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Battle Plan

It’s been a long, hard road (ok, more long than hard – hey, stop giggling, that wasn’t a euphemism – because although it took way over a decade, I really enjoyed the journey), and I’m about to reach the final phase. I’m dreading it, because I know it won’t be as much fun as writing and even editing was. Hence I’d better prepare my “battle plan”.

Battle plan

(I cannot confirm or deny my plans for ultimate world domination at this stage. Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

TickDONE

  • build an elaborate fantasy world in my head, with its own history, races, rules, evolution, customs, races, and coherent systems of magic
  • think up a great, engaging story with interesting characters
  • make many pages worth of background notes
  • create timelines, maps, and drawings of settings (for my own benefit)
  • experiment with blurbs and synopses
  • finish writing the first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy story
  • proofread, make corrections
  • rinse and repeat proofreading-and-correction phase (many, many times…)
  • send my story off to beta readers
  • await feedback from said beta readers

HourglassIN PROGRESS

  • encorporate feedback into manuscript
  • start giving up hope about it all being one huge elaborate prank on the rest of the world and start wondering how THAT many people can be THAT dense to want to make such a buffoon their leader next year
  • ponder why Leo finally won an Oscar for portraying such a one-dimensional character in an emotionally dull film (wanting to survive isn’t an emotion), and why a film whose premise seems so far-fetched to me could collect so many rewards
  • carefully read the whole manuscript out loud, making final corrections
  • keep editing my blurbs and synopses, and finally settle on one of them

ChecklistTODO

  • research agents who accept fantasy submissions in Australia, and possibly UK and US
  • research publishers who accept fantasy submissions (update my old research)
  • begin the agonisingly long process of submitting to literary agents and possibly (traditional) publishers, waiting to get rejection letters and praying that the right person in the right mood who can make important decisions gets their hands on my manuscript and decides to give me a chance…
  • if above fails (too many rejections to bear), consider approaching the relatively small Australian publishing house which, years ago, gave me feedback that encouraged me to continue writing: “… as a new writer he clearly has a wide knowledge of the genre and displays a fluency with its style, plot and character conventions… would be interested to see a completed manuscript with a view to considering it for publication.”
  • if above fails, consider publishing story on Amazon (I realise getting published – traditionally – is very ambitious and odds are against me, but, hey, I can dream, right?) and begin work on my new idea…

In the meantime, I’ll have to keep plugging away at my day job, and remember that…

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

– Helmuth von Moltke

Not that I’m considering agents or publishers the enemy. It feels more like I’ll be at war with chance itself. So maybe this one:

Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.

– Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Twiddling my thumbs…

Feels strange, not having that manuscript that you still need to finish always nagging you, always lurking somewhere in the back of your mind. I called it (done, that is) just before Christmas, and have since sent it out to a grand total of four beta readers.

Thus far, I’ve heard back from one.

Maybe the Christmas-timing wasn’t my brightest idea ever, because I’m sure everyone is very busy around this time of year (or very busy relaxing), but it was more a case of me wanting to be done by then rather than them wanting it by then.

The one that I heard back from is my wonderful sister, who can be very critical in a good kind of way, and she has a knack for picking up repetitions that I missed and other fiddly things, so I’ve made several small updates to my manuscript based on her feedback. Another of my beta readers is a good friend who has read a fair bit of fantasy and can hopefully give me some “that part worked for me, that part didn’t” type feedback, while the other two are fellow bloggers (thanks, Nicholas and Suzanne, much appreciated!) who will hopefully give me the sort of feedback you can only give if you’ve been there yourself, if you know what it’s like to have written something that’s very dear to your heart, but you need honest criticism, be it positive or negative, from someone who knows what sort of things to look for. In a way, I think, it’s much easier to be critical of someone else’s work than of your own. (Sort of like a parent finding it hard to criticise much about their own child.)

And of course twiddling my thumbs ins’t all I’m doing. I’ve been reading again – reading someone else’s writing, that is, without (at least consciously) having to keep an eye on edit-worthy bits. Wow, I’d forgotten how great reading can be. I denied myself that pleasure (to some extent at least) so that I’d spend more of my precious spare time writing. I have a lot of catching up to do! I’ve played around with some programming projects, I’ve spent an awesome week-and-a-half off work over Christmas and New Year’s with the family, I’ve had time to follow some other interests… and I have to say, there is a part of me that wants to get back into writing again.

My now-complete manuscript is a Book 1, and I’m keen to find out where the story goes next (I usually think I know, but it likes to surprise me from time to time with a life of its own; Book 2 will, by necessity, have less wiggle-room than the first one). There are at least two other stand-alone stories spooking around in my head that are gathering up the courage to become a little louder, a little more demanding to be let out.

But until I get that feedback from my other beta readers, I am twiddling my thumbs and waiting at least to some extent. I have to admit I’m a little antsy, wondering whether they’ll think that one section was too cheesy, or whether the setting of that scene was a bit confusing, or a dialog sounded too stilted, or… you get the idea.

What it comes down to, though, is that every bit of criticism will help to improve my book.

That’s worth waiting for.

Drumroll… Blurb reveal!

