing, and Fitz deciding that he really didn't care about anyone (Chade/Kettricken/Dutiful/Thick/the people of Buckkeep/the Six Duchies/Web/Hap/Starling/etc.) but Molly, and crawling back to her.
After all of his realizations and hard-earned maturity, there is no excuse for tossing Fitz off in the countryside where he does nothing at all and is isolated from all but one person he loves... and saying he's happy with it.
Hobb unfortunately wanted some sort of concrete ending, and moving Fitz away from what she had built up was the best way to do that, even if it was a life he clearly no longer wanted. It's a shame, because this ending still doesn't end Fitz's story completely, and - in my humble opinion - is much less satisfying than what she seemed to originally have planned.
on February 3, 2003
First off: if you're a fantasy lover who's never read Robin Hobb before - or even if you're a non-fantasy reader who thinks fantasy books are too unrealistic for your taste -- do yourself a favor and go read "Assassin's Apprentice" right now. Right. Now.
For those who have read Hobb before:
This book is her best since "Royal Assassin." It's a splendid follow-up to her earlier series and easily surpasses the last Fitz book (which, though it was a pleasant return to the character, lacked a sweeping plot). Be warned, this is more of a "nefarious plot and royal intrigue" book than a slam-bang action riot - although there's one excellent action scene that shows us the deadly Fitz of old is back in business.
"Golden Fool" begins a few days after the end of "Fool's Errand." Grieving from the loss of Nighteyes, Fitz has to reintegrate into Buckkeep as "Tom Badgerlock" while avoiding the threat of assassination by the Witted Piebalds who survived the last book. There's more to Prince Dutiful's betrothed than meets the eye, and plots are afoot that even a cunning ex-assassin and the increasingly erratic Chade can't protect the Farseers from.
I liked the way the previous books haunt the background of this one. Old characters return, often with emotionally-devastating consequences as Fitz sees the effect his death has had on those he loves. The legend of the Wit-Bastard also dogs his steps as he sees himself proclaimed as a Witted hero by enemies and allies alike, at the same time that rumors of his survival come back into circulation. Meanwhile, Fitz's determination not to repeat mistakes made in his royal assassin days sometimes helps avert a crisis, and sometimes leads him to make new mistakes.
I'd recommend buying this book, even in hardcover, and I'm not much of a book buyer. What pushes it over the top for me is that there's a lot of emotional payoff from storylines left hanging from the last book and the original assassin series. Fitz's character has matured a lot, and though he is still capable of making disastrous mistakes, he's getting better at handling the routine demands placed on him by the Six Duchies and the Farseer family. Dutiful is also maturing into a very likable youth, and his growing relationship with Fitz makes for an enjoyable read.
The characterizations are as powerful as ever; be warned, however, that the cameos from The Liveship Trader books are quite substantial here. You can read the book without having read Hobb's other trilogy, but it's better if you have.
I give this one 5 stars.
on February 2, 2007
I'm surprised that this book has so many five star ratings, because I really thought it was the weakest of Hobb's efforts involving Fitz (six books). The writing is still good, and many of the characters interesting, but the book totally disengages itself from the premises laid by the others in the series. Throughout the entire course of the novel track, Fitz is supposedly learning about his responsibilities and his duties to his land and his people, gradually coming to terms with his place within that system. Yet at the end he just suddenly abandons it all, content with going back to a previously (and, in my opinion, correctly) dismissed young love. He basically does exactly what his father did, almost like relapsing into some sort of genetic predisposition for dullness.
There were so many more interesting options for this series to conclude with! I had always felt that Hobb was leading a romance between Kettricken and Fitz, and this to me would have been far more believable than running back to Molly given how well he actually knew either of them. I also agree with other reviews that the pacing of the book is too slow, and that Fitz is almost made peripheral (other characters are in fact responsible for most of the major events in the book). I could, however, tolerate a meandering storyline, and even endure reading about Fitz as a part-time nursemaid, if the ending were not so stupefyingly bland.
