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The Golden Fool (The Tawny Man Trilogy, Book 2) Paperback – 31 Jul 2014
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‘Hobb is superb’ Conn Iggulden
'Hobb is a remarkable storyteller.'
'Robin Hobb writes achingly well'
About the Author
Robin Hobb is one of the world’s finest writers of epic fiction.She was born in California in 1952 but raised in Alaska, where she learned how to raise a wolf cub, to skin a moose and to survive in the wilderness. When she married a fisherman who fished herring and the Kodiak salmon-run for half the year, these skills would stand her in good stead. She raised her family, ran a smallholding, delivered post to her remote community, all at the same time as writing stories and novels. She succeeded on all fronts, raising four children and becoming an internationally best-selling writer. She lives in Tacoma, Washington State.
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Fool's Errand is the fourth novel featuring the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, picking up after the events of the original Farseer Trilogy. It's also the seventh novel overall in the Realm of the Elderlings setting, which now extends across sixteen books. It's a bit of a fresh start in the series, as although it follows up on events in the Farseer books (and a brief mention is made of the Liveship Traders trilogy), it also introduces new characters and new storylines.
Fool's Errand is a slow book, at least to start with. The first 200 pages - more than a third of the novel - are taken up by Fitz's home life and routine, with lengthy ruminations on chicken-farming. Fitz's main concern isn't war, death or assassinations, but instead raising enough coin to find his adopted son a good apprenticeship. Some may find this sequence interminable, but Hobb uses this sequence to establish Fitz's good, comfortable and quiet life away from the mayhem of the court, and what it means when it is taken away when a new crisis erupts.
The rest of the novel is more familiar: a prince has gone missing, the Witted people of the Six Duchies are rebelling against the persecution and murder of their kind by forming an armed resistance and a new peace treaty between the Duchies and the Outislands is in jeopardy. Keen for people to not realise he's survived, Fitz adopts a new identity (the uncouth Tom Badgerlock) and undertakes clandestine mission for the crown. This results in some splendid, classic epic fantasy elements such as an awkward cliffside sword fight against superior enemy numbers, the experimental use of magic and the gradual teasing and unravelling of a labyrinthine conspiracy.
This doesn't mean that Hobb's straying too far from her established tropes. When in doubt about what to do next, she just makes Fitz's life more miserable and horrible than ever before, killing off loved ones and finding ways to put him in as awkward and painful a situation as possible. It's all vaguely depressing, which is an odd juxtaposition given that the second half of the novel is as lively and swashbuckling as Hobb has ever gotten.
Still, if you're in the mood for a beautifully-written, somewhat melancholy fantasy where the focus is firmly on the characters rather than magic or battles, Fool's Errand (****) is a very fine novel. It's also surprisingly stand-alone: you'd definitely miss a fair amount if you hadn't read the Farseer trilogy, but the plot is focused on a new story and situation. Also, whilst the story clearly is set to continue after the final page, there's no major cliffhanger ending. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
Fool's Errand is an incredibly well-written book that demonstrates just how much of a genius Hobb is. Little bits mentioned in the first two trilogies are used prominently throughout the Tawny Man trilogy and really make you see just how clever she has been in setting this world up. Fool's Errand follows Fitz once more, 15 years on from his previous adventures during The Red Ship Wars. Now living as a recluse in the countryside with his wolf and foster-son, Fitz is soon, unwillingly, forced back into service for the crown.
Characters of old return and new ones enter the story, setting themselves up to be some of the most memorable characters of the series. One aspect this book has that the ones before it didn't is the ability to hit you hard with emotion. Can be a tear-jerker at times just as much as it can make you smile.
To anyone who has read the previous Hobb trilogies I am shocked you read this review. You should know enough to just click buy and enjoy your purchase. To those who haven't, you really do need to read the books that came before it (even the Liveship traders) as Hobb crosses the series over during the Tawny Man trilogy.
Another great start to this trilogy, developing characters and storylines from earlier books, and Hobb draws you right back in to her fantasy/historical world within the first few pages.
It's a long time since I have enjoyed a series so much