“I still felt somewhat constrained by the company. They were my closest friends and my family, and it took me a few silent moments to identify my problem. I had been a different person to every single one of them. What role was I expected to play this night? And if I decided to simply be myself, which self was that? The killer Chade had trained, Dutiful’s protector and mentor, Riddle’s brother-in-arms, Nettle’s negligent father? All me and all not me.”
Fool’s Quest, the second volume in Robin Hobb’s third Farseer trilogy, picks up before the end of Fool’s Assassin, with Fitz at Buckkeep with the critically injured Fool. Fitz is at his friend’s bedside as he fights for his life, all the while unaware of the events that took place back at Withywoods in the final pages of Fool’s Assassin. Fitz’s point of view trades off with that of his daughter Bee who, unbeknownst to her father, has been stolen away from Withywoods by a band of strange, pale folk and a group of Chalcedean mercenaries. Duty to the Farseer crown, loyalty to the Fool, and fear for his daughter go to war within Fitz as he discovers what has happened, and must figure out how to set it right.
Hobb’s careful set up in the first volume of her newest trilogy is paying off in action and intrigue in Fool’s Quest. Initially unaware of what has gone on at Withywoods, Fitz is swept back into the politics of King Dutiful’s court, even as he tries to avoid entanglement. Hobb, for her part, does not waste this situation, and Fitz’s sojourn at Buckkeep contains scenes and events that fans probably never thought to see take place. As always, Hobb takes time out for character development and political machinations, interspersed with the action, but in Fool’s Quest we are really able to get to the meat of the story Hobb was carefully laying out the pieces for in Fool’s Assassin.
Many of our old and beloved characters have been greatly changed by the passage of years, and shifts in circumstance. Chade has certainly enjoyed, and been shaped by, his ability to come out of the shadows and live openly at court as an advisor to the crown. But the most changed of all is the Fool, who has been broken almost beyond recognition by his torture at the hands of the Servants. To her credit, Hobb does not apply a quick fix or a band aid to this trauma, but allows it to play out naturally and realistically, shaping Fitz and the Fool’s new relationship. As for Fitz, in Fool’s Assassin, we met with a character who had grown old and somewhat complacent, quite unlike Fitz the young assassin of the first trilogy, or Tom Badgerlock the guardsman of the second. In Fool’s Quest, he is desperately trying to regain his edge in order to save his daughter and avenge the Fool. Still, he is torn between heeding the hard-won wisdom of his years, and giving in to his rasher impulses. And in true Fitz form, he agonizes over each decision intensely, and judges himself harshly.
Fool’s Quest ends with a tantalizing cliff-hanger that brings together many different aspects of the Realms of the Elderlings. Speaking at University Book Store Seattle on August 11, 2015 Hobb confirmed that her editors chopped more than 30 000 words off the end of her original manuscript. Fool’s Quest already weighs in at a hefty 750 pages, so the excised text will become part of the beginning of the third volume in the trilogy, the title of which will be Assassin’s Fate. The tentative publication date for the final volume has been pushed back to Spring 2017, so fans will have a while to wait to discover Bee’s fate.
Also from the Realms of the Elderlings: Blood of Dragons (The Rain Wilds Chronicles #4) by Robin Hobb