Maybe I just don't like the "a simple life is the best reward" perspective, but I really feel tricked in that we're being told that such simplicity was a false comfort the entire series, only to have it unceremoniously dumped on us at the end. Such a disappointment for such a great series.
on March 29, 2009
I began the Tawny Man trilogy with much anticipation, having enjoyed the Farseer trilogy previously. The characters in both trilogies are very well-delineated as is the world they inhabit. I appreciate Robin Hobb's ability to create believable characters and that she does not shy away from hurting them. However...
In Fool's Fate I feel that any previous ideas Ms. Hobb had for the resolution of the relationship between Fitz and the Fool suffered a failure to launch. I believe the breakdown occurs when she allows the Fool to suffer such a horrible death. Even though she allows Fitz as the Changer to go beyond death to bring the Fool back, in doing so it is as if she decides that even their close bond could not overcome the way in which the Fool died. While I appreciated very much the scenes after the Fool's restoration where Fitz has finally accepted that he and the Fool have a love that transcends all differences, what I can't fathom is how Fitz can walk away from this knowledge and seek out a love relationship with Molly that is truly pallid by comparison. Fitz stayed away from Molly not just because his own "death" was an established fact for her, but because he knew she could not accept his bond with Nighteyes. His bond with the Fool, once acknowledged, is much the same: a love without limits between two individuals who are organically different. I for one do not feel that Fitz could walk away from that recognition and back to Molly without any indication of regret or understanding of why the Fool must leave. This is a glaring inconsistency to me. If it is the Fool's choice to withdraw the link he and Fitz share, then the Fool becomes the Changer. It is he who makes this decision. Would Fitz have chosen all those years before not to bond with Nighteyes simply because they are two different creatures with mismatched life spans? I realize this is what motivated Burrich to deny his Wit, but Fitz did not do so and never expressed any regret for his own choice, even when it brought him such grief. So why would the Fool pull away when it was he that always said that he placed no limits on his love for Fitz? I never got the feeling that the Fool feared for himself, so if he is trying to spare Fitz more pain then he is acting counter to his nature. He always trusted that Fitz would choose rightly and he knew that would mean suffering on Fitz' part. So why is it okay now for the Fool to prevent Fitz a pain that Fitz himself is willing to accept?
I agree with what some other reviewers have said. I think the Fool was supposed to be revealed as female at some point and that a very sweet, nontraditional romance was being suggested in the previous two books of this trilogy. But when Robin Hobb tortured the Fool and allowed Fitz to bring him back from the dead, there was no safe refuge for the Fool to flee to for healing as there once was for Fitz in his relationship to Nighteyes. That kind of experience was something the Fool had no resources for dealing with and it seems to me that making the Fool reveal himself to actually be female and therefore Fitz' true partner could not be done. It would not ring true to the Fool's death experience and the whole post-traumatic stress situation he manifests after Fitz brings him back to life. I am not actually sorry for that development. If the book had stopped after the scene with Girl on a Dragon and the Fool restoring to Fitz his early memories and pain, then I could probably give this book four stars. What irks me is the idea that once Fitz is "complete" through his bond with the Fool and his restored memories that he could then blithely take up a banal courtship of his lost love and be satisfied with that. He never expresses regret that he lost the opportunity to see the Fool one more time, nor does he show any distress that the Fool came looking for him while Fitz was lost in the Skill pillar. Does it mean nothing to him that his closest friend now believes he is dead, especially when that has been a thorn in Fitz' side with regard to all his loved ones believing him dead for 16 years? I suppose I could excuse this mysterious lack of emotion because of the transcendent nature of the bond between the Fool and Fitz. But once the Fool severed their Skill-link it seemed to me that what Hobb was suggesting was that Fitz felt once again as he did after Nighteyes died -- as if he were missing a part of himself. As indeed he is, because if he and the Fool complete one another then what the Fool does by removing their link is cruel. It is almost like a suicide. If the Fool is not supposed to effect change, how does he justify making this choice? It profoundly affects Fitz' future after all. It apparently renders Fitz blind enough to what he truly wants that he is able to accept the mundane traditional role of husband to a housewife as the epitome of happiness. I'm sorry, I just can't accept that as the "happy ending" to this epic. (And I state this as a happily-married housewife!!!)
