I have waited an eternity for this book, and it certainly lived up to my expectations.
Before I begin extoling the virtues of Hobb in a somewhat lovesick manner, let me first recommend that – if you don’t know what I’m talking about – you read her trilogies in this order*: The Liveship Traders Trilogy, The Assassins Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy.
*This is not actually chronological order, but it is the order in which I read them, (as recommended by a friend) and has served this friend, myself and S.E. Berrow very well, especially with the benefit of hindsight.
Now – Fool’s Assassin.
The book opens years after the events of Fool’s Fate. The Fool is long gone and long silent, and Fitz lives with his wife Molly Redskirts and her children (plus Nettle, who is Fitz’s biological daughter). The story mainly revolves around their life at Withywoods, and Molly’s failing mental health. Her childbearing days are over but she is convinced – over the space of years – she is pregnant.
Background events happen which seem (if you’re not used to Hobb’s writing) completely insignificant, until finally, Molly does give birth to a tiny, very pale child whom Molly and Fitz name ‘Bee’.
It is important to know that this is not a plot-driven book. This is very much a character-driven book, but when Hobb is the one writing the characters, you’ll find that doesn’t matter one whit. Nothing particularly happens in this book but you’ll find that, by the end of the novel, everything has happened without you realising it. In a very good way.
In a departure from Hobb’s traditional singular narrative, Bee is given POV chapters. I know this threw some people off for a while, but for me it was a breath of fresh air. As much as I adore The Realm of the Elderlings, Fitz and I have always had a love-hate relationship. He’s a fantastic character, but endlessly frustrating for any reader capable of perspective and forethought. He’s so human and flawed, you feel constantly torn between cuddling him and throttling him.
Bee’s POV was a welcome change. Highly intelligent and unique, her perspective on life with her father (and special furry guest) is both childish and wise. She is a perfect storm of her influences – her caring but bullheaded mother Molly, her secretive and stubborn father Fitz, plus a little wildness and disregard for people and rules that I’d like to attribute to Nighteyes. There was also something else. It was a very unique ‘Bee’ element, but it was reminiscent of someone else. She felt like an old, very odd friend, a bit like… oh, I don’t know. Another pale character we’ve met before, perhaps. Not that Fitz notices that, because Fitz doesn’t notice anything. Ever.
I have so many more things I’d love to touch upon: questions I want answered, rants I want to spew, but if I give voice to them all, this review will never end. I could lament Fitz’s stupidity all day, or I could sob my heart out about that thing that happened at the end of the book and how I didn’t think my heart could break anymore than it had in Fool’s Fate and oh dear God Robin Hobb why do you do these things to me?
But I won’t.
Instead, I’ll say this: the best scene in the entire book takes place towards the end, at a winter festival, where the description is beautifully evocative and immersive. By that scene alone, I know that Hobb will not disappoint me if I build up my hopes for the rest of the series. Combined with the cliff-hanger ending, I’ll be first in line for the sequel when it’s released in August.