With this sixth book in the chronicling of FitzChivalry Farseer’s long, beautiful, torturous life, Robin Hobb has ascended herself into my list of favorite authors. The amount of respect I have for her writing skills and her ability to develop characters that matter is uncanny. It’s a level of sophistication I hope I can one day reach with my own writing, but I’m a long ways off.
Fool’s Fate is the fantasy epic you think of when you think of epic fantasy. Not literally, no. But when you think of a fantasy epic, certain common threads and clichés come to mind. The long quest. The development of your hero, or your group of heroes. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary or mundane. Mentor figures and their deaths. Dragon slayers. Royal bastards. Magic. Truly evil antagonists. This book incorporates pretty much every motif native to fantasy literature. And yet, it feels as though you’re discovering it for the first time.
The book follows Prince Dutiful on a quest to slay a dragon, at the behest of his bride to be – a marriage alliance that needs to happen to bring about a time of much-needed peace. And as fantasy goes, that isn’t a revolutionary story idea. But the layers of intrigue, the overarching threat, the level of adventure, and so on makes this feel totally revolutionary when reading it. And on top of all of that is the range of emotions she’s capable of insighting in the reader and the characters.
FitzChivalry is one of the greatest characters in fantasy fiction. If you’ve read this far into Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings, you’ll know there is little doubt of that. His story rivals taking a ring to Mordor, ruling a far off land with dragons at your side, or playing a lute with three strings. And what makes him so great is his inability to let things be. He is the Changer, after all. But his ability to, in a way, break the rules of the magics given him, is mindblowing. It’s not a matter of transcending the magical limits of his world, but melding multiple types of it in ways he barely even understands, without even considering the risk he puts upon his own physical and mental limitations. For those who’ve read the book, I refer to the Fool’s fate – and the actions he takes in changing it. Incredible, truly. It’s a thing so beautifully well done, it had me bawling.
Thick, another character she nails, is thick. Meaning, he’s mentally retarded. And he is one of the best writ characters I can think of. Hobb’s seemless way of getting into the head, characteristics, and mannerisms of the mentally disabled is something I didn’t know could be so complex and simple at the same time. And the most realistic thing about Thick is that he’s an idiot savant, something commonly associated with the mentally handicapped. Although he has the mind and understanding of a child, his ability with the Farseer magic, the Skill, is extraordinary. The way he sees the world, as a song in his head, is such a unique concept to me that I have to admit he’s also one of my favorite characters. If I ever make a list of my favorite fantasy characters, Thick will be very high up. (Now I wanna make that list…)
The book is long. Very long. And much of it is unnecessarily so. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy everything associated with the novel, because I savored every word. But many scenes were unnecessarily drawn out. Were the book just a smidge shorter, I’d go ahead and give it a perfect 10.0 rating. And the climax of the story actually happens at the 2/3rds point. The rest is probably the best resolution to a fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Not only does it resolve the events of this book, but also the the entire trilogy AND the trilogy before that. It ties up all loose ends, it clears up all of Fitz prior mistakes, and it made me so happy. Truly so happy. If that were the end of the series, I would be so satisfied it isn’t even funny. But there is subsequent trilogy. One I must start as soon as possible.
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