It probably goes without saying that if you’ve followed the journey of FitzChivalry Farseer up until this point, Assassin’s Fate, Robin Hobb’s ninth book featuring the royal-bastard-turned-assassin, is essential reading. It concludes the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, picking up immediately following the events of the previous book, 2015’s Fool’s Quest.
Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.
As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.
For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.
This is a raw, powerful, frustrating, and devastating story. Yet, for all this, it is full of hope, beauty, and love. The ending is so, so fitting for the journey that Fitz and the Fool have taken. It’s hard to say much more than that without spilling over into spoiler territory, but the title, Assassin’s Fate, gives more than a hint. Yes, it is an ending. Is it the ending? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows what Hobb has planned.
In some ways, a third trilogy featuring these characters was never needed. The Tawny Man trilogy wrapped up quite nicely, and it’s easy to imagine both Fitz and the Fool living relatively happily ever after at the end. I felt absolutely spoiled when I learned that Robin Hobb would be bringing me more books featuring them. They’re some of my all-time favourite characters.
It’s not just Farseer characters who return this time. Assassin’s Fate deftly weaves in characters and concepts from two of Hobb’s other series set in the same realm: The Liveship Traders and The Rain Wild Chronicles. There’s been some amount of crossover in other books, but they had always felt more like cameo appearances. Assassin’s Fate takes it a step further and continues some of their stories too, as their journeys intertwine with Fitz’s.
You do not need to have read either of these series in order to follow along or read Assassin’s Fate. Hobb caters to those who have read the books as well as those who have not. After all, these characters, ideas, and places are also new to Fitz and Bee, who narrate the story. For those who have read these books, it’s delightful to see old faces again. Those who have not may not grasp the significance of certain characters or past events referenced, but it does not hinder the story in any way. My mom read Assassin’s Fate without having read any of Hobb’s other series, and she affirmed that she wasn’t confused by any of the crossover.
Assassin’s Fate was a hard book to put down. When I step back and go over the book with a critical eye, it probably could have been edited down a bit. Like the beginning of Tawny Man book one, Fool’s Errand, and parts of the previous two books in this trilogy, it can be rather slow at times. Yet the characters are so rich and engaging that reading these parts never felt like a slog. I was turning page after page, devouring every moment. It’s only when I look back, I realize that some parts did go on for a while, there was a bit of repetition of some plot elements, and maybe spending so much time with certain characters was not needed.
I said that the characters are rich and engaging, but that does not make them all likeable, and I’m not necessarily referring to the villains here. I found myself frequently frustrated at the way characters treated each other, often due to misunderstandings. The relationship between Fitz and the Fool, so special and complicated, was a key source of my frustration. The sense of whatever it is that makes their relationship so special was missing for much of the story, right when I would have expected it to peak.
Reflecting back on that very fitting ending though, I can’t help but wonder if Hobb had it all planned out from the very start, when the wrote the original Farseer Trilogy. It’s that well done. I smiled at the end, even when I wanted to cry. Yet as this third trilogy has reached its end, Fitz and the Fool is my least favorite of the Fitz trilogies, but in saying “least” it is still an excellent read. It’s just very hard to top the original Farseer Trilogy, and I preferred the action in The Tawny Man.
Robin Hobb is a true master. I’ve followed Fitz for around fifty years of his life now, from young boy to older man, world-weary and weighed down by the burdens of his quests and experiences. She has developed him, and the world and people around him, into people I truly care about, people who have touched me deeply. I certainly hope that this is not the last book Hobb writes in the Realm of the Elderlings. There’s a definite part of me that wants to know what happens next (especially in Bingtown), and what will become of some characters in particular after the events of Assassin’s Fate.