Hoo boy. Yet another entry in this series has gotten me so involved that I can’t stop thinking about it, and also am upset deep down in my core at some of the heart-wrenching things that went on here. I truly feel these gifs are the only thing that convey my feelings:
Thankfully, there were some heartwarming things accompanying the agony otherwise I would not have survived.
I was a bit nervous of this one, because we were headed back to Buckkeep and to court, and part of me was wary of that because of the leftover trauma I apparently still hold, from books one and two especially, from the Farseer Trilogy. And it did feel slightly aimless yet still stressful at first, but once I got far enough into it, I just sort of gelled with what Robin Hobb was going for. A lot of this book is about Fitz confronting his past and reevaluating his relationships and desires with his new duties. There’s also a lot in here about fathers and parenting, and what kids need from those who are caring from them, and how it affects them (coughFitzcough) as adults.
Another pretty big part of the book is that bigotry is confronted/revealed in both overt and subtle ways. The plot about the Witted being persecuted, and Queen Kettricken working to protect them and bring them out into the open continues here. Our protagonist, Fitz, is of course one those persecuted, and he remains a lightning rod figure, even as most people think him dead. This parallels in heartbreaking ways with other minor incidents, such as the terrible treatment the “halfwit” boy Thick receives (I believe he has Down’s Syndrome?), and the homophobia Fitz both experiences when rumors flourish that he is sleeping with his master, Lord Golden, and which he hypocritically perpetuates himself SPOILERS when he forces the Fool to confess his love for Fitz, and the Fool admits that his love has “no boundaries” as Fitz believes his does (newsflash to Fitz: the way you feel about him is not platonic!). Fitz is then disgusted and they have a major falling out, as the Fool is understandably wounded by Fitz’s behavior. Of course, there are also other complications in their falling out, but that was a huge part of it END SPOILERS.
It’s clear that we are meant to think those exhibiting homophobia are in the wrong, here. This was hard to read about for me, as I’ve been reading so many queer positive books in the last couple of years, but for its time (in the early 2000s) it was probably pretty revolutionary of a thing to have in a mainstream epic fantasy book. I understand why Hobb did it this way, but it’s still disheartening that queer people seem to have even further to go towards being treated like full human beings than people with the Wit have (though it’s obvious that Hobb is using the persecution of Witted people to also stand in metaphorically for those bigoted against, and you could very easily read into them as representing a sort of queer personhood if you wanted to). It’s also clear to me that SPOILERS the Fool aka Beloved is the love that goes in and out of Fitz’s life, as prophesied by Jinna, not Molly as Fitz probably believes END SPOILERS.
Another thing I think this book does well is really start bringing in the overarching mythology that begins to tie all the trilogies in this world together. We get appearances from the Liveship Traders characters, and their political situation is also important to that of the Six Duchies, and the future of magic (and dragons!) in this world, which in turn is tied intimately in to the fate of Fitz and the Fool, aka the White Prophet and his Catalyst.
I am very obsessed with all of this right now, and sort of regret scheduling the last book in the trilogy for October instead of September, but maybe it’s good that I take a break and let my brain rest. I’m sure as agonizing as the build-up is, the resolution will be more so.