Review: Assassin’s Fate

XPLzpNg.jpgTitle: Assassin’s Fate (2017)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 864
Series: The Fitz & The Fool #3, Realms of the Elderlings #16 (Series Tracker)

I fear that I may never again read such a wonderful series. Robin Hobb has written 16 books that are immersive, heartbreaking, and brilliantly realized. There is quite a bit of fantasy that I have yet to read, and don’t profess to be an expert in the genre by any means, but I can’t imagine finding another series that I will be as emotionally invested in as this one.

As a singular book, Assassin’s Fate functions as a proper conclusion to The Fitz & The Fool trilogy, the Liveship Traders trilogy, the Rain Wild Chronicles tetralogy, AND the Realms of the Elderlings series as a whole. There is a tremendous amount of story to tie off and Hobb does so masterfully. SO much happens in this book. It features tremendous buildup, non-stop action, and a conclusion that left me emotionally spent. This was a story of movement, progress, and rising tension. Our two POV characters set out on a collision course; the results of which were completely unpredictable. I was left guessing the entire way, with Hobb delivering surprises and her signature gut-punches to the very end.

This is a supremely satisfying finale to a series that will stick with me for my entire reading life. I hope Hobb continues with the threads of the story that she did not tie off. I would gleefully return to the world that she’s created whenever she wants to have me again.

★★★★★ out of 5

Some extraneous thoughts on my Realms of the Elderlings reading experience:

  • I read Assassin’s Apprentice in 2014, liked the book well enough, but decided not to read on in the series. When I saw that the (potentially) final book in the series was to be released in 2017, I picked up book #2, suspecting that it wouldn’t grab me enough to make it beyond the first few chapters. I…was…wrong. I burned through the remaining 15 books in a span of 237 days — each book my constant companion at home, on the subway, during lunch breaks at work, and even on my honeymoon in Iceland!
  • Below is a chart of my star ratings for each individual book in the series. Although many ratings fall below 4 stars, this is the type of series where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts:

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  • Thank you to the New York Public Library for providing ebooks of the entire series and thank you to Robin Hobb for writing such wonderful books that I will cherish forever. I understand if this is the end of the tale, but I will jump right back in if ever you decide to add to your masterpiece.

Review: Fool’s Quest

fool-s-quest-2Title: Fool’s Quest (2015)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 788
Series: The Fitz & The Fool #2, Realms of the Elderlings #15 (Series Tracker)

After a stellar first book, this follow-up was a bit of a let down. Fool’s Assassin felt fresh, with new characters and circumstances reviving Fitz’s tale. Fool’s Quest feels stagnate, with very little forward plot momentum. The events at the end of the previous book led me to believe that we would see an emboldened Fitz, hellbent on seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. Instead, we see travel preparations, brooding, licking wounds, and minimal plot progression. Hobb’s writing is still wonderful but this feels very “middle book-ish” with no resolution or sense of completeness. I’m still excited for the final book, though. Onward!

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Fool’s Assassin

FoolsAssassinTitle: Fool’s Assassin (2014)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 688
Series: The Fitz & The Fool, Realms of the Elderlings #14 (Series Tracker)

In Fool’s Assassin, we return to our beloved protagonist, FitzChivalry Farseer, who is living a peaceful life as Tom Badgerlock at Withywoods manor. Of course, said peace is quickly disrupted by events that threaten Fitz’s closest family and friends.

I would happily read an entire book about Fitz puttering around his retirement home, fixing things, and training apprentices (he’s certainly earned the break), but I’m equally delighted to see him called back into action. There is no permanent retirement for the “Witted Bastard”.

The narrative arc here is less defined than in previous Fitz books, as Robin Hobb once again delves into the dizzying array of complex characters and relationships that are so engrossing to read about. Even though these books are ostensibly about Fitz, no one book feels the same and with the addition of a wonderful new character POV, fresh life has been breathed into Fitz’s tale once more. The book ends with the first real cliffhanger I can remember in all of Hobb’s books — as if I need any other reason to read more of this series…

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: Blood of Dragons

BloodofDragons.pngTitle: Blood of Dragons (2013)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 545
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #4, Realms of the Elderlings #13 (Series Tracker)

Blood of Dragons closes the door on the Rain Wild Chronicles tetralogy. I was expecting a grand finale, but was disappointed to read a more muted story that concluded several storylines that I did not care much about. Robin Hobb’s similarly structured Liveship Traders series had countless characters that all felt like important components of a densely woven tapestry, while this series felt less essential and grand, with a heavy focus on relationship drama. Gripes aside, this is not a bad book, just one I did not enjoy as much as most other Realms of Elderlings works. Four series down, one to go!

★★★¼ out of 5

Review: City of Dragons

d80f67438973206d458173c0fd7fabbdTitle: City of Dragons (2011)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 426
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #3, Realms of the Elderlings #12 (Series Tracker)

Upon finding Kelsingra, the titular “City of Dragons”, our dragons and their scaled human companions seek to gain a foothold in a mysterious place while also grappling with the physical changes that this mystical location has wrought upon them. Several new character POVs are seen, including a few whose nefarious aims threaten the strange settlement and its inhabitants.