It is with much excitement, spiced with a hefty dose of trepidation, that I’d like to reveal a couple of versions of my blurb. No big deal, I’ve only worked on this for, oh, 11 years or so now.

First off, here are some details about my debut novel.

The Essentials

Genre: Epic Fantasy
Name of book: First Drop
Name of trilogy: The Mage Academy Journals
Approximate word count: 130,000
Status: Polishing and finishing epilogue
Intended audienceAdults (not necessarily YA)

Tropical Island

Quite close to how I imagine the tropical setting of my novel. Heavily influenced by my experiences of growing up in Papua New Guinea. (Image taken from public domain and modified to smudge out anachronisms, etc.)

One-sentence Pitch

I find it extremely hard to sum up my story in a single sentence, but it’s something that is often requested, so here is what I think is its essence:

My story is about a boy who returns to his tropical island home after years amongst pale-skinned northerners to find himself the focal point of intrigues and prophecies due to his unique heritage and blend of abilities.

Extended Pitch

If I had a few more sentences to pitch my work, it’d go a little something like this:

My story is about a boy who returns home after years amongst the pale-skinned northerners to find himself the focal point of intrigues and prophecies due to his unique heritage and blend of abilities.

His own people won’t accept him unless he undergoes their initiation rites. The martial Vennar want to deny his family even exists, let alone escaped from slavery. The pale Nothrans, who’ve built a Mage Academy on his tropical home island, want to manipulate him.

All he wants is to be reunited with what’s left of his family.

Longer Blurb (250 words)

So this is what I’d ideally like to have on the back cover if it were up to me:

Having the potential to learn the magic of the pale-skinned Nothrans, who have been allowed to build their Mage Academy on his tropical home island, Miniri, opens up a whole realm of possibilities for fifteen-year-old Kentos. But, having already spent several years amongst the Nothrans in their lands far to the north, he knows he will have to endure racism from those who cannot see past his dark skin, and studying at the Academy will only serve to further ostracise him from his fellow Quemin.

Carrying the blood of the reviled Vennar in his veins means Kentos can master their ability to discern the visualised intentions of others, which makes that martial race peerless fighters. Yet this stain upon his family’s honour must remain secret, for the Vennar’s enslavement of the Quemin was officially supposed to have ended many generations ago.

These are challenges Kentos believes he can handle, even as he recovers from an attack that killed his sister and crushed his foot. What he has yet to learn, however, is that his parents have escaped from slavery with even more secrets – secrets that will make him the subject of prophecies, and of manipulation attempts from multiple unexpected angles.

As his friendship with fellow student Tesliah, who uncovers his story by reading his journals, begins to blossom into a tender first love, and as his path converges with that of Ri, a Vennara he once called friend, Kentos will have to face decisions: most of them difficult… one disastrous.

Shorter Blurb (169 words)

If I had to limit myself a bit more, although cutting each word hurts like heck, I might be able to live with shortening it to this:

Having the potential to learn the magic of the pale-skinned Nothrans, who’ve built their Mage Academy on his tropical home island, opens up a realm of possibilities for fifteen-year-old Kentos. But, having spent several years amongst Nothrans, he knows he must endure racism from those who cannot see past his dark skin.

Carrying the blood of the reviled martial Vennar in his veins means Kentos can learn to discern people’s visualised intentions, but this stain upon his family must remain secret, for the enslavement of his people ended long ago – at least officially.

These are challenges Kentos believes he can handle. What he has yet to learn is that his family has even more secrets that will make him the subject of manipulation attempts from multiple unexpected directions.

As the friendship with fellow student Tesliah, who uncovers his story by reading his journals, deepens, and as his path converges with that of Ri, a Vennara he once called friend, many decisions Kentos must face will be difficult… one disastrous.

What’s Next?

Well, once I finish up the epilogue of Book 1 (quite tricky getting the right threads tied up and leaving enough open to promote interest in the larger story) and complete my current editing run, I’d love to get feedback from beta readers. I have two fellow bloggers who have expressed an interest, and I hope they’ll be as honest as they can with things like pacing, repetition, character development, whether dialogue feels natural enough, whether I have some “pet expressions” I’m not aware of, etc. Thus far, I’ve only had family and close friends read my work, and as grateful as I am to each and every one of them, it’s not quite the same as feedback from objective readers, especially ones who have been through the writing process themselves and know what to look out for.

After that (and I have no idea how long that will take), I’ll have to go through the whole daunting submission process, reading rejection letters and so on. Fun times! 🙂

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb – Errata

As mentioned in my review of Fool’s Quest, the second part of Robin Hobb’s wonderful Fitz and the Fool trilogy, the number of errors in this book is much lower compared to Book 1, where the lack of editing was quite ridiculous. This time around, there were both far fewer errors and the errors were less severe, less able to rip me out of my immersion while reading through its 739 pages (UK large paperback version – is that what’s called “trade paperback”?).

