Note: Spoilers for previous books in the Farseer saga and for Fool’s Assassin
This book picks up immediately after the end of Fool’s Assassin, when Fitz’s nine-year-old daughter Bee was kidnapped from their country estate at Withywoods by Servants of the White Prophet. The Servants believed Bee to be “The Unexpected Son” from the White Prophecies; that is, the next authentic White Prophet, whom they call Shaysim. (For most of the book, they think Bee is a boy, and she goes along with it, because she has seen what the captors do to girls.)
Fitz, now 60 (albeit appearing to be 35), had been away at the time. He was temporarily staying at Buckkeep Castle, tending to his battered friend The Fool, whom he had not seen for twenty-four years. Fitz believed that Bee would be safe back at Withywoods, and so went to Buckkeep to try to help heal the Fool, who was tortured (and in the process blinded) by the Servants to find out the whereabouts of The Unexpected Son. The Servants believed this foretold son was the offspring of The Fool.
From previous books, readers know immediately what the story is, so to speak, but we have to wait a very long time for Fitz and even the Fool to figure it all out.
In the meantime, Chade’s daughter Shine, also captured with Bee, manages to escape (thanks to the efforts of Bee) just before the Servants tried to pull them through the Skill Stones. Fitz finds Shine and restores her to Chade, and then builds up his strength so he can go after Bee, or at least get revenge against those who took her.
Eventually, he takes off on his quest, and in spite of intending to go alone, he is accompanied by Chade’s other illegitimate child Lant, Bee’s friend Perseverance, The Fool, and The Fool’s attendant Spark. They complicate matters for Fitz and put him in even more danger, but Fitz of course only feels guilty for not caring for taking better care of them all.
They all end up in Kelsingra, where the Fool becomes even more dragon-like, and Fitz experiences a great enhancement of his Skill-magic. But the Fool gets them into trouble, again, and all of their lives are in danger. Again.
Discussion: We get a hint of what is behind some of the newer plot elements when one character tells Fitz, “Nothing is really lost. Shapes change. But it’s never completely gone.”
The Fool’s sway over Fitz is increasingly annoying, both because of The Fool employing it, and Fitz being vulnerable to it. This aspect of their relationship dominated the plot, and had the effect of lessening my enjoyment of the book vis-à-vis other installments. But this is not to say I didn’t love it anyway. Hobb is a master at fantasy, both in terms of world-building and in the depth of her characterizations. (It might be noted that some of her most endearing and unforgettable characters are not human.)
Overall, it is a wonderful series, which really should be read in order from the beginning of The Farseer Series. I am truly grateful to have been pointed toward Robin Hobb; some books just help you pass the time, but some enhance your life and your appreciation of it; I would definitely put these books in the second category!
Published in the U.S. by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2015