Review of Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fools FateFool’s Fate (Tawny Man Trilogy #3)
By Robin Hobb; Performed by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 35 hours
Themes:  / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / dragon /
Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry Farseer has become firmly ensconced in the queen’s court. Along with his mentor, Chade, and the simpleminded yet strongly Skilled Thick, Fitz strives to aid Prince Dutiful on a quest that could secure peace with the Outislands—and win Dutiful the hand of the Narcheska Elliania.The Narcheska has set the prince an unfathomable task: to behead a dragon trapped in ice on the isle of Aslevjal. Yet not all the clans of the Outislands support their effort. Are there darker forces at work behind Elliana’s demand? Knowing that the Fool has foretold he will die on the island of ice, Fitz plots to leave his dearest friend behind. But fate cannot so easily be defied.

Disclaimer: This is a review of the third book in a trilogy and the review will likely include spoilers from preceding books. I’d strongly recommend starting with the first book in the trilogy (Fool’s Errand) or better yet, Assassin’s Apprentice since the Farseer trilogy is very good and all these books are related.

Fool’s Fate is the last book of the Tawny Man trilogy. The story picks up immediately where Golden Fool left off as the Farseers are preparing to travel to the island Aslevjal to kill the dragon Icefire. The Fool has also told FitzChivalry that they must save Icefire to put the world on a better path. Which will Fitz decide: his oath of loyalty and allegiance to the Farseer throne or his role as the Catalyst of the White Prophet? I’ve really enjoyed all of the books in this trilogy leading but this book stands out as something special.

The whole premise of the book is based on a challenge Prince Dutiful was goaded into and that the adults don’t particularly want to do. It’s pretty obvious that something else is at play with the Outislanders in making this challenge and the result is a fantastic conclusion to the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. As already stated, FitzChivalry’s struggle with his role as the Catalyst while also serving his realm have you wondering what will happen all the way up to the climax.

As I listened to this story, I really felt like a full story was being told in which I couldn’t see the seams. I normally can’t help my mind picking a story apart into its elements to determine what’s going to be important later in the story but things weren’t so obvious here. There are so many things going on that it just feels like an active world as opposed to having just a few conveniently introduced devices to be used later (for instance, you know when Harry Potter learns a new spell that it will almost certainly be the sole thing that gets him out of trouble later. Expecto Patronum!). What will be important here? New understandings of the Wit from Webb? The newly forming Skill coterie? Chade’s blasting powder? Something old Elderling tools? Hobb does a great job working everything together into a good ride.

If there is one weakness in this book, it’s that it wraps things up too well. When I say too well, I mean that the falling action and conclusion of the book feel like the resolution to both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogy as so much of what happens even concludes questions you may not even realize you had. The falling action and conclusion also take up about 1/3 of the book which kind of threw me. I was avidly consuming the story through the climax but then felt like things dragged out a bit afterward. Don’t get me wrong – I loved all of it, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

As with the previous installments of this trilogy, James Langton does a fantastic job with his narration of this book. There were times I forgot I was even listening to an audio book because I was just so into it. If I had one gripe it would be that some voices sound quite similar but those that do rarely have scenes together (Hap, Dutiful, Swift). I would definitely look for Langton reading other books.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Golden Fool by Robin Hobb

November 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Golden FoolGolden Fool (The Tawny Man, Book 2)
By Robin Hobb, Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2014[UNABRIDGED] – 25 hours, 56 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin /

Publisher Summary:

Prince Dutiful has been rescued from his Piebald kidnappers and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. There FitzChivalry Farseer, gutted by the loss of his wolf bondmate, must take up residence at Buckkeep as a journeyman assassin.

Posing as a bodyguard, Fitz becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls, guiding a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day. Amid a multitude of problems, Fitz must ensure that no one betrays the Prince’s secret – one that could topple the throne: that he, like Fitz, possesses the dread “beast magic.” Only Fitz’s friendship with the Fool brings him solace. But even that is shattered when devastating revelations from the Fool’s past are exposed. Bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz finds that his biggest challenge may be simply to survive.

