Fool's Fate: book three of The Tawny Man
(Voyager, £12.99, 805 pages, trade paperback; 2004.)
The final book of the Tawny Man trilogy, and the last
in the nine-book sequence of the Farseers, is a long awaited and richly
rewarding climax to one of the landmark fantasies of the last decade.
As the book opens, FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the ruling
family of the Six Duchies, braces himself to accompany Prince Dutiful
to the Outislands, to help him win the hand of the Princess Elliana
by slaying the Dragon Icefyre. Things, of course, are not quite as simple
as that. There are secrets buried behind Elliana's demand for Icefyre's
head, and unexpected oppositions among the Outisland clans. Then again,
Fitz also has to keep control of the rest of his life and try to keep
a lid on the tangled mess of secrets that compose his past.
His relationships with his daughter Nettle, and her half-brother Swift,
son of Fitz's old mentor Burrich, each of whom has their own special
magic to contend with, are difficult enough. But then he has to manage
the temperamental complaints of the magical half-wit, Thick, the machinations
of the old assassin, Chade, the ongoing rumbles of dissent swirling
around Queen Kettricken's acceptance of the previously despised Old
Blood magicians, and last but not least, try to keep his childhood friend,
The Fool, from accompanying the Prince's party.
In a book that echoes with past events and old relationships, it is
the deep, intricate, painful dance between Fitz and the Fool that constitutes
its heart. There's room for more than one passion in this story, but
this is the central one. The Fool, who has been the hidden spur to so
much of the action, is approaching his moment of finality. Prophetic
and driven, he has long foreseen his own death, and now goes to meet
it, despite everything Fitz can do to hold him back.
This is a book that has everything you want in a Fantasy novel. It
has the spectacle and grandeur of challenging travel and wild landscapes.
It has the intrigue of novel cultures and hidden conspiracies. It has
deep mysteries and long-concealed motives. It has sharp, rousing fights,
and old, malicious evils. It also has painful departures, heroism and
final, deeply deserved rewards and restitutions. It is beautifully written,
and perfectly paced. At the end all the old secrets have been revealed,
but not forced, and the wait has been well worth it.
There are very few other writers in the genre who can match Hobb for
such fine-tuned, meticulously plotted, satisfying, epic fantasy. Kate
Elliot is perhaps her only peer. (Robert Jordan is an also-ran by comparison;
Feist? Don't talk to me about Feist!) Over a nine-volume sequence, naturally
enough, there have been slower books, and uneven patches, but the whole
adds up to a striking piece of work, and this final instalment is riveting.
In sum? First rate work, from one of the best writers of our genre
and our day.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: