Fantasy, Fiction, Speculative Fiction

Fool’s Quest (The Fitz and the Fool #2)

Cover image for Fool's Quest by Robin Hobbby Robin Hobb

ISBN 978-0-533-39292-0

“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.


Cover image for Blood of Dragons Also from the Realms of the Elderlings: Blood of Dragons (The Rain Wilds Chronicles #4) by Robin Hobb

Fantasy, Fiction

Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool #1)

Cover image for Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobbby Robin Hobb

ISBN 978-0-553-39242-5

“Someone had picked up the memory-stone carving the Fool had made for me decades before and put it back on the mantel with the facet that showed my face looking out into the room. When I picked it up to correct it, my lip lifted in a snarl. On the Fool’s image, a clumsy thumb had left blood smeared down his cheek. The surge of fury I felt was not rational.”

Fool’s Assassin is the first book in a new trilogy in Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Elderlings series, which includes the Farseer Trilogy, the Liveship Traders, the Tawny Man Trilogy, and the Rain Wild Chronicles. The bastard assassin FitzChivalry Farseer is dead to the world, and now lives as Tom Badgerlock. He has married his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and retired to the country estate of Withywoods to live out the rest of his life in peace, far from the intrigues of the Farseer court. But fate has other plans for Fitz, and the disruption of his peaceful retirement begins with the arrival and disappearance of a messenger, who is murdered before Fitz can hear what she has to say. It will be years before Fitz learns who sent the messenger and why, but her death begins the chain of events that will turn Fitz’s world upside down once more.

Fool’s Assassin is a long, slow build-up for Hobb’s new trilogy, laying out all the necessary pieces over a timescale of years, at a length of nearly seven hundred pages. We are immersed into Fitz’s new life with Molly at Withywoods, where he does his best to keep the intrigues of the Farseer court at bay, though Chade and Nettle are continually trying to pull him back in. Hobb also introduces an important new character who seems poised to be a driving force behind the new series, as well as a sometime narrator. We also find some new faces in the supporting cast, including another Farseer bastard of unknown parentage. Despite the slow start, Fool’s Assassin certainly ends with a bang that will ensure a more action-packed sequel. It is good to be back in the Six Duchies, and I look forward to a more adventurous second installment.

Speaking at University Bookstore Seattle on August 4, 2014, Hobb seemed to be expecting a bit of backlash on this book. She spoke about writing the story as she originally imagined in, rather than giving in to external pressures and writing the book fans might be expecting. Having read the book, I think that aside from the slow plot for this initial installment, backlash is most likely to come from the way this new story arc is going to change what we thought we knew about Fitz and the Fool’s history. However, I think it may also starting us on the path to explaining the extinction of the Elderlings, and the near-extinction of dragons, a mystery that has not been solved since it was first raised in Assassin’s Apprentice nearly twenty years ago.

Fantasy, Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Speculative Fiction

Blood of Dragons (Book 4 of the Rain Wilds Chronicles)

Cover image for Blood of Dragonsby Robin Hobb

ISBN 978-0-06-211687-1

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2013. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

Warning: As this is book four in a series, the review necessarily contains spoilers for previous books.

Soon or later, there is always war with Chalced.

Although they have finally reached the lost city of Kelsingra, the dragons on their keepers still face further challenges, perhaps even greater than their struggle up the Rain Wild River. Many of the dragons still cannot fly, a skill that will be necessary for all of them to reach Kelsingra proper, where the Silver wells await. The relationships between the keepers and their dragons, and their relationships with one another grow and change day by day as they face the realization that they will be establishing a new society on the foundations of an ancient one. The changes mean adjustments for them all, as the keeper struggle to bear the burden of their Elderling inheritance, and the dragons try to live up to their regal ancestors. Despite the difficulties they face simply among themselves, they must also face threats from without as the Duke of Chalced’s quest for dragon-flesh grows more feverish as death approaches. Even the fully fledged dragons, Tintaglia and Icefyre, are not safe from his ravenous appetite, and nor are the Elderling “dragon-men” abroad in the world, such as Selden Vestrit. In order to face the threat posed by the Duke of Chalced and successfully re-establish the dragon lineage, they must gain access to the knowledge held within the memory stones of Kelsingra, and find the wells Silver that will allow the dragons and their Elderlings to reach their full potential before they lose any more of their number.

