Saturday, 14 March 2015

Fool's Assassin (Robin Hobb)

I can easily explain my love for Robin Hobb's work.

Her books are slow, that much is true. Hundreds of pages can pass without anything significant happening. The 2,000-page Assassin books contain perhaps fewer than four or five hundred pages with significant action. If you're looking for fast-paced action with your fantasy, look at Scott Lynch.

Yet that slowness is with reason. What Hobb does better than any other writer in modern fantasy is build. She builds characters. She builds worlds. She builds connections, between character and world, writer and character. Within a hundred pages she might not have taken her characters very far in their world, but she's created a bond between you and them which is hard to shake off.

Fool's Assassin is the seventeenth book I've read by Hobb, and the fourteenth I've read in her Realm of the Elderlings world. It's not without background that I came to the first book in The Fitz and the Fool. I'm used to Fitz - this is the seventh time he's been the point-of-view protagonist, following on from the Assassin and Fool books. I like Fitz. I'd even go so far as to say he's one of my favourite characters of all time.

Fitz, after his traumatic childhood and early adulthood as a royal bastard at Buckkeep, the seat and court of the ruling Farseer dynasty, is finally living a life of peace with his sweetheart Molly and his children and step-children. But that life is interrupted by mysterious messengers and then, in the later years of Fitz and Molly's lives, the arrival of a new daughter.

When I say Hobb's writing is slow, this is as slow a book as I can remember her writing. For more than 500 pages hardly any action takes place. But the writing is beautiful and evocative. Even when it feels like nothing is happening, the connections are being established between you and the characters. Every feeling is felt like an emotion of your own. The familiar phrase, 'Oh, Fitz,' was uttered more than once while I was reading Fool's Assassin.

Is Fool's Assassin as good as the Assassin novels? No. But then I rate the Assassin books as the best I've ever read in the fantasy field. Young Fitz is a more interesting character than older Fitz, and it reads less like a biography. But, having said that, saying I prefer the Assassin books to The Fitz and the Fool thus far is like comparing Lionel Messi to Sergio Aguero. Yes, Messi is better, but Aguero is still a world-class footballer.

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