Review of Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3) by Robin Hobb

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Penguin Random House - Assassin's Fate by Robin HobbAssassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Digital Download – 39 hours, 15 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: May 9, 2017

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Executive Summary:
There is not much I can say about this book without getting into spoilers, or making statements that may lead people to guess at their meaning. What I can say is much like Ms. Hobb’s previous works, this book made me feel. A lot.

Audiobook:
Elliot Hill is a pretty good narrator. He can be a bit soft spoken however. And he’s not great at female voices. I rather wish he didn’t try. Still it’s more good than bad, and I do think he adds something to the narration that makes the audio worthwhile. If you liked him in the previous books, you should like him here.

Full Review:
This book was difficult for me to rate. I don’t give out 5 stars easily, and normally when I do it’s a no-brainer. This one not so much. The book has some pacing issues, especially early on. I have no idea of the final page count, but in audio it’s nearly 40 hours long. Ms. Hobb’s books have always been on the slower side, but there were points in this book where it was a bit too much. That’s only a minor gripe though.

FitzChivarly Farseer is one of the most real characters I ever read. When this series was announced I was both excited and nervous to get to spend more time with him. What terrible things would Ms. Hobb do to him this time? She has really put him through the ringer over the years. However my desire to spend time with him again outweighed my fear.

When the series started, I was not happy about the addition of Bee’s chapters. At its conclusion, I’m still a bit torn on them, but I think the story could not have been told otherwise. I think part of me was just irritated to have to spend any time in the book away from Fitz. In addition to Fitz, it was really great to see some old friends again, some of whom I never expected to see.

This book like Fool’s Quest before it, rewards those who have read the entire Elderlings series, not just the Fitz books. If you haven’t read Liveship Traders and Rainwild Chronicles, I highly recommend you do so first. There is so much that’ll you be missing if you don’t.

There isn’t much else I can say without getting into spoilers beyond this: Ms. Hobb has an incredible ability to make feel strong emotions for fictional characters. Joy, anger, love, hate, cheer, sorrow. I feel so much that I’m drained. Few books do that to me, but hers seem to do it all the time, especially the Fitz books. It is for this reason I decided to give this 5 stars instead of 4.

Prepare yourself for an emotional journey. I hope you’ll find it as worth it as I did.

Review by Rob Zak

Review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Fool's Quest by Robin HobbFool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 11 August 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 33 hours, 13 minutes

Themes: / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

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.

Executive Summary: I loved this book. It’s everything I had hoped Fool’s Assassin would have been. There are a things I didn’t like, that will understandably be much more off putting for some than they were for me.

Audio book: Elliot Hill once again does an excellent job. He does a variety of voices and inflections that make doing this book in audio a good option.

Full Review
I absolutely loved Fool’s Fate. I’d have been perfectly content if the series ended there. Last year’s Fool’s Assassin was enjoyable, but not as much as I’d have liked. It left me apprehensive for this book. I shouldn’t have been. That isn’t to say bad things don’t happen to our beloved Fitz. Any fan of the Ederling books won’t be surprised by that. Ms. Hobb sure loves to torment Fitz, though probably not as much as he torments himself.

This book grabbed me from the start, and never let me go. I hated every time I had to stop listening. In fact once my hardcover copy arrived, I augmented my audio time by reading the print as well.

For reasons I can’t fathom, many people seem to skip the excellent Liveship Traders series and more have skipped the quite enjoyable Rainwild Chronicles. While I wouldn’t call it a prerequisites for this book, I would highly recommend reading those books first. There are so many great rewards in the book for people who have. If you haven’t, I doubt you’ll be lost, but you won’t get the same enjoyment in my opinion.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to get into why I loved this book more than the last one without massive spoilers, however I suspect most longtime fans will share my excitement.

