As my tagline is ‘Read, Write, Bake.’ I spent last weekend partaking in the former. Saturday 6th May I visited Waterstones bookshop in Plymouth and finally had the chance to meet Robin Hobb at her book signing. The following Sunday and Monday I read it. It’s taken me till now to come to terms with the perfect ending to a wonderful series and review Assassin’s Fate.
On a cold, wet day in Scotland…
I first encountered Robin Hobb and her character, Fitz, about fifteen years ago while holidaying in Scotland with my parents. The day before, I’d visited Loch Ness and thought a t-shirt was suitable clothing attire. The following day I doubled up on socks and put my thickest hoodie on and hid in the tiny sauna in our chalet and read.
She weaves a wonderful tale in a fantasy realm which spans over many books. I came to fall in love with a very human manner of storytelling. I recommend everyone to try one and she has recently put out a lovely diagram to give an idea of the best reading order.
Meeting the author who made me want to become one
Catch up to now and I finally had my hands the final book I’d ever read with Fitz and his closest companion, Fool. As any Brit will know, a two-hour wait in the queue is an easy feat. Finally, I had my book signed, along with Assassin’s Apprentice, which started the whole story.
I thanked her for the story and I also thanked her for publishing Assassin’s Fate nine months later than anticipated. Because of this, and her unique storytelling, I decided to write. I gave her a letter, which was a long, drawn out version of what I’d summed up and she emailed me back. She thanked me and said I’m in the wonderful stage of rewriting; her favourite stage and told me to persevere. She wrote it in the book too, which I can look at on those days where the words don’t come and all I do is stare at the screen or make cups of tea.
Happy, I set home from visiting such a kind and wonderful woman only for her to rip my heart out when I started Assassin’s Fate.
Assassin’s Fate Review
Let me begin this review (I’ll try and keep it spoiler-ish free) with the fact the author’s dedication is to the two main characters, Fitz and Fool. I recommend everyone goes and reads the full dedication here.
I may be in the early stages of writing but I’ve had characters in my head for a long time and they do become, real, for want of a better word, as you love and nurture them. The deeper you delve, the more the character blossoms and takes on a life of their own which, is hard to rein in. Sometimes it’s impossible.
The story so far
Assassin’s Fate is book three of a trilogy which concludes the story of FitzChivalry Farseer, a bastard prince who was put to use as the King’s assassin at an early age. He befriended the King’s Fool, who is, in fact, a White Prophet who dreams the future and wants to put it on the best course. Fitz discovers every White Prophet requires a Catalyst and he is Fool’s. While Fitz is the main character, he is never the hero who saves the day. However, without him, the hero would never have succeeded. Therefore, Fitz resigns himself to a life in the shadows due to his bastardy and profession.
In the first two books, Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest, Fitz finally has found his happily ever after. He lives under the name of Tom Badgerlock, but he’s married to his childhood sweetheart and they are enjoying their middle years together. Unexpectedly, he and his wife have a daughter who they name Bee.
Fitz later discovers the Fool, who returned to his home, Clerres, only to be told by the people there known as the Servants that his prophesies have yet to be fulfilled and he was tortured. Bee, is kidnapped by the Servants but Fitz believes her dead and goes to Clerres on a mission of revenge where he knows he’ll die.
The fate of our protagonists
Assassin’s Fate follows the journey of both Fitz and Bee as they journey to Clerres to discover their fates. It’s a brilliant read but not an easy one. Robin Hobb made it known this is the last book with Fitz and Fool and their last adventure is exciting, bloody but so very heartbreaking.
You feel Fitz’s anguish and heartache. You will him to dare to hope. When you follow his daughter, Bee, you hold a paternal love for her. You feel anger and horror at what she is put through but also a touch of pride at her intellect and courage.
Robin Hobb has a habit of putting your heart through a mangle. When you dare to hope, she’ll kick you in the face. When you believe all is lost, she dangles that thin slither of hope in front of your eyes once more. This is why I love her storytelling because you feel everything. Every joy, every pain, every wrongdoing, every act of courage. There is a lot of violence in her books and our protagonists are rarely given an easy time.
Fitz, Fool and Bee
Fitz struggles with his inner demons, and a lack of self-worth but do you blame the man considering what he’s been through? He may feel he doesn’t live up to others expectations, or his own, but he fiercely loves those close to him.
I warmed to Bee. I like her fire, literally! In Fool’s Assassin, when her POV first appears I think a lot of people were affronted. No, this is Fitz’s tale. But we see another side of Fitz, the many facets he wears; as too does the Fool. Fitz’s self-doubt is crippling but Bee has a fire. Cunning and indeed, the heart of a wolf.
The Fool is a fractured character in this book. At times his old personality shone through but for the most, he hides behind his other personas, which causes a rift between him and Fitz. It’s difficult to watch the two of them argue but as confusing as their relationship is, they love one another deeply.
The theme of branding a person by the actions of their parents and ancestors creeps up again and again in this book. In this book (and trilogy), Robin Hobb wipes the slate clean in the fashion only epic fantasy brings. Shockwaves will be felt through the realm but I’d be intrigued to see the changes if she decides to write more novels in this realm. The track has well and truly been changed and these will echo on.
A fitting ending
I love the ending. It is foreshadowed in the previous two books so I didn’t find it a huge surprise when it happened. However, the means of how it comes about is shocking. It’s a realistic ending rather than one that’s overly despairing or sickly sugar coated. She chooses a realistic ending, which regardless of it being a good or a bad ending, is undoubtedly the most satisfying. It’s not often a book can make me cry but Robin Hobb’s books do this to me again and again.
It’s a fitting conclusion to Fitz’s tale. He’s been through a lot of pain and violence throughout his life. It hasn’t been the perfect life but few ever achieve such a thing. We must consider, without the Fool there to manipulate the course of his Catalyst, Fitz would’ve died long ago. As much as Fool manipulated him, he spent years with the woman he always loved and had two daughters. It is much more than Verity, his uncle, ever saw.
The previous books
Are there issues in the book? I think readers would benefit in checking out all the previous novels to get the most out of this book. A lot of characters get a cameo and it’s a talent in itself for an author to tie all these threads together. The middle of the book felt a little slow because of this. But at the same time, it helped the tension build to the final which was everything I wanted and more.
A true white
To me, the true White Prophet is and will always be Robin Hobb. She knew the possible paths and futures she could steer her characters upon. She changed the track of the wheel and set it on another course. No doubt the characters gave her an inkling where it should lead. I look at my work and I steer my characters in one direction but they tell me how it should be if I’m wrong. Even if the right way is not always the happiest. This is a fitting closure for Fitz and Fool. As harrowing as the journey is to reach it, this is the true path. Elements of this ending have echoed through all of her previous novels and, now I know how the story ends, I’m itching to start from the beginning and enjoy the story in a whole new light.
Also, yay to all us UK readers as we managed to get the book to Number 2 on the Best Sellers List!
Once again, thank you, Robin! For your stories. For inspiring me to write.