This is Book 1 of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy.
This style and pacing of this book was not quite what I was expecting. Diehard fans of the previous books (like myself) will probably like the book no matter what, while less ardent fans will most likely be disappointed. Here are a few non-spoiler reasons why this was an apparently lackluster return...
The book is essentially 500 pages of prologue followed by 80-100 pages of actual forward-moving, action packed story. Hobb is known for slow pacing, but this book really takes the cake. She managed to blow through 20-30 years of Fits life but somehow made that seem tedious, plodding, and hopelessly mundane.
In most aspects of this book, Fitz is an absolute idiot. At first, that really made me angry. I felt like Hobb had taken one of my favorite characters and gutted him, emptying him of everything that made him who he was and who he had been trained to be. Fitz dropped the ball on numerous occasions, ignored blatant clues and warnings, and absolutely could not see what was right in front of his face. How could she do that to him?!? But then I thought about it, and I have decided that Hobb knew exactly what she was doing. Fitz is trying so desperately to leave his old life behind that he is subconsciously (if not wilfully) ignoring who he is (a bastard assassin for the royal family) for who he thinks that he wants to be (a gentlemanly manor owner and regular country guy). It took Hobb 500 pages to show Fitz the truth, and Im truly looking forward to what is coming next.
The introduction of the second narrator was interesting, if not a little confusing, but I am also curious to see where that will lead. Hobb opened up a lot of questions and provided very few answers, but I am confident that she will deliver in the coming books.
In all, this was a slow read (even by Hobbs usual standards) and will probably appeal only to the truly committed fans of the series. However, in the long run (and based on the quality of the next two books), I believe that the value of this story will grow over time as it serves to bridge the gap between one series and another. Fitz needed this time to piddle around in his manor house. Hobb gave it to him. Now its time for him to move on with that righteous vengeance that only Fitz knows how to deliver.
I got a copy of this book to review through NetGalley. I was a huge fan of both the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy. I enjoyed Liveship Traders but not as much as the other two. I started reading the first book in The Soldier Son trilogy and really hated it. So I was ready to give up on Hobb until I saw that this continued the story of Fitz-Chivalry and the Fool. It ended up being a very slow, yet very engaging story.
Fitz-Chilvary, now known as Tom Badgerlock, spends his days running the holding of Withywood, which his daughter Nettle technically owns. Tom is enjoying being a father to Mollys children and having Molly as a wife. But age is taking its toll on Molly and she is starting to fade. Tom still remains healthy and spry as a result of events in his past. This is when strange white messengers start arriving with a desperate message for Tom. Tom has been trying desperately to stay out of Farseer business, but despite his best efforts he gets drawn back in.
This was a very slow moving book but very well done. This is a hard book to review because much of the second half is told from the perspective of a character that has not even been born yet at the beginning on the book.
Much of the book deals with Tom Badgerlocks (FitzChilvarys) day to day running of Withywood Holding. Tom occasionally gets drawn into Farseer issues but tries to stay away from Buckkeep Castle and the intrigue. Tom and Molly are hoping for a quiet life, but of course that wouldnt be interesting to read about, would it?
Woven throughout this are strange incidents of pale messengers that try desperately to reach Tom but never quite making it. Very far into the book (over half way through) we find out that the Fool has been trying to contact Fitz about a very pressing issue.
The story is very well written and flows nicely, I love reading Hobbs writing style. However, it does move very slowly. There is very little action, lots of intrigue, and lots of day to day living types of things.
Fitz-Chivalry does end up taking on two new characters to his household, both of them are FarSeer bastards. There is a spoiled noblewoman named Shun and a failed apprentice from Chade named Fitz-Vigilant. I am not completely sure what their part in the story was meant to be...beside to add some discord to Withywood. However, I am hoping they will play a more important role in future books.
It was a long book and it felt long, the story was not very tight but kind of wandered and rolled out gradually over time. We hear mostly from Fitz-Chivalry/Tom, some from Molly, and a lot from another POV which I wont mention because...you know spoilers.
It was still an excellent read despite its slowness and I did enjoy stepping back into this world and reading about these characters that I know so well.
I will also mention that there are large jumps in time between the first few chapters, this is not made clear and was a bit confusing at first. Also there is no designation as to who's POV a chapter is being told from...so sometimes you have to read into the chapter a bit to figure out who you are listening to.
Overall I was pretty happy with this continuation of the Fitz-Chivalry story. The book moves slowly and wanders a bit, but it is very engaging. We get a chance to read about some of our favorite characters and meet some very intriguing new ones. I would definitely recommend reading at least the Farseer Trilogy before reading this book. I would also recommend the Tawny Man trilogy. Both provide a lot of background that affects whats going on in this story. Recommended to those who love epic fantasy.