Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Picking up right where the last book left off, but still agonizingly slow to action for very good reasons, I'm sucked right into the Buckeep palace and torn between Chade, Fitz's old assassin teacher and the Fool, his long lost and scarily far-gone friend. One wants Fitz to take up his job because he's old and failing and the kingdom needs a spy-master and the Fool tugs on every emotional string Fitz has due to his many years of torture and craving revenge... and the fact that Fitz's daughter has been taken by the same people.
The first portions of the book were agonizing because Fitz just didn't know that his daughter had been taken and his keep raided, his people brutalized, raped, or killed. We get that knowledge as readers, and I, for one, was torn to pieces by the knowledge.
The slow build-up of characterization and the building upon all that history from the previous books makes me wish that Fitz would do as EVERYONE wishes him to do, but of course, it's not possible.
Still torn by the Fool, he learns of all the horrors back at his old home and goes off to save his daughter. This part of the adventure is by now one of the most emotionally pain-wrecked pieces of the novels and it gets even worse when we discover how and why he's unable to find her. In fact, he's given up because of the unique way he knows he's lost her.
All that's left is either going on a suicide run with the blinded and broken Fool against a whole powerful kingdom by himself, or settling in with his old friends who love him like the hero that he is, trying to enfold him back into their graces despite his deep reluctance.
The conflict here is so hard, so good.
And when he finally decides to sacrifice his life on a Fool's quest, he even leaves the Fool behind, fully intending to go at it alone.
But Fitz has more friends than he knows, and things are NEVER easy or go as expected.
This has got to be one of the best of all the stories of Fitz. I'm so damn invested. Like, completely. It's truly amazing. What might objectively seem like a slow tale is actually very deep and very rich, full of the whole wide spectrum of posibilities and relationships. And when I say that his relationships are vast, it's also true. This author has the ability to slam home the force of the previous events in fresh ways, making us feel and remember all the special things that made the earlier books so great.
It's one hell of an emotional ride, and far from having the middle-book blues, it is even more engaging than the previous. If I had any complaints, it's only that I didn't get as much Bee time as I wanted.
Fortunately, Hobb is tying all the related novels of this fully-realized world and is bringing all of the Fool's other guizes in different lands together in a truly spectacular way.
I'm plowing through to the last of this trilogy now. These books are absolutely amazing.
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