Fool's Quest - Errata

As for Book 1, I’ll use the same categories “Error”, “Note”, and “Guess”, as well as these abbreviated ones (though not all categories make an appearance here):

Cons. = Consistency
Conv. = Convention
Gr. = Grammar
Punct. = Punctuation
Rep. = Repetition
Sp. = Spelling
Sugg. = Suggestion

Page Type Correction/Comment
5 Gr. “[…] I still knew him in the important ways, the one that went beyond trivial facts […]” – Should be the ones that, since ways is plural.
5 Gr. “[…] I doubted that either of us had ever truly been children.” – Should be been a child, since either in this case needs to be treated as singular, not plural (proximity rule doesn’t apply here).
9 Gr. “Whoever he sent to this chamber would be discreet.” – Should be whomever, because he is the subject: He sent whom? (A few lines below that, whom is used correctly: “Alliance with whom?”)
11 Gr. “[…] evergreen boughs and brightly-coloured pennants.” – Should be brightly coloured, without the hyphen. Yes, compound adjectives are usually hyphenated, but not when the first part is an adverb ending in -ly. (See Rule 3 here.)
43 Gr. “It seemed so odd that I could recognize who the scream belonged to.” – Should be whom, of course.
143 Gr. “[…] trying not to wonder as I did so if I would use them if Chade ordered me to. If it came to that, I’d decide then […]” – Great example of whether vs if, especially because of the three ifs in that section. The second and third ones are fine, but the first one is not a condition (“if <condition> then <something>”) but an either/or case, so it should be whether.
168 Sp. “[…] almost seems to make sense some times.” – Sometimes is one word.
189 Sp. “[…] perception when they over flew a battle.” – Overfly is one word, hence it should be overflew.
357 Gr. “[…] when everyone else were as passive as cattle […]” – Everyone is singular (not “everyone are singular”), hence it should be everyone else was.
365 Guess “[…] fearing what would happen next. The Lord Chade came. He said […]” – I guess it’s not technically incorrect as such, but since I don’t believe the article the was used in front of Lord anywhere else in the book, I’m fairly certain this is a typo and should be then Lord Chade came.
391 Punct. “They are on ‘a path’ Fitz.” – (Note: I changed the original double quotes to single quotes to be consistent in my, er, quoting.) Apart from the fact that this almost looks like “scare quotes”, there needs to be a comma before Fitz.
470 Punct. “Bee had very little scent. No this was Shine’s […]” – Again, there is a comma missing: No, this was Shine’s.
508 Gr. “‘Not much further now,’ Kerf called back […]” – Should be farther, since it relates to physical distance. Watch Finding Forrester, and you won’t ever forget that rule. 😉
510 Cons. There is a consistency error on this page. First, the order in which Dwalia says they need to go through… something (won’t spoil it)… while holding hands is Dwalia, Vindeliar, Alaria, Bee, Reppin, Kerf, Shun, and finally Soula. So Alaria is supposed to take one of Bee’s hands, Reppin the other. However, in the next paragraph, Bee is between Reppin and Kerf.
541 Error “The Skill-fountains there, they say, and is hard to navigate.” – Something is wrong or missing here. I can only guess that it should be one of these: “The Skill fountains there” (without the hyphen); “The Skill fountain’s there” (missing apostrophe, i.e. a contraction of fountain and is); “The Skill-river fountains there” (which would make sense because river is mentioned in the previous sentence).
542 Cons. “[…] that Kitney meet him there, to duel with staffs and fists […]” and two paragraphs below: “When Kitney’s stave broke […]” – As a weapon, the singular is staff and the plural either staffs or staves. So it should be when Kitney’s staff broke. My guess is that someone was told to replace staffs with staves (perhaps as part of converting the US edition to the UK version?) on that page, and ended up replacing the wrong instance.
579 Cons. “Kettricken had taken Shine to hand. […] Shine blossomed in the light of the queen’s interest.” – At this point in the story, Kettricken is no longer queen.
584 Gr. “Clerres was distant, further away than […]” and one paragraph below that: “[…] those who had come furthest to Buckkeep’s port […]” – Both cases relate to physical distance, so it should be farther away and come farthest.
585 Sugg. “[…] I think it was the wise decision.” – Not technically incorrect, but I’d change it to a wise decision. If the intent is to emphasise that this decision was the wise one as opposed to the other decision being less wise, then I’d change it to the wiser decision.

So I’ve spotted only 19 corrections this time (for Book 1 it was a staggering 63, with some of them bad enough to make you scratch your head and wonder how anyone could miss that).

Maybe, if I get an ARC of Book 3, I can help eliminate all the errors (feel free to go meme-crazy in your mind at this point) for that one. 😉

Review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

A bit delayed, I know, but here is my review of Robin Hobb’s second book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, Fool’s Quest, which came out in August.

First off, if you haven’t read the previous book, Fool’s Assassin (see my review from last year), I would recommend that you: a) stop reading this review, because it will contain some Book 1 spoilers, b) get your hands on a copy of said Book 1 and start reading that, and if you haven’t already, c) go to the beginning and read the first book of the first trilogy in this epic series: Assassin’s Apprentice. (My post on that book lists the order of all the previous books, but if you want to limit yourself to the “Fitz books”, read the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies before getting to The Fitz and the Fool.) Yes, you can begin with this trilogy, but starting at the beginning will be worth it, trust me.

Still with me? Great, you’re clearly a connoisseur. (Surely you wouldn’t have cheated… right?)

