The Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb
(Fool's Errand, The Golden Fool, Fool's Fate)
FitzChivalry Farseer is by far one of my favourite characters. Life has handed him a raw deal. Every time you think he's at the top of his game, or that things are finally going right for him, the metaphorical rug gets pulled out from beneath his feet.
We learn in this series more about his special relationship with the Fool, and how the two of them are responsible for setting the world to rights. You'd think that Fitz and Nighteyes would slip quietly into history after their high adventure and derring-do to wake dragons and save the Six Duchies from the Red Ship Raiders and a mad king. But no.
This is not the case.
Though Fitz considers himself old, and Nighteyes is even more so a venerable wolf who has long outlived his natural years, the two are dragged into fresh misadventure when they are sent to discover the fate of Queen Kettricken's son. As much as Fitz loathes politics and intrigue, he truly comes alive when he is thrust into the midst of it.
We learn much of how the Wit magic works, as not only do we discover a conspiracy of the Witted to seize power, but there is fresh concern over the fact that the missing Prince Dutiful is betrothed to an Outislander princess.
And there is what I call That Thing That Happens that astute readers would have understood implicitly is coming, is unavoidable, but Hobb sneaks it up on readers with such flair, with such awful dignity and precision that I had to put the book down and have a good, ugly cry for a quarter of an hour. Then I reread that scene again and had to go wash my face. The only other authors who've succeed in reducing me to a blubbering wreck are JRR Tolkien (I cry every time the elves return to the West) and of course Richard Adams's Watership Down.
Fitz and the Fool go on to have hectic adventures, travelling far afield on the trail of, yes... Dragons. While I do feel the pace does flag at times, and Hobb certainly (and rightfully so) is in no hurry to tell the tale, those hankering after fast-paced action may whinge a bit. (And yes, how I loathe those types of readers). This is a story where you let go and immerse for individual scenes, for the descriptions for the incredibly detailed cultural heritage she has constructed. Hobb's rich world-building, her well-realised, three-dimensional characters make this an unforgettable experience. And, of course, every exquisite detail. Pay attention when you read, because often it's the smallest, seemingly inconsequential details that later have earth-shattering ramifications.
This is a story about love, and what people are willing to do for the ones who are dear to them. It's about the secrets that turn around and bite them later; the sacrifices people make. Central to this is the triad of Fitz/The Fool/Nighteyes, and how the three are but parts of one complex character, or rather expressions of the same – a composite that has grown together. And yes, there are times when Hobb rips out your heart, just as she does with Fitz, but then she puts it back together again in the most unexpected ways to make you gasp and place a hand on your chest.
If ever there is an author who inspires me to do better as an author, it's Hobb. Sometimes authors don't stand the test of time; sometimes you return to their writing years later only to be disappointed horribly, (um hello, David Eddings). Not so with Hobb.