While not as engaging as the prior Rain Wild book, scenes featuring Kelsingra were fascinating; it was unfortunate that more of the story did not take place there. Like the first book in this series, City of Dragons leans heavily on set-up, as this is the first half of what was originally one long manuscript. This story checks in with several underserved characters and sees where everyone is positioned for the big finale. I look forward to seeing how this tetralogy concludes, but with a title like Blood of Dragons it may not be smooth sailing for our weary adventurers.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Dragon Haven

dragonhavenTitle: Dragon Haven (2010)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 526
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #2, Realms of the Elderlings #11 (Series Tracker)

Many of Robin Hobb’s books begin with a set of characters that are broken in some way (physically, emotionally, by circumstance, etc.). Throughout the course of each book or series these characters are made whole through their experiences. Dragon Keeper introduced us to several flailing entities (feeble dragons, outcast keepers, multiple characters in doomed relationships), but it is from these small beginnings that these characters come into their own in Dragon Haven.

This book is very much a continuation of Dragon Keeper — which is not surprising, since these first two books were split from one long manuscript. Where the first book provided the set-up, Dragon Haven delivered with the action, romance, and pacing of a much more enjoyable book. I’ve become more connected with these characters, and in classic Robin Hobb fashion, I’m sharing in their triumphs and hurting from their defeats. Although it’s not quite at the level as the three preceding trilogies, this is a major improvement on the first book.

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: Dragon Keeper

9780061561627_0_CoverTitle: Dragon Keeper (2009)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 500
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #1, Realms of the Elderlings #10 (Series Tracker)

It’s always difficult to leave Fitz behind, especially for a tetralogy that is regarded as the weak point in the Realms of the Elderlings series. I was hoping that a story devoted to several dragons would be big, bold, and thrilling; unfortunately, the dragons found in this opening tome were weak, malformed, and helpless. Obviously, this is just the beginning and things will likely change in the forthcoming books, but it was a disappointing revelation that Tintaglia and dragons like her were nowhere to be found.

That’s not to say that there is nothing to like about this book. Compared to the Liveship Traders trilogy, this story is much more focused, the cast is less sprawling, and the characters convergence more quickly. The main characters are complex, likable, and varied. From Alise, the erudite Bingtown trader’s daughter, to Thymara, the societal outcast seeking a place in the world, and to Leftrin, the shrewd ship captain with a heart; each character seems to have virtuous aims with realistic faults, and that makes them easy to root for.

Overall, though, this novel was mostly character introduction and set-up; it never captivated me like Hobb’s other works, but I will push forward to the next book to see if the story picks up.

★★★ out of 5

Review: Fool’s Fate

Fool's FateTitle: Fool’s Fate (2003)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 928
Series: Tawny Man #3, Realms of the Elderlings #9 (Series Tracker)

Fool’s Fate sets out at a sluggish pace, with the characters sailing to various territories in the Outislands. While this fleshed out the culture of the Outislanders in a compelling way, it mostly felt plodding and overlong. I was worried that this story would follow the same trajectory as the third book in the Farseer Trilogy, with Assassin’s Quest feeling much more meandering and unfocused than the preceding two books. Luckily, the story takes off at the halfway mark, and all my qualms were washed away.

Dragons, deaths, betrayals, family reunions — it’s jam-packed and Robin Hobb’s talents are on full display. The writing is imbued with so much care and emotion that it’s impossible not to care tremendously for each of our main characters. This was a beautiful conclusion to an excellent trilogy. I’m sad to leave Fitz behind to journey into the Rain Wilds, but it’s a comfort to know that there are three more Fitz books waiting for me on the other side.

★★★★½ out of 5

Review: Golden Fool

GoldenFool.jpgTitle: Golden Fool (2002)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 736
Series: Tawny Man #2, Realms of the Elderlings #8 (Series Tracker)

Golden Fool expands and improves upon every aspect of Fool’s Errand, just as Royal Assassin did for Assassin’s Apprentice. This story was firing on all cylinders — the pacing, the plotting, the action, and the intrigue; it was all on full display.

Fitz (as Tom Badgerlock) is firmly back in the game and he’s juggling relationships with: his three children (one by blood, one adopted, and one…well, it’s complicated), The Fool/Lord Golden, spymaster Chade, Queen Kettricken, Starling, Thick, and his past self. He’s developed a keen insight into his own grief — something that is now fully realized after having so much practice at it. Even after five books in Fitz’s story, the characters and relationships around him continue to evolve in fresh new ways — as does the overall plot of the Realms of the Elderlings narrative. This book marked the first major crossover between adjacent trilogies, as the events of the Liveship Traders series are reframed and what I understood about certain characters was cast in a new light.

This book fully rekindled my addiction to this world. I’ve been swept into the Skill stream and I’m happy to go wherever it takes me.

★★★★½ out of 5