Warning: while this review contains no spoilers for Fool’s Errand itself, it may give away some aspects of The Farseer Trilogy (for example, which characters live and die), so if you don’t want to know anything about this previous trilogy, then it might be best not to read this review.
“’You have been with me, as close as the tips of my fingers, even when we were years and seas apart. Your being was like the hum of a plucked string at the edge of my hearing, or a scent carried on a breeze. Did not you feel it so?’”
Fool’s Errand is the first book in Robin Hobb’s The Tawny Man trilogy, and picks up fifteen years after the events of Assassin’s Quest, the final book in The Farseer Trilogy. At the beginning of this book, Fitz is living in self-imposed exile, along with his bonded wolf, Nighteyes, and his adopted son, Hap. Whilst Fitz lives out his quiet life of isolation, Witted folk are being cruelly persecuted across the Six Duchies, and in response, the Witted are striking back.
One day, Fitz receives an urgent summons to Buckkeep, and learns that Ketricken’s son and heir to the Six Duchies, Prince Dutiful, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Fitz finds himself once again bound by loyalty, duty, and family, to undertake the quiet work of saving the heir to the Six Duchies.
“Leave old pains alone. When they cease coming to call, do not invite them back.”
It’s been a couple of years since I last read one of Robin Hobb’s books, and re-immersing myself in Fitz’ story has reminded me of just how much I love Hobb’s work. In Fool’s Errand, every sentence flows beautifully, every word of dialogue feels real, and every page drags me deeper and deeper into the world Hobb has created. Hobb’s writing is every bit as smart and absorbing as I remembered, and the story itself as gripping and perilous as I had hoped.
Fitz and Nighteyes have come a long way since The Farseer Trilogy, and while the characters have evolved a great deal since the last we saw them, there is still a sense of familiarity to the dynamic between the pair. Familiar themes such as the cost of the Skill, and the dangers of the Wit-bond are revisited, alongside new themes, including fatherhood, mortality, and the scars left behind after the destruction of the Red Ship Raiders.
One of the highlights of this book is the return of one of my favourite characters, The Fool, this time, wearing the guise of Lord Golden. The Fool is every bit as extravagant and intriguing as I remembered, and the dynamic between The Fool and Fitz in this story is a definite highlight. In this book, we see how their unusual friendship changes after all these years apart, and there are plenty of fond moments between the pair. Other familiar characters also make brief appearances, including Chade, Kettricken, and Starling.
“‘But this, Fitz, this is how I have always seen you. And how you have never seen yourself.'”
This book also introduces a new character: Prince Dutiful. The relationship between Fitz and Dutiful in this book is crafted so cleverly, and is reminiscent of Burrich and Fitz’ relationship from The Farseer Trilogy. While the dynamic is often frustrating and the two characters are antagonistic towards each other, it provides a powerful tool for Fitz’ development, as we can see just how much his views have changed since he was Dutiful’s age.
Of course, this book isn’t lacking in heartache. It seems to me that Hobb is incapable of writing a book that hasn’t brought me at least close to tears by the end. In Fool’s Errand, Hobb continues to push her characters to their limits, straining their friendships, their willpower, and their sense of self. Hobb handles the sad moments in this book beautifully and elegantly, without overstating.
“Even when we are faced with wounds that heal more slowly, with pain that lessens by day only to return in full force at nightfall, even when sleep does not leave us rested, we still expect that tomorrow all will come back into balance and that we will go on.”
The only real flaw in this book is that the story is initially slow-moving, taking around 100-200 pages before the main plot is introduced. Personally, I didn’t mind this, because the writing is so immersive that I even enjoyed this book when nothing was happening at all. Additionally, the slow build-up gave me the chance to get to know the characters again, and did an excellent job of setting the scene. At the same time, I can understand why some readers would prefer the plot to progress faster, and know that a slow start can be a barrier to a lot of readers.
The plot itself is interesting, and gives readers plenty to think about without being too complex. It’s riddled with mysteries that readers can begin to piece together, the answers becoming clear to readers just as they do to the characters themselves. This is also a story filled with moral dilemmas, magic that feels real, and clever references to previous books set in the same world.
As I knew I would, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I stand by my assertion that Robin Hobb is one of epic fantasy’s finest authors and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.
“Despite my pain, I felt not the regret of an ending, but the foreboding of a beginning.”