The Front Cover

Fool's Quest - front cover

The front cover of my copy of Fool’s Quest

As with the first book, the version that came out in Australia is the same as the UK large paperback version, this time in a silver theme where the first one was in gold (or was that bronze and we’re heading for gold with Book 3?).

The dominating image is that of a crow with black (and some white) feathers carrying a thin band or a ribbon in its beak. The only other image is nestled in the fanciful decoration of the letter Q, and appears to be a small bottle or stoppered vial containing something dark red, shot through with strands of silver. The significance of both will become apparent as you read through the book.

A succinct endorsement from the Guardian, the expected words of the title, author, and series, and we’re almost allowed to begin reading.

The Back Cover

Fool's Quest - back cover

The back cover of my copy of Fool’s Quest

A quick glance at the back cover shows that there’s not much worth noting other than a black-and-white feather, a blurb that vaguely describes the main conflict that drives the plot, but which I personally found a bit misleading, and another endorsement from the Sunday Telegraph.

Let’s get to it!

Book 2

Middle books in trilogies can sometimes be the author’s less-loved step-child, and something readers will endure in order to get to the good bit, i.e. the conclusion in Book 3. Not so with Robin Hobb, in any of her series (I mean, come on, how great was Royal Assassin, where we got to know Nighteyes?), and especially not so in this particular trilogy.

The first book did a great job of setting the mood, catching us up on what Fitz had been up to since we left him at the end of Fool’s Fate, and introducing some new characters – especially Fitz’s wonderful, quirky daughter, Bee – before introducing the core of the trilogy’s plot when (I did warn you about spoilers, didn’t I?) Bee was abducted by sinister forces (the timing of which the blurb gets wrong) and the Fool appeared where you’d least expect him: at the end of Fitz’s knife, revealing in the final chapters a shocking double meaning to the title Fool’s Assassin. Of course we already know that at that time, Fitz didn’t recognise the Fool, dirty and broken as he was, and thought he was protecting Bee from a filthy old beggar. He took him through the memory stone pillars to Buckkeep to try to heal him, leaving his homestead of Withywoods unprotected.

Anyone who knows Fitz can guess that Fitz will blame himself for Bee’s abduction, but of course it will be some time before he actually finds out about it. In the meantime, we the readers are distracted from the carrot dangling in front of us, that is, anticipating that Fitz will go out and rescue Bee, by witnessing Fitz being drawn back into the intrigues and relationships in and around Buckkeep, as well as learning more and more about the Fool’s story. As we do so, we learn about the cruelty of those called the Servants, what they aim to do and what atrocities the Fool has suffered at their hands. Of course we already knew that, despite Fitz’s certainty that the Fool wouldn’t survive, they would find a way to heal him – after all, the trilogy wouldn’t have been named Fitz and the Fool if one of them were to make only a brief appearance and then die… right? Plus, we know about the power of the Skill. And (spoiler-ish hint!) if you know the Rain Wild Chronicles, you may be able to make a connection between events there and the front cover.

Recognition… Finally!

I don’t want to spoil too much of Book 2 for those who haven’t read it yet, but this one thing I just can’t… not say. (Now’s a good time to go away if you don’t want to see Book 2 spoilers at all.)

One of the best things about this book is that Fitz – at long last – gets recognition for all that he’s sacrificed and done behind the scenes for his friends, his king and his country. I won’t go into detail how much recognition that is, or what form it takes, but his reaction to it was just wonderfully written and, I’m not ashamed to say, had me sniffing and sobbing with tears of joy.

The Wit

This book re-introduces the issues surrounding the magic known in the Six Duchies as the Wit, and the topic of Fitz bonding with another animal is brought to the reader’s attention more than in the first book. Again, I’ll stop there so I won’t spoil things with too many details, but as much as I loved Nighteyes, I realised how good it would be for Fitz to find another bond partner.

Tension

Most of the tension in the story comes from the Fool wanting to get back to the town Clerres, where he grew up as a young White – the sooner the better – while Fitz wants to pursue Bee’s captors but is tied down with new obligations as well as a reluctance to act too rashly without knowing more about what he’s up against. (Who would’ve believed Fitz would ever grow wise?)

Just as the reader realised in Book 1 what Bee was long before Fitz gets it through his thick skull in Book 2, we know that Bee’s captors and the people on whom the Fool wants to exact his revenge are one and the same. Of course it can’t be that easy though, and the beginning of the journey is delayed while the reader sinks deeper into the clutches of the intricacies of life at court.

That’s not to say that these delays are annoying, or that these intricacies are boring – I found that for me they created an interesting internal tension, as I couldn’t get enough of all those details and loved meeting old acquaintances from previous books again, while at the same time wanting the two friends to get going already!

Summary

Fool’s Quest does what middle books are meant to do, and so much more. It sets the stage for the conclusion with consummate skill; it leaves the reader drooling for the well-deserved revenge and rescue that must surely come, but also agonising over the cliffhanger ending that must just-as-surely be pointing to unexpected obstacles in the path to that goal.

Along the way, readers are treated to nostalgic walks down memory lane as they encounter once again several much-loved characters from earlier books, but also find out how much some characters have changed.

If there’s anything to criticise, I found myself wishing for more chapters from Bee’s perspective. There were precious few of those, and she is just so refreshingly different that I would’ve loved to learn more about her.