Golden Fool picks up directly where Fool’s Errand leaves off. Dutiful needs someone to teach him how to use his magics and Fitz (aka Tom) gets caught up further in the intrigues of the court at Buckkeep. Dutiful’s betrothal ceremony with his future bride from the OutIslands is set to go off and there are also Piebalds somewhere out in the Six Dutchies…what could possibly go wrong? Fitz needs to figure out what is going on by any means possible to prevent problems for the farseer reign.

Golden Fool‘s plot didn’t really feel like a normal plot to me – it feels like a middle book in a trilogy that covers the events after the initial setup but before the epic conclusion of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean the book is any less enjoyable, just that it doesn’t have as many peaks and valleys with tension and the climax of the book. The book ends in such a way that you have to go on to the third book afterwards.

Hobb’s ability to write compelling prose continues on in this novel and her characters are great. FitzChivalry really gets to be at odds with just about everyone in this book and there were times I felt like I was listening to a fantasy version of the Jerry Springer show. It’s kind of amazing how the best of intentions and misunderstandings can extend gulfs between people and Hobb does a great job exploring there.

Hobb also brings up questions of prejudices and how “normal” is defined. The main overarching prejudice is of course the hate people have for the “Old Blood” people who have beast magic but there are also other instances involving intellectual disabilities and sexual identity too. It’s interesting to see how characters from outside those groups relate but especially interesting to see how those within the same group relate to each other and how some prejudices are overcome while other are….well you’ll see.

As for the audio side of things, James Langton continues to do a great job in Golden Fool. His voices are still great except I don’t understand why it sounds like the queen (from the mountain kingdom) has what sounds like a French accent while the people from the out islands also have what sounds like a French accent. The Bingtown traders sound Italian so I’m not sure why the out islanders wouldn’t have some other accent. Some word pronunciations also bother me but overall, Langton’s performance drew me in so well that all of these were minor gripes by comparison.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb

October 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fool's Errand by Robin HobbFool’s Errand (Tawny Man Book 1)
By Robin Hobb; Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 15 July 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 24 hours, 47 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / witch /

Publisher summary:

For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But now, into his isolated life, visitors begin to arrive: Fitz’s mentor from his assassin days; a hedge-witch who foresees the return of a long-lost love; and the Fool, the former White Prophet, who beckons Fitz to fulfill his destiny.

Then comes the summons he cannot ignore. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished. Fitz, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony, thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment – or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him – or how his loyalties will be tested to the breaking point.

Fool’s Errand takes place years after the events of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and does not disappoint. The story is as well written as Hobb’s previous works and is great from beginning to end. The story kind of fills the gap between the trilogies and explains in greater detail the events concluding the Farseer trilogy while also building into this new adventure.

The story is kind of broken into a summation of past events and then embarking on something new. The summation works great as a device to those of us who read the Farseer trilogy to remind us where things left off and gives some greater closure to the events concluding that trilogy. The summation would also work well for those new to the Farseers to introduce the world and explain a bit of the back story that defines FitzChivalry’s motives. That said, if you haven’t read the Farseer trilogy and don’t like spoilers, definitely read that trilogy before Tawny Man.

Robin Hobb’s writing flows so well that even seemingly mundane tasks and everyday things are a joy to experience. She really knows how to make you care about the characters and builds a plot that pushes those characters. There are some truly great and terrible moments in this book that I just can’t say without ruining so much of the story. There were a few times that I didn’t think things made total sense but the story is just so enjoyable it really didn’t matter.

On the audio side of things, James Langton did a great job. It was really hard going from Paul Boehmer’s performance in the Farseer Trilogy to James Langton in this trilogy. I loved Boehmer’s performance and his voice became the characters’ voices to me. Even though it was jarring at first, Langton’s voices and narration became natural to my ear after only a few hours. He does a great job doing voices that fit the different characters and his sulky/sullen cat voice has to be one of the most fitting voices I could imagine. Some of his pronunciations threw me a bit too but overall I enjoyed his performance.

Everything together makes a story that really takes you places. By the end of this story you’ll be back in the intrigue of the court at Buckkeep and want to go on to Golden Fool.

Posted by Tom Schreck