Robin Hobb has written many books in her far-reaching Realm of the Elderlings series. Her most notable, perhaps, would be the novels chronicling the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry and all the trials and struggles beset him. Fitz is one of the most tormented souls in all of fantasy, giving even the Starks a run for their money. Introduced first in the Farseer trilogy, Fitz’ story continues in the Tawny Man trilogy, the first book being Fool’s Errand.
My first thought, before even beginning the book, was ‘how on earth could this poor kid’s story continue? Hasn’t Hobb beaten all his life’s tales out of him by now, physically and mentally?’ The answer to that is to buffer this trilogy by a span of some 15+ years. Fitz no longer goes by that name. Rather, he calls himself Tom Badgerlock now, for a number of reasons, but most notably because FitzChivalry Farseer is supposed to have died many years prior. That makes sense. This divorcing himself of his prior life is something heartbreaking in and of itself. Tom Badgerlock is no one, with little to his name, except for an orphaned bastard and an old wolf.
We learn much of his life within the past 15 years right off the bat. He trained himself in his use of the Wit magic, which allows him to communicate ever deeper, mentally, to animals – particularly his bond animal, Nighteyes, a wolf. This proved difficult, especially because he was not raised amongst those of the Old Blood, but he manages.
The first few chapters of the book do tend to drag on more than they should, but noting the length of the rest of the novel, this is understandable. What makes Hobb’s storytelling so brilliant is that you don’t honestly need to have read the previous trilogy of books to jump into this one. She recounts all the major portions and loves and struggles of Tom’s past life as Fitz so well, there would truly be no confusion on the reader’s behalf of what happened. Although this is a fresh story in a new time period, I don’t know why anybody would ever wish to not read the prior installments however. Get on it!
The immediate threat of Prince/King Regal at FitzChivalry’s back is no longer present, and the fear of Outislander ships Forging coastal towns has been abated. A new threat is stirring in the background, something that has potentially been brewing for many, many years. The Wit is a hated magic amongst those who do not have it, and it isn’t uncommon that these ones will burn Witted folk alive if they are discovered. Now it appears a militant rebellion has sprung amongst the Witted, many calling themselves Piebalds, after the dark legend of the Piebald Prince who was Witted himself.
Tom is adamant about not coming out of reclusion, despite entreaties from old friends and family. It isn’t until the young Prince Dutiful is seemingly stolen that Tom chooses to become a servant of the Six Duchies once again, but can he keep his secrets? Or will the world find out who he truly is?
Where the first trilogy focused it’s attention more wholly on the Skill magic, this alpears to be diving ever deeper into the Wit. I’m excited to see where Hobb takes us.
This book, like all of Hobb’s storytelling, does an incredible job at making humanity appear so small amongst such a large and wonderous world. So much is to be discovered amongst these pages that doesn’t directly impact this story, and you know it must deal with future installments, as she lays down seeds like no one else can. This world is so real and so vivid, it’s a wonder it took me so long to get back into.
I stopped reading this series just before I got married. It was so torturously good, I was actually becoming unnecessarily stressed out. Now that sufficient time has passed, I can gladly get back into this series. But don’t be mistaken. This is a return to form, and you will cry before the book is through with you.