Robin Hobb’s ability to turn any minute thing into true deadly drama is, as always, unmatched. With Golden Fool, the fifth book in the chronicling of FitzChivalry Farseer’s life, the second in the Tawny Man trilogy, we see Fitz return to Buckkeep to begin training Prince Dutiful in the skill. As always, there’s a sinister plot underfoot, and who better to take it on than him.
Not to lessen it’s importance, but this is my least favorite book thus far by Hobb. This is hard for me to quantify though, because it’s such an excellent read. I guess, if I were to attempt to put it’s inferiority in relation to it’s formers into context, I’d have to say that I don’t feel all that much happened to change the where and knowhow from beginning to end as I’m used to in Hobb’s storytelling. We tie up some loose ends that weren’t tied off in the previous books, as they should have been, and these didn’t change the outcome of this story whatsoever. We also don’t see much adventure in this story. It all happens in court settings. But despite the lack of adventure, there is no lack of daring, cunning, nor brilliance to her writing. The court intrigue is always fresh, chapter-to-chapter.
What’s not so fresh is the sidestory with the unruly Hap. That boy/man/young man – whatever he is – really needs to be slapped. And Fitz doesn’t feel it’s right for him to do so. And this inability to keep his son’s hands off another man’s sloot daughter only makes Fitz’ journey through the novel all the more arduous and tedious. I have little tolerance for this sideplot.
An interesting comparison to racism comes when Fitz is speaking to someone he cares for, who doesn’t seemingly care that he has the Wit magic. It is learned she does have a deep prejudice towards the magic, even if her opinions on it aren’t outrightly belligerent. Interesting development in the book, and I think that’s where Fitz’ truly realizes how deeply hatred and misconception are ingrained in the psyche of the people around him when it comes to the magic. As a reader it’s easy to draw the comparison to racism, or even patriotism.
There is no climactic ending to this novel, unlike previous installments in the series. Probably more of a climactic second act. Besides that, there was a lot of unexplained court drama that didn’t feel entirely connected, but was made out to be. We still know so little about all the novel’s dramatic happenings that it honestly didn’t feel like much happened there, although clearly plenty did. We now know that the Prince and his coterie are to slay a dragon at the behest of his bride to be. The Witted are now in negotiations to find a place in society without hiding. And we learn plenty about the Fool and his history. But this didn’t feel like the middle act it should have been.