Well hello again! Told you I wouldn’t be long with this series review. In case you’re not caught up, I recently read Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy for the first time and I became so hooked on Hobb that I just had to jump into this series. As with the previous series, I decided to do them in bulk.
No spoilers for the previous series and you’ll be forewarned if I plan to get into the nitty gritty of something.
“He came one late, wet spring, and brought the wide world back to my doorstep”
That alone drew me in. The steady start, the slow introduction and reintroduction of characters, was thoroughly absorbing. There was no doubt in my mind that the writing, which I so admired in the previous books, was even better here:
“Sometimes skill-hunger ate at me as a canker eats sound flesh”
From the captivating opening paragraph, all the way to the last line, Hobb painted such vivid pictures in my imagination, that I couldn’t help but admire the this book.
I did like the development of the subplot from the first series, focusing on people’s prejudices towards people with the wit and their consequent superstitions. I certainly appreciated this, as while it was detrimental to the plot in Farseer, it never felt like it was explored as much as it could have been.
BUT I did have some problems quite quickly with the plot- especially because there was *a lot* of recapping. I’m honestly never a fan of recaps, though I get why they’re there (considering most of the time there can be long waits between books) but I do feel like they should be kept to a minimum and that they can be unnecessary. This book in particular took a great deal of time to grind out of first gear. In fact, it was v e r y s l o w in the middle.
Because of this, I thought I’d read this too soon after the last series- HOWEVER it ended up winning me over heart and soul. First of all, things picked up to a gallop once Prince Dutiful was introduced, thanks largely to him not living upto his name. And secondly because of that showstopping, rip your heart out of your chest ending. To say it was emotional would be a total understatement. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say too much, but it was stunningly sad and beautifully written.
While I didn’t love this book as much as the first series, it was still a great read and I appreciated the direction it took. Looking back, that ending marked the transition from the Farseer Trilogy and the death of the(more petulant, childish) old Fitz. In with the new I say! And since I’m a sucker for anything that can yank on the old heartstrings, I ended up falling for this book:
However, sadly the pace did not keep up continue at that hard-hitting speed. Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the plot in this one, because there was no obvious quest until page 275, which had already been mentioned on the blurb, and this wasn’t fulfilled until the next book anyway. Because of that there was far less urgency here, the story kept stalling and everything ambled along rather reluctantly. Misleading blurbs and slow plots are bad enough, but this was made all the more infuriating considering that what we were promised was DRAGONS.
Yeah…. Never do that to me. I’m bound to get mad. I was able to cool it a little, considering that I knew we’d get that… eventually. Plus, it was pretty amazing to read the dragonlore here. I particularly loved the idea that dragon carvers were inspired by real dragons BRILLIANT. This did add tremendously to the rich world building. (There was also the brief mention of liveships- which whetted my appetite for Hobb’s other series)
I will admit that I liked the subplot about the suspicion of people with the wit- it just wasn’t enough to carry the book for me considering the fact that this subject has been present in *all* the books so far. It also wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been. Frankly, it served too much as filler in this one, especially as all the other Elderling books have had self-contained plots.
Still, one thing I did love in this book was how it showcased the progression of Fitz’s life. As a character he has developed in so many unexpected ways and I really feel like I’ve got to know him by now. More than ever, I appreciate how the story is told from his perspective and how he’s often not the all-out hero, but more of a helper (or catalyst *wink wink nudge nudge*) and helps others sacrifice themselves a little.
What I loved even more was his relationship with Dutiful. He too is an intriguing character and it’s fun to read about the, so to speak, next generation. I also loved the introduction of Nettle and how she was introduced. The only one who didn’t hold my attention was Hap, who I thought might be more interesting than I found him to be.
Ultimately, this was good in parts, but I’d put this firmly in the middle book syndrome category I’m afraid.
Okay, I’ll admit it, there were a few points in this book when I started to think I might be Hobbed out. 1) I found it very very long- which isn’t so different from the others, but man I was really beginning to feel it. 2) I started to mull things over that I mightn’t have worried about in other books (for instance, why is the Skill no longer associated with just the Farseers? Did I miss something about who you were and were not able to influence? Are the rules changing…?) Honestly, in most books this sort of thing doesn’t trouble me too much and now I’m done it’s more a point of interest than anything else, which is why I began to think I might have overdone it with too much of this series at once.
There were other things that I felt like I missed or that I wasn’t entirely clear on (like highlight for spoiler: the Fool’s resurrection), though luckily some of these things were cleared up pretty quickly. For instance, this threw up a lot of questions about Outislanders for me… but fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long for answers. With the introduction of the Pale Woman we got the solution to many mysteries and were given the sense that they had all been playing a much larger game than they ever knew.
Now, a central part to this book is the Fool and I know I’ve not talked much about him before now. To be honest, the most interesting thing about the Fool for me is how difficult he is to pin down, which is why I reckon it’s worth preserving as much mystique as possible and leave that part up to individual readers to mull over. All I’ll say is that I like watching his relationship with Fitz develop (though some aspects I’m still puzzling over…)
There were a lot of other cool aspects to this book, especially the intriguing opening and as-per-usual fantastic writing:
“The Fool’s Tongue juggled the word like pins”
(I feel like I need to show it off from time to time)
Plus we did finally get the dragons we were promised in the previous book- and one of my now all-time favourite quotes about dragons as a bonus:
“Dragons at a distance are amazing and noble creatures of legend. My closer experience of them makes me suspect they’d burp nobly after consuming me”
In terms of character, the most interesting development for me is (weirdly enough) Chade. I have enjoyed him in the past, but I’m beginning to think he’s growing more ambitious and getting some proper villainy traits (who knows- this could be pure speculation at this point…) I do want to carry on reading to see where he’ll end up at least.
And just to round this off with some *spoilery* chat, I was a bit peeved with Molly (what’s new?). I mean, I can let her and Burrich off the hook (sort of- at least it was confirmed in Golden Fool that he a little too conveniently thought Fitz was dead for reelz) but her reaction to finding out he’d been alive all this time perfectly explains why I’ve never liked her. It went something like: “oh you’re alive, oh well it’s all your fault, oh and I did nothing wrong marrying your adopted father”- ugh! I don’t get why, even after everything’s explained to her, she can’t see that he sacrificed his own happiness for the sake of everyone else (not least cos it would ruin her life if he’d showed up to tell her he was alive when she was already with Burrich).
Okay rant and spoilers over. With all that out my system, I can say this was a very satisfying ending and feels like an excellent place to pause (for now).
To sum up: I admit to finding these books long winded at times, but the payoffs always worth it!
So have you read this series? Are you planning to? Let me know in the comments!