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Fool s Assassin
by Robin Hobb
Del Rey, $28.00, 667pp
Publication Date: August 12, 2014
FitzChivalry has been gone from us for ten long years and Ms. Hobb has finally brought both him and the Fool back.  But, oh, how cruelly she uses them…

The FitzChivalry tale began back in 1995 with a trilogy that was closely followed by a trilogy about his friend, the Fool.  But friend is such a lackluster word to describe what these two had.  But, I get ahead of myself…

This world once knew great power and magical technologies but some kind of catastrophe, maybe natural, broke all that; leaving people to claw their way back to a medieval-styled civilization.  FitzChivalry was the bastard son of the heir-apparent to the Throne of the Six Duchies.  A child that no one wanted but everyone wanted to control.  He was, instead, hidden away and trained to be a spy and assassin.  His one and best friend was the King’s jester, the Fool.  The Fool was more than he ever seemed; a descendant of people who had not walked the world for hundreds of years.  He was a true prophet plagued with visions and dreams of futures-to-be and haunted by his efforts to find the one true path to bring the world back to what it might have been.

In that long-ago world were Dragons - great beasts that had some kind of symbiotic relationship with certain humans, a relationship that changed both Dragon and human.  In two separate storylines, Ms. Hobb chronicles the world without dragons and then dragons returning – also stunning stories.  But I digress.  In the last book, Fool’s Fate, we discovered that the Fool’s efforts for years, using his best friend, FitzChivalry, ruthlessly, had been with the intent of rescuing a very old dragon that had been encased in a glacier for possibly hundreds of years.  This old male dragon had the potential to mate with the possibly very last female dragon and return dragonkind to the world.  The reasons why this was so important was never made clear to either Fitz or us, the readers.  The Fool then left FitzChivalry with little explanation.  FitzChivalry was rewarded by the Crown for his long and arduous service with an alias and a country estate to which he escaped thankfully with his childhood sweetheart.  But still he waited for his best friend to reach out to him. And so that story ended…ten years ago. 

As this new story begins, Fitz is coming into his middle years but as healthy as he ever was thanks to residual Skill flowing through his body.  An unwanted gift as he watches his beloved wife age as he does not.  As their years wind on with no children, his Molly finally conceives but well after her change of life: an impossibility.  A pregnancy with no physical evidence but Molly’s insistence; which remained unchanged over two long years.  Fitz is sure dementia is taking her. When she finally does deliver a most wondrous and peculiar child, both are astounded but grateful.  When little Bee is just nine years old, her whole world changes.  And the changes just keep coming; challenging her to rise above her physical and emotional limitations.  Just as her relationship with her father is becoming more familiar, loving and protective, it will be Bee who will have to help save him. 

This was a very long story and I did begin to wonder where exactly I was being taken.  The author took me on a slow, upwards climb where I wondered if the detail and pace were necessary to the story.  In another’s hands – maybe not.  Maybe the story could have been told more concisely and detail and characters made more lean.  But it wouldn’t have been the same story, it wouldn’t have been Fitz’s or Bee’s story.  This felt like a long winter’s night in front of a fire or a long hot-tub soak; a period of time when you just don’t really want to be anywhere else.

I wish I could encourage a new reader to grab this…but I can’t.  To appreciate this story, one needs to start at the beginning.  But if you do, I think I can assure you the time used will be worth it.  It’s even more worthwhile if you can find the time to squeeze in the other two storylines, the Ship trilogy and the four Dragon stories.  After all that, you will have a breathtaking view of the whole of this world.  I am desperately hoping that she intends to show us the result of repopulating the world with dragons.  But first:  Fitz will have to find the Fool’s people, discover his daughter’s true heritage, and possibly assassinate even more people before peace can come again.  I can hardly wait! ~~ Catherine Book

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