As regular readers of my blog will know, it’s not very often that I read fantasy, yet Robin Hobb’s books have been some of my favourite reads of the last few years. In 2014 I discovered the Farseer Trilogy and then, last year, I moved on to her second trilogy, the Liveship Traders – set in the same world, the Realm of the Elderlings, but in a different part of that world and with different characters and storylines. Fool’s Errand is the first book in yet another trilogy – The Tawny Man – which leaves the liveships behind and returns to the story of FitzChivalry Farseer.
If you haven’t read the Farseer trilogy yet, you really need to do so before starting Fool’s Errand. It’s important to understand Fitz’s background, his relationships with other characters, and the magic and history of the world he inhabits, otherwise I think you’ll be very confused!
Anyway, Fool’s Errand begins fifteen years after the events of Assassin’s Quest, with Fitz living in a remote cottage in the countryside, far away from his former home in Buckkeep, having made the decision to stay out of the politics and intrigues which continue to surround the Farseer family. He has taken the name Tom Badgerlock and is leading a quiet life with his adopted son, Hap, and his wolf Nighteyes, with whom he shares a special bond, as his only companions. Then, unexpectedly, he receives a visit from Chade, his old mentor and instructor in the art of assassination. Chade tries, but fails, to persuade Fitz to return to Buckkeep to teach the magic known as the Skill to the young Prince Dutiful.
This visit is closely followed by another: this time from the Fool, who has matured from the pale boy of fifteen years ago into an elegant young man with golden hair and skin. The two quickly settle back into their old friendship, but even the Fool is unable to convince Fitz to come back with him to Buckkeep. It is only when Fitz receives shocking news regarding Prince Dutiful that he agrees to return to court and offer his assistance. The Prince has disappeared, just days before his betrothal ceremony, and Chade believes that Fitz is the only person who can find him. Did Dutiful run away or was he kidnapped? Could he have become the target of a carefully planned plot? And how is all of this connected with the little hunting-cat the Prince received recently as a gift?
Although I did enjoy the three Liveship Traders novels I read last year, it was wonderful to be reacquainted with Fitz and the other Farseer characters again. I don’t regret having taken the time to read the Liveship Traders, as it means I picked up on a few things in Fool’s Errand – such as the name of the Fool’s horse and a visit to a certain island – which wouldn’t have meant much to me otherwise, but I definitely prefer the world of the Six Duchies. I think this particular novel might even by my favourite by Robin Hobb so far. It feels more tightly plotted than any of the others, with the focus on one mission – to find Prince Dutiful and return him to Buckkeep – and with a slightly smaller cast of characters too, concentrating mainly on the very close relationships Fitz has with the Fool and with Nighteyes. It’s also a very moving book, with one particular scene that made me cry – even though I’d known from the beginning that it was going to happen sooner or later, I still wasn’t prepared for it!
Now that I’ve remembered how much I love reading about Fitz and his friends, I’m sure it won’t be long before I pick up the second book in the trilogy, The Golden Fool.
This is book 10/20 of my 20 Books of Summer.