Even though it was another slow-moving affair which ended with another major cliffhanger, I enjoyed almost everything about Robin Hobb's Fool's Quest. In my review, I warned readers who hadn't read The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles to do so before they continued reading The Fitz and the Fool trilogy. The storylines from all these series, with the addition of The Tawny Man trilogy, officially merged at the end of Fool's Quest. As a result, to prevent the feeling of being left out of the loop and for the ending to make any sort of sense, one needed to have read Hobb's other series. The events featured in the second installment were brought to a close in a way that appeared to indicate that the final volume would be a tapestry woven of various threads from all those book sequences. Which is why I urged readers who had yet to do so to read The Liveship Traders and The Rain Wilds Chronicles before continuing on with this series.
And now that I'm done reading Assassin's Fate, I can vouch for the fact that this third volume is not only the final book in The Fitz and the Fool trilogy. It's much more than that. It's the culmination of the Farseer, the Liveship Traders, the Tawny Man, the Rain Wilds Chronicles, and the Fitz and the Fool series, tying up all the storylines together for one grand finale that will leave no one indifferent. And although the novel marks new beginnings and new directions for these characters and their world, there is no denying that Assassin's Fate also marks the end of several protagonists and plotlines.
And though it hurts, Assassin's Fate is everything one would want the "end" to be.
Here's the blurb:
More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre. Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain. As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return. For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.
The bulk of this novel is comprised of two extremely long journeys. That of Bee, as a captive taken to Clerres, and that of Fitz, the Fool, and their companions, on their way to destroy the Servants. And though their destination is the same, both parties will follow vastly different paths to get there. One of my favorite aspects of Assassin's Fate was that these two journeys take us all over Hobb's universe. The Rain Wilds, Chalced, Bingtown and Trader Bay, the Pirate Islands, the Spice Islands, and, of course, the mysterious island of Clerres, just off the mainland of Mercenia. We discover new locales and revisit places we haven't seen in years. Revelations hint at countless new things to come and raise yet more questions. Still, for all that these journeys can be fascinating, the pace often remains an issue throughout the better part of this book.
Having said that, slowly but surely you can see the storylines coming together in unexpected ways and how they join other unconnected plotlines to elevate this tale to another level.
And though the rhythm has been an issue in all three installments, it's obvious that Hobb needed time to lay down the groundwork for all these storylines to come together in a way that made sense and that would blow readers' minds. This latest trilogy required more patience and focus from readers to truly appreciate how special it truly is, more so than in any other Robin Hobb works. And yet, the amazing payoff at the end of Assassin's Fate was worth every single moment. And then some!
Mourning what he believes is his daughter's death, Flitz continues to be afflicted by self-doubt. Once more, I really enjoyed how Hobb portrayed him as a heartbroken man who gradually climbs out of the pit of his self-pity. Planning his revenge, he is aware that he will likely die avenging his child. The same goes for the Fool. Blinded and vulnerable as he was in Fool's Fate, as he heals the Fool will prove to be as crafty and driven as he used to be in the past. Many of their scenes are very emotional and add yet more layers to their long story. The closer they get to Clerres, the more fractured their relationship becomes. It was at times painful to see how at odds these two had become, and the guilt and terrible sadness they both feel will drive them apart even more. Though they share the same objective, at times it felt as though these two had never been as far apart as they were in Assassin's Fate. Often the hapless victim in the first two volumes, Bee shows a lot of character growth in this final installment. Encouraged by Wolf-Father, she tries to fight back and make her captors fear her. As a matter of course, Fitz and Bee are the only two POV protagonists. And as much as their perspectives are interesting, it's the supporting cast which makes Assassin's Fate such an unforgettable read. In the past, familiar faces made a few cameo appearances in other novels, but they never really played an important role in the resolution of the tale. Believe you me, it's not the case in this book. I wasn't lying when I said that Assassin's Fate was the culmination of the Farseer, the Liveship Traders, the Tawny Man, the Rain Wilds Chronicles, and the Fitz and the Fool, and understandably characters from all of these series show up and play an active role. Long-time Hobb fans like me will be pleasantly surprised to get reacquainted with Reyn, Malta, Thymara, Rapskal, Tintaglia, Icefyre, Prilkop, Leftrin, Alise,
Paragon, Brashen, Althea, Vivacia, Boy-O, Kennitsson, the pirate queen Etta, Wintrow, Sorcor, and many, many more. I never expected that many characters to make appearances and it was awesome to see them again. Moreover, to discover just how Hobb wove all these storylines together and how it affected the greater scheme of things was truly remarkable. Robin Hobb has a knack for creating genuine and three-dimensional protagonists that you can't help but root for or hate with a passion, and God knows she has created a lot of them over the years. To see all of these men/women/boys/girls return unexpectedly was quite a treat for someone like me who's been there since Day 1.
In my humble opinion, no other SFF author writing today possesses Hobb's deft human touch. As I've often said, she can make you laugh and cry at will, often in the same chapter. There are some powerful scenes featuring Fitz and the Fool in Assassin's Fate. And there are also emotionally charged ones between many other characters. Some of these scenes are big and far-reaching, while many are small and intimate, but no less important and/or gut-wrenching. Robin Hobb is a veritable a master at this sort of thing and she pulls on readers' heartstrings whenever the mood strikes. Assassin's Fate can be quite painful at times. Hobb made my eyes water on more occasions in this one than in any other of her works.
It's impossible to discuss the endgame and the grand finale without using spoilers, so I will refrain from doing so. Suffice to say that Hobb found a way to bring all the plotlines full circle in a way that is poignant and powerful. Things will never be the same in the Farseer/Elderlings universe. It will be interesting to see where Hobb decides to go next, but it appears that the liveships might be at the heart of her next project. There are a lot of casualties among the main characters, which seems to hint that the author wanted a relatively clean slate for whatever she has in store for future related installments/series. When it finally comes, the end cuts like a knife. Everything comes full circle so beautifully, yet so painfully.
So bittersweet. So heartbreaking. And yet so perfect.
I read Assassin's Apprentice when it came out in 1995. Little did I know back then that I would embark on such a long and marvelous journey. With Assassin's Fate, Robin Hobb brought this journey to an end for many of the characters that I have come to love over the years. It's not the end, for this one marks the beginning of what will doubtless be numerous quality tales that will fill Hobb fans with wonder. Nevertheless, it is the final chapter in what should definitely be considered one of the best, if not the best, fantasy sagas ever written.
Look no further. Assassin's Fate is the 2017 fantasy novel of the year.