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Book Review: Fool’s Quest

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Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb (Book II of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy)

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter.

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

One of the first galleys I read was Fool’s Assassin. It was also the first Robin Hobb book I read. In a sense, it changed my life. In my review, I went on at length about my reading habits.

When I was younger, I often thought that I had to read an author’s entire catalog in order to get a sense of why they were popular, what had made them great, and how they had evolved. I took a chance reading Robin Hobb’s latest series without foreknowledge and it paid off. I managed to put off exploring her back catalog before this book was in my hands and I’m stupidly glad.

Whatever Hobb has already been, by chapter eight it was clear that she’s now master of your heart. If that ever wasn’t true, I don’t need to know. I’m not worried, really, but I’m finishing this trilogy before stepping backward. When you tear up about characters you barely know when you’re not even through a quarter of the book, you know you’re in good hands.

The first book explored the hero’s struggle to enjoy life following the epic adventure, following saving the world. This one delves into the price of success, the cost of failure, atonement, and belonging. When his old life crashes into his collapsing new one, we see what bends and what breaks.

How do you balance old responsibilities with new ones? What are your obligations to the various roles you play? How do you accept your grown children as superiors? Even as equals? What are you willing to risk? For whom?

In this second volume, Fitz and the Fool confront their pasts and one another as their situation changes drastically around them from day to day. The trauma of those last steps along the hero’s journey gets a touching treatment as they awkwardly negotiate an experience that, while shared, is nonetheless necessarily personal. Solitary. Theirs is an enduring love, but one that is also endured.

Again I was awed by the dedication to the lived experience of the characters. Realizations that were obvious in the first novel elude the consciousness of the protagonists until well into this one. But it’s real. For good reason. Hobb’s like some Hitchcock of the intersection of emotion and intellect at war with one another. Instead of deriding their blindness, I empathized with it. Of course they don’t know. How could they?

Fool’s Quest is at once a culmination of the series so far and a clarion call. Everything comes together. Longtime readers will note characters and references from every book. Folks like me will gradually develop a sense of history and relationships. When things fall apart, everyone will experience the import.

Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest are a great place to enter fantasy for readers of drama, romance, and, well, pretty much anything else. Robin Hobb isn’t afraid to simply let her characters be human. These stories are about people. People probably a lot like you. In a wonderful magical setting.

Recommended for fans of Roland Deschain, Unforgiven, and Captain America.

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