Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb: Book Review

Fool's QuestFool’s Quest is the second book in Robin Hobb’s latest epic fantasy trilogy, Fitz and the Fool. It is the eighth book told from the perspective of protagonist FitzChivalry Farseer, and the fifteenth book in the Realm of the Elderlings series as a whole (excluding the novellas and short stories). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of Robin Hobb, I highly recommend that before you read another word of this review, you go away and read all preceding books in the Realm of the Elderlings series, including The Liveship Traders and The Rain Wild Chronicles (though please do not be put off by The Rain Wild Chronicles‘ far inferior quality). Each book is of a rather mighty and intimidating size, but I can assure you that you will become so engrossed in Hobb’s exquisite characters and beautifully engaging writing that you will soon be finished in no time! You can thank me later.

Fitz has been reunited with the Fool at last, albeit under devastatingly violent and harrowing circumstances. Whilst a blissfully oblivious Fitz attempts to heal his friend within the confines of Buckkeep Castle and dissuade him from his quest for vengeance, his daughter Bee has been abducted by the mysterious Servants and their hired Chalcedean mercenaries, who believe her to be the long-awaited ‘Unexpected Son’ of the Fool’s prophecies. With Withywoods in disarray and a drastic political upheaval at Buckkeep Castle that will likely have every long-term Robin Hobb reader punching the air for joy, Fitz has much to contend with if he wishes to get Bee back. It may also mean that he will be forced to take up the Fool’s quest for vengeance after all…

The title is somewhat misleading, as said quest does not actually begin until the Third Act of the narrative. Similarly, the plot (like many of Robin Hobb’s previous works) is a slow-burner, the focus firmly upon the characters’ fears, loves and motivations. Despite huge chunks of seemingly nothing happening (Fitz continues to agonise endlessly over his decisions), these passages are rarely ever boring to read, and do not feel unnecessary. This is testimony to Hobb’s excellent grasp of wordsmithery. Her writing is as sprawlingly beautiful as ever, with the power to illicit incredible amounts of feeling and emotion in her readers with the simplest but most devastating of sentences. As a veteran reader, it is simply breathtaking when you take a step back and realise exactly how much has changed and developed since Assassin’s Apprentice, when Fitz was still Nameless the Dog Boy, the Skill badly practised, the Wit utterly forbidden and dragons nowhere to be found.

Despite this, things do sag in the middle when the reader is forced with Fitz to wait an age before any action can be taken to rescue Bee. Whilst this frustration is echoed within Fitz himself and encourages the reader to empathise with his position, it makes for some pretty exhausting reading. Real effort must be made to continue wading through the sheer hopelessness of the situation, particularly when combined with the dramatic irony that the reader knows precisely the danger that Bee is in. Whilst some might argue that this as a writing strength, personally it just got on my nerves, especially with so little pay-off in terms of story/quest progression. Those of you who have read my 1/5 star review of Blood Of Dragons on Goodreads (click here) will perhaps have some idea of my disappointment when things come to a head in the city of Kelsingra of all places.

On the subject of Bee (whose point-of-view chapters were such a pleasant surprise in Fool’s Assassin) her appearances are far fewer here. She has perhaps maybe five point-of-view chapters in total, and all of them are much, much shorter than a standard Fitz chapter. Given how much I loved Bee’s narrative voice in Fool’s Assassin, this did not bother me anywhere near as much as I thought it would; it was lovely to spend so much time in Fitz’s head again. Unbelievably stupid and hellishly frustrating he may be, one cannot help but love him as a character; we as readers have been through so much with him already.

All in all, this is a typical middle-of-the-trilogy Robin Hobb book, which is to say that it is not her best, but still excellent. The groundwork has been laid, the catalyst has been set in motion, the emotional fallout from the first book’s events have been dealt with, and there is a promise of great and exciting things to come in the conclusion – Assassin’s Fate – due out later this year. I simply cannot wait!

Verdict: 3/5

S.E. Berrow


 

Disclaimer: For some reason, I found this review really, really difficult to write, so apologies that it is so long-coming and not up to my usual standard.

For more information on Robin Hobb and the Realm of the Elderlings, please visit her official website:

http://www.robinhobb.com/

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