That said, despite getting one of my rare 5 star ratings (this is only the second book by Ms. Hobb I’ve given that to), there are some complaints. Or maybe not complaints so much as things I wish weren’t in this book. I found them very upsetting. I’d have preferred some kind of alternative reason used to drive the plot forward. I suspect some people may be more upset than I was, and others may be more indifferent.

Overall though, those were very minor things to me in an absolutely fantastic book. I will warn that if you hate cliffhangers, you may wish to avoid reading this book until we’re much closer to the release of the next book. It is a pretty big one. With it being the second book of a trilogy, and how the first book ended, I can’t say I’m very surprised.

Much like the last one, I am both nervous and excited to read the next one and see what Ms. Hobb has in store.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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
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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
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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

Review of Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

September 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fool's AssassinFool’s Assassin (Fitz and the Fool #1)
By Robin Hobb; Narrated by Elliot Hill
27 hours, 18 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
Themes: / fantasy / assassin / fool /

Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry – royal bastard and former king’s assassin – has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past…and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one.

When I first heard confirmation that the rumors of a new Fitz and Fool series were true, I was full of mixed emotions. I loved Fool’s Fate. I’ve enjoyed all of Ms. Hobb’s books but that is the only one I’ve given 5 stars too. I was just so satisfied with how it ended. There were questions, but all the big things were resolved in the end.

So would this book ruin my favorite book? Well not yet, but it certainly hasn’t alleviated my fears that the events of this trilogy might tarnish things for me.

Like many books by Ms. Hobb, things start out slow. I don’t mean that in a negative way, however. Somehow she is able to write in such a way that I don’t mind the day to day life of her books. Despite my trepidation, it just felt nice to be back with characters I love. If you’re looking for a lot of action or a flashy start, you’ll be disappointed. I imagine that anyone picking up this book is already going to be a Robin Hobb fan and used to her style.

More than anything, Ms. Hobb’s writing is able to evoke strong emotions in me as I read. Love, anger, happiness, frustration. Few other authors can make me despise a new character so quickly or completely. Similarly Fitz continues to frustrate me with the way he does things in a way that is just all too human. Often times the protagonist in a fantasy book faces external adversity and rises to the occasion. Meanwhile Fitz is frequently his own worst enemy. Poor Ms. Hobb loves putting him through the ringer too, and this book is no different.

I had three issues with this book. First, the series is called Fitz & Fool. The book is called Fool’s Assassin. So why did it take so long for us to see the Fool? He’s mentioned often enough, but I want to spend time with him just as I am spending time with Fitz. So far this series seems a lot more like Farseer than Tawny Man in that regard.

The second thing was the addition of a POV besides Fitz. I guess I’m a very jealous reader. I originally hoped it was a one off thing early in the book, but when it turned out to be a regular thing it bothered me. I felt robbed of time I could be spending with Fitz. By the end of the book it grew on me and I came to look forward to those chapters nearly as much as I did the Fitz ones.

The final issue I had was the ending. I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but I hate cliffhanger type endings, and this one seemed pretty bad to me. If you’re the type of person who hates waiting for the next book, you may be better off waiting until the final book is either published or has a release date. It’s going to a be a LONG wait for me until book 2.

Overall I really liked, but didn’t love this book. I’m still pretty nervous about what may happen next. I think that above all shows how great a writer Ms. Hobb is to fill me with both a sense of anticipation and dread for the next book in the series.

As a narrator, I really didn’t like Elliot Hill much at first. He grew on me by the end though. I don’t normally hear characters speaking in my head as I read and haven’t had any issue listening to books I had previously read and finding the voices wrong.

I did here for some reason. Fitz just didn’t sound right to me. Same thing with Molly. Bee seemed fine, but really she sounded almost like Molly. I liked his voice for Chade though.

Mr. Hill does a few voices and accents and does a fine job of it. It just took me a very long time to get used to. By the end though I seemed to get over it. I likely won’t do the audio again unless I get another review copy, but I’d guess many people won’t have the same issues I did with it.

Review by Rob Zak.

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