Personally, I can only groan at the idea that I must wait another year to get my hands on Book 3. I don’t even know its title yet! (Amazon lists it as “Robin Hobb Untitled 3″… grrr!) This time, I’ll ask for an ARC.

If you read my review of Book 1 last year, you may remember that I complained about the number of errors the editors let slip through. There were a few in this one as well, but nowhere near as bad as Book 1, and not such glaring ones that ripped me out of the narrative. So kudos to the publishers for the improvement.

Anyone able to tell me what Book 3 will be called, or what’s required to get an ARC, please let me know in the comments.

Fearing agents’/editors’ pet peeves

I just came across Thomas Weaver’s great post on Thinking to myself – or not that raised an interesting point about sometimes having circumstances where you need to dare to break some of the “rules” that seem to be so important to literary agents and editors.

Reading the beginning of the post, where Thomas explains the redundancy of adding “to oneself” after “thought”, at first I thought to m— I mean, I just, er, thought, “Heh, silly noob mistakes.” (Then I ran off and searched my manuscript for occurrences of “to herself”, “to himself”, and “to myself”.)

But seriously in all seriousness(*), I find it scary that agents/editors seem to have all these semi-undocumented pet peeves and the poor sods who submit their hard work and may commit one or two of them (which may soon be me!), despite the fact that these faux pas are easily corrected easy to correct, may never hear back from them nor ever find out what they did wrong.

(*) See what I did there? I avoided triggering someone’s pet peeve against adverbs (against which I’ve ranted previously) by using an adverbial phrase. Same thing, really (except it’s less succinct), but strangely enough, the same people that really mind adverbs don’t seem to mind adverbial phrases. Hypocritical of them, I know, I know… but they seem to “make” the rules.

I hope that there are more “reasonable” agents and editors out there than I realise (despite the fact that I understand how they came to be that way; I’m sure some of the things they have to read are just… shockingly bad). Because I’ll be running that gauntlet soon(ish). #amwriting

Wise Old Tree

Even this Wise Old Tree doesn’t know all the pet peeves that need to be avoided. (Oh, fine, I admit it – the tree doesn’t really have anything to do with this post’s topic. I just wanted to sneak another one of my wife’s great photos into my blog. Sue me.)

Does anyone have (or know of) a list of these types of pet peeves, or unwritten rules, for authors to avoid? And please don’t point me to the Turkey City Lexicon – in my opinion, that’s just common sense mixed with “never do this!” overreactions to serial-pattern-abusers.

Excitement building about building excitement

The reason I’ve been slacking off with my blog-writing lately is that I haven’t been slacking off with my book-writing. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally finished the major rewrite of the section I was, er, rewriting.

I’ve written about what had happened and what I was planning to do a while ago in The Road So Far, from finishing a manuscript to early rejections to planning to do a huge revamp of my work, and now I’m done with what I set out to do. I’ve completely transformed the story while keeping core aspects of it, constructed a “story around the story” that I think works quite well, brought in a bunch of new characters to join the reader in discovering the main storyline, woven together the pre-existing threads with new threads and the threads around them, and I think it helps to give the whole thing a sense of building up to something.

It’s taken me a fair while (I have a family, a day job, and hobbies…), and to some extent it’s been frustrating because I had to slow down from my normal “just let it happen in my head” style of writing and think more about how all the individual threads interact and make sure that the story as a whole is cohesive, that some bits don’t contradict others and that the timeline is consistent from all perspectives. I even went to the trouble of using a mind-mapping tool to plan out my timeline visually for myself, with all the little occurrences noted of where a character may say something happened “three days ago” or was planning to do something “in three days” to make sure it all matches up with what’s in my head and what everyone else says. A very different aspect to writing than what I’m used to, but it’s been an interesting exercise, and most likely one I’ll have to repeat as the series progresses beyond Book 1 (which I’m hoping it will).

Of course, as I’ve read through it all multiple times to make sure all the little details are lined up, I’ve also let my inner editor run amok and did lots of reviewing, correcting, and polishing.

I think I’d even be willing to let some people read what I’ve got so far… which is both exciting and scary.

Now that I’m done with all the “weaving”, I get to finally go back to really writing because it still needs an ending to round off the first book (much, much more material in the series is still spooking around in my head, and I’ve got over 150k words from one character’s first-person perspective already written that I can use/adapt/weave into the main story when the first book is ready to send off… hey, it’s epic fantasy). I’ve got some ideas of how it’s going to go, but the details will grow like an independent organism writhing in the back of my mind while I try to keep up with putting it down on paper screen.

At a little over 70k words, the story should need about 15-25k more to give the reader an ending that will hopefully offer some explanations, some excitement, tie up some threads while leaving others dangling to be woven into Book 2, and leave her with an aftertaste of, “Hey, that was a great story set in an interesting world. I’m looking forward to visiting again and finding out what happens there next.”

Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy!

Excitement ahead! (Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

The end is so close I can smell it! I look forward to seeing where the story will take me.

Was I duped by Sarah Daltry?

