The Golden Fool: Book 2 of The
(Voyager, £17.99, 599 pages, hardback, published 7 October 2002,
received 4 September 2002. HarperCollins, £11.99, 632 pages, trade
paperback, published 3 March 2003.)
The second book of The Tawny Man (and the eighth in Hobb's ongoing
Farseer sequence), finds its protagonist, FitzChivalry
Farseer, caught in a mesh of conflicting needs and challenges.
Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, servant/bodyguard to the flighty noble,
Lord Golden, Fitz must find time, energy and wit to mentor young Prince
Dutiful in the perilous magic of the Skill, help Councillor Chade thwart
the sinister machinations of the lurking Piebalds, scout out and teach
other Skill users to aid Prince Dutiful as a Coterie, keep some sort
of rein on his wayward foster-son, Hap, and juggle his own relationships
with the Hedge Witch, Jinna, and minstrel, Starling.
He is not helped in any of these tasks by the persistent, dreamworld
nagging of his distant, highly Skill-talented daughter, Nettle, by the
deviously complicated business of the Prince's betrothal to the Outislander
princess, Elliania, nor by the recent, crippling loss of his Wit-companion,
the Wolf Nighteyes...
Having deployed a plot of many strands, Hobb has a difficult storytelling
challenge to perform, keeping a dozen balanced forces and factions and
conflicting personalities in perpetual motion around the central figure
of Fitz. Furthermore, woven into the ongoing narrative, is Hobb's slow
unveiling of answers to long-hidden secrets. We now know much more about
the nature of her world, and the great forces working behind the scenes,
than we did in the original Assassin trilogy. As these things begin
to finally emerge into the light, a certain amount of philosophical
baggage has to be hauled out with them and mulled over...
Hobb handles her story with a calm, almost leisurely aplomb, but not
without costs in terms of structure and pace. The highpoint of confrontation
occurs not near the end of the book, but around the two-thirds mark,
and the remainder is essentially build-up and development, preparing
the ground for events that will obviously fall in the next novel. It
is a rich, highly detailed narrative, dwelling on the intricacies of
character, motivation, trust, betrayal, mistaken intentions and foolish
words, and all of this is rewarding reading, but sometimes just a touch
too slow. There are explosive moments of confrontation to be sure, but
the tension is spread a mite thinly.
Nonetheless, though The Golden Fool lacks the tight structure,
pace and cleverness of plot of some of the earlier works in the sequence,
it can still grip the reader with its action and suspense, and it never
fails to be credible in its handling of character. Not Hobb's best,
but still very good indeed.
Review by Simeon Shoul.
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