Thursday, 25 September 2003

Robin Hobb: Fool's Errand (2001)

Edition: Voyager, 2002
Review number: 1185

The start of the third of Robin Hobb's fantasy trilogies returns to the background and characters of her first (the second, the Live Ship Traders series, is set in a distant part of the same world). Following the cataclysmic conclusion to the Red Ships War in the Farseer series, the royal assassin Fitz has hidden himself away in obscurity for over a decade. Rather than being recognised as the reluctant saviour of the Six Duchies that he actually was, he is regarded with hatred as a practitioner of the forbidden magic known as the Wit. This ability to bond with an animal in a close, telepathic, relationship, is viewed with suspicion and is the occasion for malicious tales and lynchings - like a medieval accusation of witchcraft. Fitz settles into an eremetic existence in a cottage in the middle of a forest, accompanied by his wolf Wit partner Nighteyes and bringing up a foundling boy.

Most people think Fitz dead, but there are some who know the truth. In the chaos following the war, with the Queen acting as regent for her son, the last heir of the Farseer line, and trying to bring order back to the Six Duchies and restore what the war had destroyed, it seems to her and her advisers that Fitz's unique talents are needed once again. And so Fitz is dragged, reluctantly, into a new adventure.

Fans of Hobbs' other novels will not need a recommendation. The third trilogy is perhaps not the best place to start if not, though Fool's Errand is one of Hobbs more cheerful novels. (Like Holly Lisle, Hobb tends to put her characters through absolute misery, which is not to everybody's taste and which certainly becomes wearing if you read too much in a short period of time.) As usual with Hobb, I got to the end of the novel with the feeling that after a few months wait I would be keen to move on to the next in the trilogy.

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