Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb reviewed

Fool's Assassin Book Cover Fool's Assassin
The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy
Robin Hobb
Penguin Random House
August 12, 2014

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown. But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more. On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing. Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger? Suddenly Fitz's violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

I’ve been a fan of Robin Hobb in general and Fitz and his life in particular since my daughter introduced me to the original Farseer series back in the mid 90s. A combination of good fantasy and excellent characters and action had me hooked straight away. I’d put off even looking at the review for this latest series about Fitz on the basis that follow-ups are rarely as strong as the original outings. I eventually started Fool’s Assassin with some trepidation however I needn’t have worried! This first book picks up on Fitz’s life many years after the events from the original series. He is for now Tom Badgerlock – a Holder of the house and land rather than FitzChivalry Farseer, the illegitimate member of royalty that he actually is. He is living quietly on the estate with his wife Molly and Lady Patience the owner of the estate.

So far so good and the opening of the book at Withywoods, the estate he is on, is largely calm and fairly idyllic. The characters there and around him, as well as the landscape, are well drawn out. Odd things do happen and the pace and tension gradually increase with the “odd things” becoming stranger maybe and more pressing. This is quite a slow burn story for the first half or a little more.

I really do prefer not to spoil stories for those who have not read them so I will simply say that a new character, Bee, arrives on the scene.  I very quickly came to love Bee as a character however her arrival in the book took me from disbelief to disbelief via incredulity.  The pace of the book steadily increases and the tension mounts.  You just know something is going to happen and the last 25% of the book I found almost impossible to put down.  It has that characteristic of a really good book when you don’t want it to end but you can’t stop reading.

For me this was an excellent follow up to the previous series which have involved Fitz Farseer.  I bought book two as soon as I finished this book.  I’m just not sure how long I can possibly put of reading it for.  Then again book three is not out until May 2017 so maybe I should pace myself!  If you like Robin Hobb’s work you really should read this.  If you like high quality fantasy books and haven’t tried Hobb’s work then do try the original Farseer Trilogy.