In book four of the series, Hobb must bring together multiple storylines of characters who have been scattered across her world. Despite having ample space to do so, the pacing lags a bit, and some threads were crammed in at the end. As always, Hobb also follows a secondary but related story line in the letters that head each chapter, as the bird keeper’s guild struggles to maintain service in the midst of spying and treachery. In addition to providing an interesting subplot, these letters also supply information that ties together the happenings in the wide-flung and disparate settings ranging from Kelsingra to Bingtown to Chalced. Blood of Dragons is heavily character-driven, with much of the book concerned with the complex interpersonal relationships between dragons and Elderlings, Elderlings and humans, and within the groups that will make up the new society that is just beginning to establish itself in its own right. Certain characters receive more attention in this instalment than others;  Alise and Sedric have largely resolved their romantic situations, but as their stories move aside, the triangle playing out between Tats, Thymara and Rapskal gets more page-time. As a result of the focus on characters, the conflict with the Duke of Chalced, which could have been central to the plot, is delayed until the very end, and dispatched hastily, almost as an addendum. While character-driven novels are not a bad thing, the epic nature of the quest at the centre of this story calls for a greater balance between character and action. But although the story concludes somewhat hurriedly, there is a greater sense that Hobb’s richly imagined world goes on beyond the pages, and the tale makes a significant contribution to the mythology of the Realm of the Elderlings.


Already read and enjoyed Blood of Dragons? I recommend The Silvered by Tanya Huff.

Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Mystery, Mythology, Romance, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Spring/Summer Fiction Preview

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. In addition to attending workshops and hanging out with other folks in the library profession, I was able to attend a Book Buzz event, and visit publishers at their booths on the exhibit floor to find out about the new fiction titles coming this spring and summer. I didn’t get much reading done this past week, so in lieu of sharing a review, here’s a peek at some of the forthcoming titles I am excited about for the first half of 2013.

Blood of Dragons (978-0-06-211685-7)
Cover image for Blood of Dragons Well known for writing fantasy trilogies in interlocking worlds, Robin Hobb is adding a fourth and final volume to The Rain Wilds Chronicles after a cliff hanger ending in volume three. The dragons and their keepers have reached Kelsingra, and the rebirth of the Elderlings is imminent. But although Kelsingra is no longer lost, the legendary silver wells on which the dragons depend are nowhere to be found. The keepers must steep themselves in the magical memories of the city to try to find out what has become of the wells before the dragons die. This series Harper Voyager continues April 9, 2013. (Update: read my review.)

Categories: Fantasy

Golden Boy (978-1-4767-0580-4)

Cover image for Golden BoyThe Walkers seem to be the perfect family. Karen Walker is a high power criminal attorney, and her husband Steve is about to stand for the British Parliament. Their son Max is the popular golden boy of his school. But for Karen, it all feels like a charade, and one that could fall apart at any moment. Steve’s candidacy for public office means that their lives are about to be laid bare to intensive media scrutiny. Between the publicity and the return of one of Max’s childhood friends, the Walkers are afraid that the secret of Max’s intersex condition will be exposed. Abigail Tarttelin’s novel is due out from Atria Books (Simon and Schuster) on May 21, 2013.

Categories: LGBT, Contemporary

The Golem and the Jinni (978-0-06211-083-1)

Cover image for The Golem and the JinniIn Helene Wecker’s debut novel, an unusual pair of magical immigrants arrive in New York City in 1899, creating an improbable connection between Jewish and Arabic mythology.  Ahmad is a fire jinni, accidently release from his lamp into the streets of the city. Chava is a Golem whose master, a Kabbalist magician, dies on the voyage from Poland to America, leaving her to make her way alone in a new country. United by their common immigrant experience, but then driven apart by their disparate heritage, only a “powerful threat” can bring them together again. HarperCollins is recommending this title for fans of The Night Circus, A Discovery of Witches, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Look for this HarperCollins book on April 23, 2013.

Categories: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

If You Could Be Mine (978-1-61620-251-4)

Cover Image for If You Could Be MineSara Farizan’s debut novel is a young adult title about forbidden love in Iran. Sahar and Nasrin are best friends, but they are also in love, and in Iran homosexuality is a crime. Nasrin must marry the prosperous doctor her parents have selected for her. The girls keep their love a secret, passing only as friends in public. When Sahar learns that while homosexuality is a crime, being transgender is not, she must consider whether it would be worth transitioning in order to be able to love and even marry Nasrin openly. The only problem is that Sahar doesn’t identify as a man. This title is due out from Algonquin on August 20, 2013.

Categories: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance

The Rithmatist (978-0-7653-2032-2)

Cover image for The RithmatistTor is hyping this title as Brandon Sanderson’s YA debut, since his previous books are classified as either middle grade or adult. Rithmatists are powerful magicians who use their skills to bring creatures known as Chalklings to life from two-dimensional chalk models. These Rithmatist-controlled creatures are all that protect the American Isles from being overrun by Wild Chalklings. The son of a chalkmaker at the Rithmatists’ academy, Joel dreams of being a Rithmatist himself. It seems more likely that he will follow in his father’s footsteps, until students at the school begin disappearing, and Joel must help solve the mystery. Following shortly on the heels of the conclusion of the Wheel of Time series, The Rithmatist is due out on May 14, 2013.

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

I received ARCs of a number of these titles, so look for reviews closer to the release dates.