Book Review: The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb

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Author: Robin Hobb

Title: The Golden Fool

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Date: 2002

Synopsis: The second book in Robin Hobb’s thrilling fantasy series returns readers to the Six Duchies and the magical world of the Fitz and the Fool.

Fitz has been persuaded back to court, posing as a servant to the decadent Lord Golden (who is the Fool in disguise). In secret, he will train Prince Dutiful in the magic known as the Skill.

The peace remains fragile, so the diplomatic wedding between Dutiful and the Outislander princess is a crucial alliance. But when Elliania arrives she challenges the prince to undertake an impossible quest before she will accept him.

He must kill Icefyre, one of the last true dragons. And Fitz and the Fool must go with him…

Fool’s Errand

The Golden Fool image

Fool’s Errand reminded me of just how much I love Robin Hobb’s writing. Her fantasy feels traditional to me: it’s the comfort of knowing you’ll have magic and battles, betrayal, love and everything solved with a bit of diplomacy and some swordplay. That’s my kind of fantasy and it just presses all of the right buttons for me.

Needless to say, it made me excited for The Golden Fool.

Characters

I think this is the first time we have ever encountered Fitz not forming a bond to an animal in all the books we’ve known him. It was weird in a way: Fitz has to face up to his own shortcomings and find a way through them without a companion to give him a not-so-subtle nudge. But perhaps for that very same reason, I felt us as the readers got Fitz as a whole instead: we witness him facing said shortcomings and see how much he has developed as he learns to deal with them on his own.

A row with the Fool – for reasons I won’t go into because it is such a defining part of their bond in this book that I won’t spoil it – means there is less interaction between the two of them, and less of the Fool in general. I missed him and missed the smile only he seems to bring to Fitz’s face.

Plot

This wasn’t an easy book for our favourite Farseer. Isolated in more ways than one, Fitz must deal with his grief while accepting his responsibilities as a tutor. It’s not only Prince Dutiful who requires his services though and we are given the chance to see Fitz in a new light: as a teacher rather than as a student.

Only a short time had elapsed, yet I felt as if I had passed some important turning point. When I took a breath, it seemed to fill my lungs more deeply than it had in days.

While the narration remains with Fitz, secondary characters are given the chance to grow. We get to know Dutiful properly and Fitz is not the only one changing position: Chade becomes the student rather than the mentor. Hap struggles to adapt to town-life while Jenna offers something Fitz isn’t certain he is ready for.

Themes

The ever-increasing threat of the Piebalds coupled with Dutiful’s betrothal makes an interesting plot: danger, tension, humour and duty combine in an explosive blend that has dire consequences for all involved, especially Fitz. All of the action happens within Buckkeep this time, which felt like a nod to Assassin’s Apprentice where the danger was much closer to home there as well.

There was a lot of circular themes going around. The role Fitz finds himself in, the duties he must undertake, show these changes: he is no longer the apprentice but instructing others. The next generation are stepping up to the mark and the irony is lost on neither the reader nor Fitz himself how circular events are – just as the Fool predicts. Guardianship and tutoring have come in a full loop.

The subtle changes – Fitz without a bond etc – feels like it has opened the story up to all sorts of possibilities again. Looking forward to what’s next!

Goodreads | Amazon

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