Monday, 29 May 2017

Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb is the final book in The Fitz and the Fool trilogy, itself the third trilogy of trilogies about Fitz. It's book nine, is what I'm saying, or book twelve or sixteen if you count the Liveship books and the Dragon books, which aren't about Fitz but are related. Those two series aren't strictly necessary to understand the events of Assassin's Fate, but I dare say they help, which was not the case for Fool's Assassin or Fool's Quest. I haven't read any of the dragon books nor the final Liveship book and I felt a very small lack. On the other hand, the previous Fitz books — The Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy as well as the preceding volumes of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy — are definitely necessary to make sense of the assassin's fate. This review will contain spoilers for the earlier Fitz books. The blurb also contains spoilers for the earlier books in this series.

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river.

Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee's only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.

Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected?

But Fitz and his followers are not the only ones with a deadly grudge against the Four. An ancient wrong will bring them unlikely and dangerous allies in their quest. And if the corrupt society of Clerres is to be brought down, Fitz and the Fool will have to make a series of profound and fateful sacrifices.

When I started reading Assassin's Fate, my recollections of the previous book were a little vague. I remembered the gist but not the precise ending, which turned out to be a little bit of a problem since Assassin's Fate picks up very soon after Fool's Quest left off, especially from Bee's point of view. It is took me longer than I think it should have to work out why Fitz was so convinced Bee was dead because I'd forgotten the events at the very end of Fool's Quest. I don't think this would be an issue if I'd read them closer together. This contributed to me not getting into the book as quickly as I would have liked. The start of the book felt a bit slow and while I wasn't bored I also wasn't as gripped as I am accustomed to being by Hobb books. As a result, it took me about three weeks to get through it, since I got distracted by several Hugo-shortlisted things (mainly short fiction) along the way. On the other hand, it took me only a couple of days to read the second half of the book, in large part because that's when things got really interesting and difficult to step away from. So I suppose it's fair to say the pacing is a little bit off. This is a pretty long book (around 850 pages according to Goodreads for both the US and UK editions) and, in my opinion, that means it can't afford to waste too many pages on less exciting events, even if they needed to happen.

One of the things I really liked about this book was how it tied together all the other series set in the same Realm of the Elderlings universe. As I mentioned at the start, it's not completely necessary to read the Liveship books before reading Assassin's Fate, but we do get a kind of extra Liveship-centric epilogue,  which I think fans of that series will appreciate (and those who haven't read any Liveship books will feel as confused by as Fitz was). I also think Hobb ended Fitz's story in a nice way, although the ending took a bit of time to process and gave me rather a lot of feelings. Not to mention, the book is called Assassin's Fate, which should give you some hints about what might happen in it, but by golly Fitz sure has a lot of fates. The latter parts of the book were a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. The end was an ending for all the Fitz and Fool books.

It's hard to say anything very concrete because of wanting to avoid spoilers, but Bee's story was interesting — although she got more than her share of slow bits before the story picked up. I enjoyed learning more about Cleres and where the Fool came from. I also enjoyed reading the start-of-chapter extracts from Bee's dreams, especially once they started happening and we were able to retrospectively join the dots to the events they predicted. There were a few parallels between Bee's life and Fitz's which, towards the end, really emphasised how she was his child more so than Nettle had been, and not just because Fitz was more present in Bee's childhood. But I don't want to venture into spoiler territory.

So, if you've read the other Fitz books, then I strongly recommend finishing off the story with Assassin's Fate. If you haven't also read the Liveship books, then I recommend doing so before Assassin's Fate, especially if you had any general plans to read them at some point. Assassin's Fate contains some critical spoilers for those books and also contributes to their story in its own right. If you haven't read anything by Robin Hobb before, this is pretty much the worst possible place to start. Go back and start with Assassin's Apprentice. This is one of my favourite fantasy series and has been with me for a significant chunk of my life. It was bittersweet to say a final goodbye to the characters and the world.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2017, Del Rey (US) / Harper Voyager (UKANZ)
Series: Fitz and the Fool book 3 of 3
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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