My dilemma for the past couple of weeks has been that I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to blog in support of Sarah Daltry or one… well, warning about her. I’ve been trying to weigh both sides of the story, since I felt it was worth a blog post, but simply couldn’t decide. Supporting either side felt, and still feels, wrong. When I moped about it to my wife, she – wisely, as always – told me that there’s nothing wrong with continuing to sit on the fence if neither side appears palatable.

So, here I sit.

Undecided, but wanting to get my doubts out.

The email

After my passionate rant in her defense (and that of anyone who’s ever been bullied) when I heard that she was withdrawing her written work and her social media presence due to extreme bullying, I didn’t hear about the issue again for months until I received an email from someone who said she was a friend of Sarah’s. She apologised for the delay, saying she’d only found my post recently in a Google search (and that Sarah wouldn’t do such research herself), explained Sarah’s current situation (which was apparently much improved after she was suicidal and required professional help, so improved, in fact, that she was “coming back, with a focus on […] the stories she loves and what the writing means to her”), and thanked me for my supportive words in the open letter I wrote.

Honestly, that felt good. I’d done the right thing, stood up for what I believed was right and smote (well, with words) what I believed was wrong. And I was being thanked for it. I was under no illusions that my words had pulled Sarah back from the brink of darkness or anything that dramatic, but I was sincerely glad to hear she was doing better and writing once again. Someone who’d had that many bad things happen to her (bullying, via bad reviews as well as emails and on social media, rape, poverty, depression, suicide attempts…) surely deserved my help.

My reply

I replied to the email, thanking her for the update and confessing to be a “sucker for happy endings, but enough of a realist to understand that it’s not always like that”. I offered to help if I could:

“If there’s anything I can do to help, please do let me know – however much, however little, I’d be glad to help, whether it’s a new blog post with your words (only with your permission, of course), beta reading, feedback of any kind, or simply taking down the old post if Sarah prefers and never mentioning it again… just let me know.”

Research of my own

We emailed each other another couple of times; she was happy for me to do a blog post, even to post the contents of her first email, and, since Sarah was currently “rewriting her NA series that was originally romance [into] a new series [that was] geared more towards YA”, I could share upcoming promos for that series.

I agreed, saying I’d do a blog post later that week (over two weeks ago). In the meantime, I wanted to do a little bit of research to know more about Sarah’s story; surely, many others had carried the torch as I had, had stood up to bullying in their own ways in support of someone who’d been treated that badly.

The original “Open Letter to Bullies” post, in which Sarah announced that she was giving up, conceding defeat to all the hate, was no longer available, but there’s always the wayback machine for such cases (even if the styling is off, the content is there):

http://web.archive.org/web/[…]/open-letter-to-bullies/

The other side

To my surprise, what I discovered next was quite a different story. Rather than the social media outrage I’d expected at an author being bullied, the first three results of googling “Sarah Daltry” were her author pages on goodreads.com (with quite a favourable rating), her own site, and amazon.com, followed by a blog post by a site that seemed dedicated to stopping bullying on goodreads, except… that one was not supportive of her at all. Instead, just four days after Sarah published her open letter to bullies, it claimed to have sufficient information to take the stance that the whole thing was just a PR stunt to promote her work:

http://www.stopthegrbullies.com/2014/04/09/sarah-daltry-cries-bully/

Wait, I thought, aren’t you guys supposed to be trying to stop the bullying rather than adding to it? I read through this post with skepticism sitting heavy on my shoulders, but starting to slip as I found out that she’d reversed her decision to take down her site and her self-published books. Reading through the comments, people seemed to be quite willing to get right back to bashing Sarah (or was it “back”?).

There were a few other sites that were similarly dismissive of her claims, stating that Sarah had made quite a profit out of “crying wolf”, getting many “sympathy buys” after asking publicly for support, etc., and that there was no proof that she’d ever been bullied by bad reviews, with high ratings on both goodreads and amazon.

Who’s right?

Hmm. So either Sarah Daltry was right with her claims and those other websites were just adding to the incredible unfairness she’s experienced, or they (I’ll call them her “decriers”) were right to call BS and Sarah has been abusing the sympathy of a great lot of people, myself included, for her own profit.

Either way, I feel I have a right to be outraged. I think. I’m just really reluctant to direct my outrage at anyone unless I can be sure that, when I get down from my fence, I land on the right side.

Here’s what I emailed back to Sarah’s friend after I’d read up on the issue:

Wow, do I feel stupid. I was about to write up that blog post I mentioned, but, having just done a bit of googling myself, I’m not quite sure what to believe…

The reply was… well, understanding, ending with: “I will respect your choice either way, because in the end the choice is up to you as to what you believe.”

Checking newer posts on Sarah’s site like this one, she replies to comments by Nicholas (whose post first alerted me to the whole issue and who I think is a genuinely nice guy) that, yes, she’s read positive things as well as negative things posted about her.

What doesn’t add up for me

Here’s why I’m not willing to leave my perch on the fence just yet, some things still don’t quite make sense….

Assuming Sarah Daltry’s claims and reasons for withdrawing from “public life” were legitimate:

  • Why did she claim that she’d be removing her books but then did no such thing?
  • Why are her reviews so high on goodreads and amazon if there was such extreme bullying?
  • Why does she claim that she reads positive and negative things about herself when her friend says she’d never do that (only two days earlier)?
  • Why wasn’t her friend more, I don’t know, outraged when I said I wasn’t sure what to believe? If your friend gets treated really badly and someone says they think she might be lying about it, wouldn’t you get upset?
  • Would a site that’s supposed to be about protecting those who were bullied call BS on someone claiming to have been bullied, unless they had pretty good evidence?

