Sunday 10 September 2017

Assassin's Fate - Robin Hobb

The story so far:

As the final book, not only of the trilogy of trilogies featuring FitzChivalry Farseer, but also the related Liveship and Rain Wilds chronicles, a lot depends on Assassin's Fate. The story follows Fitz and his friend the Fool, as they embark on a long mission of rescue and revenge, to put an end to an evil regime, and be the Catalyst for an explosive change to the world. But it is a mission with only the faintest outline of a plan. How can they possibly succeed?

A huge amount of Assassin's Fate is spent on the move, whether on foot or by ship, and there's only so much brooding and plotting a reader can stand. Fitz spends much of the middle third of the book aboard the Liveship Paragon, which was first introduced in Ship of Destiny, and his role as narrator bears witness to the final story of the liveships and their crew: Althea and Brashen, Boy-O, Kennitson, and Amber. Amusingly - for reasons you'll understand if you've read the previous books - Fitz does not like Amber, and this gives an additional layer of tension to his already tumultuous relationship with the Fool. With this tying-up of multiple story threads, Hobb makes the dreaded endless travelling pass with some fascinating developments in the liveships' stories. A lot of questions you might not have realised you were asking from the very start are answered, but for me, this section of the book held more of an intellectual interest than an emotional investment. I didn't like the Liveship books as much as the Fitz ones, and skipped them on the reread, although this book and the preceding one made me want to go back and fill in the gaps.

After having only a few chapters in Fool's Quest, the secondary narrator, Bee, is back in full force for Assassin's Fate. This storyline is hard-going in places, as Bee travels as the prisoner of incredibly unpleasant villains. There have been horrific villains in the previous books, of course; Prince Regal in The Farseer Trilogy and the Pale Woman in Tawny Man, but never before have we had to spend so much time in the company of completely irredeemable villains (unless you count Kennit in the Liveship books.) Certainly seeing them in action, we can judge that they must be stopped and deserve everything Fitz has in store for them, but that doesn't take away my distaste for revenge narratives that soured Fool's Quest for me. The climactic bloodbath is inevitable.

Yet, if the trilogy's main quest didn't quite work for me, the ultimate conclusion was very satisfying, and true to Fitz's character, both with his strengths and his imperfections. Hobb does not let him off the hook. He has always been reckless, stubborn, and not a great father (although a loving one.) Fitz and the Fool's story ends as it has always been; fraught with folly, misunderstanding, miscommunication and frustration, but ultimately shaped by intense loyalty and love. The fate of the Assassin and Fool is a bittersweet one; messy, sad and painful, but beautiful nonetheless; a fitting finale to an excellent saga.

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