Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb, was described by George R. R. Martin as “fantasy as it ought to be written.” Until I read the novel, I didn’t really know quite what Martin meant, but having devoured this next episode in The Fitz and The Fool fables, I understand. This is a simply sublime book that takes the reader on an incredible emotional and psychological journey into family, love, paternity, childhood, and the difficulties of raising a child who’s deemed “different” and the immense suffering that comes with great love and loss.
This novel reintroduces Fitz, the unwilling assassin, gifted with both The Wit and The Skill, the man who’s described as The Fool’s Catalyst and a power to be reckoned with in his own right. It also plunges readers back into the hauntingly beautiful and wonderfully imagined wider world Hobb has crafted over so many books and of which Fitz is an integral part. Now a middle-aged landholder, who goes by the name of Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is living a contented existence. Hiding in the counties, happy to live out his final years with his beloved wife Molly, he resists and resents the occasional call of the Farseer rulers and his former mentor, Chade.
One cold, Winterfest night, a pale messenger seeks out Fitz. With the house of full of guests and strangers and as host, Fitz is much distracted. Too busy to see her, he sends a request she waits till morning. When she vanishes in a trail of blood before she can deliver her message, it’s a decision he lives to regret. Trying to put his perturbation behind him, Fitz cannot dismiss the messenger’s presence let alone disappearance entirely. What happened to her and what did she want? More importantly, who sent her?
Years pass and it’s not till a miracle happens in Fitz’s and Molly’s life and a series of events follow that do not augur well, that the night of the messenger comes back to haunt Fitz.
On the footsteps of great joy, tragedy must follow but it’s not until someone from Fitz’s past reappears in dire need that the king’s former assassin knows his life and that of all those he loves will never be the same again.
I really cannot say too much more without risking spoiling what is an incredible, heart-wrenching, moving, joyous, tragic and simply astonishingly beautiful tale. There is a raw honesty and truth in every page, every word that lingers long after you close the novel for the night. I found the story and those populating it were at the back of my mind most days. When I finished the book, I wanted to discuss it with my friends, not only to shed light on the characters and their choices, but so I didn’t have to leave Fitz’s world.
Each and every character in this tale is so real and raw – whether it’s a servant in the house, a distant relative, an unwelcome guest or a member of the immediate family. You live and breath each moment with them as their thoughts and thus hearts, souls and minds are laid bare. I think this is what made the book so utterly special and unputdownable. I made excuses not to work but to return to the novel over and over and felt so lost when I finished it.
The hardest thing of all is knowing how long I have to wait to read the next instalment in the series…
This isn’t just fantasy at its best – this is writing at its very finest. A story to be treasured and savoured.