Assuming it was all a farce and those who say she cried wolf to engender false sympathy are right:

  • Couldn’t the lack of evidence of bullying and the positive reviews just be because the abusive reviews and comments were removed from the sites in question? (I honestly don’t know what their policies are.)
  • Is Sarah’s “friend” who emailed me actually just another one of the multiple personas her decriers claim she maintains?
  • Why does the “stopthegrbullies” site not post the “evidence” that proves who Sarah Daltry is? Is it really because of a promise to those who gave them that information, to protect them from Sarah using her other personas (“socks”) to write bad reviews about them? Even if she abused sympathy to sell her books, making Sarah sound like an evil kingpin with that much power doesn’t quite gel.
  • Why did the “stopthegrbullies” site remove commenters’ last names and links to their websites? Because of “trolls stalking their blog” to protect the commenters, really? Sorry, but that seems far-fetched to me. By the same token as their argument about Sarah’s “socks”, some of those commenters who were “convinced” could then well have been the site owners themselves.

And, either way: Would people really do that?!? Wow, maybe I’m just too naïve.

So… was I duped?

What do you think? Or know? Have I missed any major information? Am I being silly in not being able to reach a conclusion, one way or the other? Should I just “let it go” and stop fretting?

Please let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me (amos at amosmcarpenter dot com) if you’d rather not make it public.

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb – Errata

As mentioned in my review of Fool’s Assassin a bit over a week ago, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but it was quite full of errors, including little typos, grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, repetitions and factual errors. If you’re following my posts, you’ll know that I have a hard time reading past those, so for this book, I took it upon myself to write down all those things that nagged me. Still a great book, mind you… but I think many of these could have and in fact should have been caught by editors and proofreaders.

Fool's Assassin Errata

Some are things I’d have suggested if I were Robin Hobb’s editor or beta reader, others are plain errors. Both are things I’d like my beta readers (when I get to that stage… haven’t forgotten your offer, Suzanne!) to point out to me, because often, as the one doing the writing, you’re too close to the forest to see the trees, or too close to the blackboard to see the context, or… you get the picture.

So, below is my list of corrections of Robin Hobb’s latest book, Fool’s Assassin, in order in which they appear in the book, listing the page number in my copy (the UK large paperback version; see the review for cover photos) and using the categories “Error”, “Note”, and “Guess”, as well as these abbreviated ones:

Cons. = Consistency
Conv. = Convention
Gr. = Grammar
Punct. = Punctuation
Rep. = Repetition
Sp. = Spelling
Sugg. = Suggestion

