Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Harper Voyager, Kindle edition 2007
The thing with the Farseer books is that they go dark —far darker than I'd ever had fantasy go when I first seriously started reading the genre. We join Fitz at his lowest ebb. He's lost everything, the woman he loves, his position at court. He'd be a hunted criminal if it weren't for the fact that everyone believes that he's dead. As it is, he's known as the Witted Bastard, and has become something of a bogeyman used to frighten children. Yeah, so that totally sucks.
Free for the first time in his life to act with agency, Fitz chooses to avenge himself on the one who's responsible for creating the hell that has become his life – Regal, now king of the Six Duchies. And yet he's not free, for the duty laid upon him by his uncle Verity draws him to the Mountain Kingdom to aid the true heir in his mission to free the kingdom from the marauding Red Ship Raiders.
Hobb goes further to explore the relationship between Fitz and his wolf Nighteyes, in all its beautiful subtlety. Her deft strokes expand on the nature of the relationship with the enigmatic Fool, who will always be present, helping and, sometimes, hindering. Ketricken and Fitz also have a special relationship that is deep and abiding – and I dare say a true bond.
This is my second read through the book, and as expected, I missed a lot the first time and though I recalled the gist of what happens, there is so much layering to rediscover that it felt as if I were reading the story again for the first time. We are presented with the ancient mysteries of the Elderlings, the dragons, the lost magic of the stones. Our heroes sift through the ashes of a fallen civilisation, hardly understanding the artefacts that they uncover.
As always, Fitz's self-talk is heavy; he is at the end of the day his own worst enemy and he remains perhaps one of the most enduring and endearing fantasy characters I've had the pleasure of getting to know.
The Farseer books reward patient readers. I've heard folks complain that things take a long time to unfold, but I will keep saying this: nothing Hobb puts in her story goes to waste. Pay attention to every detail because, no matter how inconsequential it seems, it will invariably play an important role later.
I cannot underscore enough what an important work this is in the collective oeuvre of modern fantasy. Hobb deserves all the honours she receives for her immense contribution to this genre, and I stand forever humbled in her shadow.