There is also the problem of Fitz' place in Buckkeep. If he is willing to act as a shadow king, then why does he not do so after he finally recognizes and verbally accepts that role? If he is supposed to be Skillmaster, why are only a few token sentences given to that responsibility? Most of the ending of the book is an overly-detailed account of his correspondence with Molly and her boys, his obsession with courting her from afar, and how he travels to see her. If I am being forced to accept that Molly is Fitz' reward then I guess I see the point of making that the focus of the last 100 pages. But it left aside the political role that Fitz would have been playing behind the scenes of Dutiful's reign. Fitz is no Chade but I don't think he would have so completely lost interest in his responsibility to his Farseer heritage. Chade's Machiavellian attitude still needs balancing and it is as if Fitz has decided to ignore that fact in favor of pressing his suit with Molly. Yet another inconsistency that bothered me.
I am not sorry to have read this trilogy, but the inconsistencies and the ending of Fool's Fate left me feeling very dissatisfied.
on August 9, 2007
I'm not sure what I can say that hasn't been said before. I've been crying off and on since I finished this book over 24 hours ago. I have yet to eat and my friends keep wanting to know what's wrong.
This book broke my heart.
The Author herself in a forum stated that the ending kind of took a life of it's own. That her projected ending (when she started writing) changed by the time she actually got around to writing this. This happens to writers and I can't fault her that. It's her creation and her baby.
However, the ending is so tragic to me that I can find little solace in it. I am undable to follow her train of thought to what she deems to be the "natural ending". I follow the trail originally set out by her and arrive at my own conclusions.
The ending with SPOILERS
Molly is, IMO an cop out. We are told over and over again that she is his 'lost love'. And also we know that she could never accept him with the Wit, could never accept him with Nighteyes - that he would have to choose. The Fool believes she would do the same with his love/bond with Fitz. So how is this true love? The Fool's love for Fitz "knows no boundaries". It's unconditional. It is the purest love, the most monumental love, the kind of love that transcends physical and mental bounds -- that has been committed to page in the fantasy genre -- IMO. And yet it is pushed aside at the end for Molly. I never expected a happy compact ending. But for Fitz to say, "Molly is enough, more than enough for me." makes me want to break something.
Perhaps the Catalyst and the Changer could not stay together indefinitely without changing the world over and over again -- but why did we have to have the ending we did?
I feel awful for the Fool at the end of this. He has his life and the knowledge that Fitz would have followed him and the knowledge that he was loved, oh so loved by him.... but I'm not sure that's enough considering he may think Fitz dead.
I'm rambling. The point is I don't know if I recommend to read this book. If you're going to take it the way I have, you may have to see a shrink.
I'm going to go back to crying now.
on February 19, 2004
I loved the Farseer trilogy. I enjoyed the Liveship Traders. I was disappointed by the end of this third trilogy. It was so much less than it could have been. After making such a huge deal over the friendship between FitzChivalry and the Fool, to have it end the way it did was frustrating. Rather than exploring new horizons, Hobb seems to have taken the easy way out and tacked a "happily ever after" on the end. I should probably mention that I never liked Molly's character, even in the Farseer trilogy, so her role in this final installment annoyed me no end. At the conclusion of this book, I was not left with any sensation of "Wow! What an ending!" but merely a "Well, now I can stop worrying about it." Hardly the response I expected.
Having said that, the book earns points for being well-written and finely crafted. The ending, while not the one I would have chosen, did follow logically from the events of the story. And perhaps it is a mark of how well developed Hobb's characters were that I cared so much about what happened to them. So 4 stars for the series overall.