It’s been a few weeks now* and I’m still trying to wrap my head around how much this book ensorcelled me, and how weird that felt after my (mostly) negative experience with the first Fitz trilogy a handful of years back. I suppose I should have seen this coming, though, with how much I loved The Liveship Traders, but a lot of things I didn’t like about the first Fitz trilogy were actually addressed here, and I’m sure there’s a bit of me in this equation as well. I’m older now, and though my basic tastes haven’t changed, I was a bit more ready for the signature Robin Hobb pacing than maybe I was last time. I also think it helps that I really liked the audio narrator, and that Fitz is an adult now with a history and deeper, more considered emotions than he used to have. Anyway, lots of factors, bottom line: I loved this book.
*(ed. As of this posting, this should now read months, and I have actually just finished this trilogy as of last night, so you can see how far behind I am in my reviews.)
Fuck, I don’t even want to talk about it, I just want to feel all my feelings.
But I have to, because I’m starting book two today and I want to get this review out first.
Fool’s Errand is the first book in the third trilogy set in Hobb’s Realms of the Elderlings universe. You can read the first two trilogies on their own, and theoretically could start with this one, but I really don’t recommend it. A lot of the power of this book (and I’m assuming the rest of the trilogy) comes from the in-built emotions and history you’ve already built up with the world and characters. I’m glad I read them all in order, though, because I would have missed things (for instance, SPOILERS that the Fool is also Amber the wood carver! So now the Fool has no clear gender, and I really like the idea of him being gender fluid, and also now I’m obsessed with shipping him and Fitz because there is SO MUCH yearning in this book, although Fitz remains clueless as usual. Also, the whole Treasure Beach thing would have made absolutely no sense to me at all without having read the Liveship books END SPOILERS.
It’s been fifteen years since the end of Assassin’s Quest, and Fitz has retreated to a cabin in the woods and a small private life, after a brief period of wandering the countryside and learning about his forbidden power from other Witted people. He’s also adopted a foundling named Hap (full name Mishap) and raised him as his own. Nighteyes the wolf is still his faithful companion, but the wolf is elderly now, and both he and Fitz are struggling with his decline, and Fitz in particular is having trouble with the idea of his other half losing his vitality. He’s pulled out of his seclusion by a succession of three visitors, all of whom make it clear it’s time for him to re-enter the world. The kicker comes when Prince Dutiful, who is of course SPOILERS Fitz’s biological son, though he was conceived by Fitz’s uncle Verity inhabiting Fitz’s body at the time, long story END SPOILERS goes missing, and it becomes Fitz’s responsibility to help find him.
I think that one major reason I responded so well to this trilogy is the amplified presence of the Fool. He was a much more minor presence in the first trilogy, but here he takes on much more nuance and has much more “screen time” than he did before (I’m sure a lot of that nuance is Fitz now seeing him with the eyes of a thirty-five year old man instead of a teenager). I also loved that this book had at its center the question of the Wit, which is something I hated about the first trilogy. It never made sense to me why the stupid people in Fitz’s country hated Witted people so much, and I didn’t think it was well-explored, and so it made me angry (in a bad way) that Fitz was so persecuted because of it. Here, we learn so much about the Wit, how it works, how people have lived with it traditionally, and why the culture of the Six Duchies has learned to fear and hate Witted people. This brings Fitz’s bond with Nighteyes to the forefront, and brings in questions of identity, but also of family, because it appears that Prince Dutiful may be Witted as well, and it may have something to do with where and why he’s gone.
If you want a book to make you feel many feelings very deeply, this is the series for you. There were two scenes at the end that nearly broke me. My heart hurts thinking about them right now. I look forward to being ruined again by the second two books. Speaking of which, off to start book two as we speak.