Page Type Correction/Comment
2 Gr. “[…] do wonder, sometimes, if […]” – The if should be whether to avoid ambiguity.
5 Note Example of correct usage of whom: “On whom else […]”; also on p. 201 – I’m glad the author isn’t one of those who believes whom to be dead! Having said that, see errors below.
7 Conv. “I AM an old man.” – CAPS should be replaced by italics. There are several occurrences of this throughout; I’m guessing this was meant to be italicised later?
10 Guess “[…] guard contingent […] to rival the Queen’s Own.” – I don’t recall that the Fitz books had a “Queen’s Own” guard contingent (used as a proper noun), but could be wrong, or it could be the introduction of a new term, or accidental capitalisation of Own.
19 Rep. “Of course not!” – Patience says “of course” three times within six lines.
20 Rep. “[…] presence of all life, of course, […]” – In the paragraph directly following Patience’s above, Web says “of course” twice within two lines.
23 Gr. “Who do they hunt?” – Should be whom, as they is the subject: They hunt whom?
25 Cons. Fitz says that it’s been “almost ten years since I’d killed anyone”, then, on page 31, he says it was “over a decade” since he’d even thought of killing anyone. No significant amount of time passes between the two occasions.
41 Gr. “[…] it was what I smelled made me […]” – Is there a that missing, or is that intended to be colloquialism (which would be very unusual for Fitz)?
47 Rep. The word “market” is used three times in the same sentence. The first one could be dropped without losing any meaning.
66 Gr. “[…] needled my Skilled at him.” – Perhaps due to an edit; should be Skill.
86 Gr. “Who would you write your memoir for?” – Should be whom.
86 Rep. Two paragraphs begin with “<Something> shocked me”.
92 Rep. Two now occurrences in quick succession: “[…] was guttering now. […] Morning was not far away now.”
103 Cons. “Autumn went out […] as ever it was in fall.” – Not 100%, but I don’t believe the two can be used interchangeably, “fall” being US English and “autumn” being UK/AUS English.
109 Error “She […] wiped vainly at her seventeen.” Huh? Copy/paste error?
112 Cons. “When I had visited the Fool’s old home, I had thought only to look at it for a time and touch the stone that once I had had a friend…” Not sure, but the “stone” seems out of place; the mountain homes weren’t made of stone and there was no other significant stone there as far as I know.
125 Gr. “Who do I have who understands who we are…?” – Should be whom.
127 Gr. “This were the sort of puzzle that I dreaded […]” – Should be was.
132 Gr. “She was too young to ask her permission.” She and her refer to the same person (Bee); since she’s not asking for her own permission, it should be something like “She was too young for me to ask her permission” or “She was too young to be asked for her permission”.
140 Gr./Rep. “[…] wondrous […] wondered […] wondered” within three lines. Also, “as I wondered if” should be whether (it’s not a condition, it’s an either/or case).
151 Conv. “It IS foolish.” – CAPS should be replaced by italics.
189 Gr. “There was no scatter of spoiled pens, no open containers of ink.” – Nitpicky, I know, but to get subject-verb agreement, it should be “There was […], there were no open containers of ink.”
195 Punct. “But now that Bee is here..,” – I’m guessing the comma should be the third dot in the ellipsis?
201 Error “[…] carried away from me a five or six times a year.” – The first a should be deleted, my guess is, “few” was replaced by “five or six” at some point.
204 Rep. “Yet […] Yet […] yet […] yet […]” – Not sure whether this is an intentional juxtaposition, but it seems a little excessive.
219 Gr. “In the middle of briar patch […]” – There’s an article missing; the or a briar patch.
220 Punct. “[…] Cook Nutmeg and our grave steward ?” – The space in front of the question mark should be deleted.
249 Sp. “[…] her differences as short comings.” – Shortcomings is one word.
249 Gr. “I had refused to consider if […]” – Should be whether.
282 Gr. “I recalled that my father said […]” – Should be had said.
286 Sugg. “I longed to be able to better hear” – Without another phrase to follow, I’d rearrange to hear better.
295 Error “Her lips lip curled in a cat smile.” – Looks like a last-minute replacement gone wrong, either lips or lip should be deleted.
307 Sugg. “You’d be putting yourself beyond the pale.” Nitpicky, but this phrase wouldn’t make sense in a world without Ireland or Russia, nor would the modern interpretation of “unacceptable behaviour” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_the_Pale).
309 Punct. “‘You aren’t.’ Chade cut in decisively.” – I believe Chade cutting in refers to his words, “You aren’t”, hence they should be followed by a comma, not a full stop.
312 Rep. Near the middle of the page, Fitz says that he’d known Riddle for years, and that he’d once left him for “worse than dead”, and that Riddle had forgiven him for it. He’s already said pretty much the same thing previously in the middle of page 292. One instance should be edited.
327 Sp. “He was busy, I knew, and he put Withywoods into an uproar with his business.” Since he’s not running a business, it should be busyness (the state of being busy).
350 Sugg. “After you tell Amos, then you must […]” – Redundant then, unless the purpose is to emphasise the order (which doesn’t seem to be the case here). And no, I’m not Shaky Amos 😉
370 Cons. “Would she read the scrolls in the library?” – Unless there’s a room that hasn’t been mentioned previously and isn’t on the map, Bee is probably referring to the room that has always been referred to as Fitz’s study.
391 Sugg. “[…] I realized I had been walked toward […]” – Does Fitz mean that Bee walked him there, or should it be had been walking?
396 Punct. “‘[…] told me that he would hide in th . . .’” – I’ve never seen, in formal writing, an ellipsis cutting off speech in the middle of a word. Conventionally, shouldn’t that be an em-dash? I.e.: ‘[…] told me that he would hide in th—’ The same occurs on pages 474 (“would dare t…”), 484 (“Unles…” – really, one s gets cut off…?), 489 (“If it would please you, sir” is interrupted but has no end punctuation apart from the single quote), 567 (“Skill-linked. S…”), and 624 (“If they see u…”).
406 Error “I paid it no more mind to this than […]” – Another late edit? Should be I paid it no more mind or I paid no more mind to this.
412 Sugg. “I refused to […] puzzle any more on her message.” – I don’t think puzzle should be followed by on… “puzzle over her message” perhaps?
421 Punct. “Such a peculiar idea!’” – Missing start (single) quote to match the end quote.
422 Gr. “Did she used to stutter then?” – The word did already indicates the past tense, hence used to should be changed to use to (otherwise it’s like saying did she went…).
426 Sugg. As on page 434, I think the word bonefire (“had made our bonefire”) should be changed to bonfire (even though that word originates from bonefire and bones were, in fact, on the fire).
432 – 433 Rep. “She […] was adept at avoiding me.” Then, a page and a half on, “I sensed that Bee was avoiding me […].”
444 Sugg. “[…] and finger combed his hair” – Since finger isn’t used as a noun, shouldn’t it be hyphenated, i.e. finger-combed? Not sure, but couldn’t find either version in the dictionary.
463 Gr. “[…] taking a short cut through the gardens.” – I’m pretty sure shortcut is one word, though it could possibly be hyphenated; but it’s not a cut which is short.
469 Error “I opened his eyes […]” – Bee shuts her eyes tightly a few lines earlier, so it should probably be opened my eyes.
472 – 473 Sugg. The tenses in the paragraph beginning “I took her to […]” are a little confusing, mainly because it switches back and forth between the past tense and the pluperfect tense. Do “that evening” and “that night” refer to the same night, before the time Fitz is describing? Should it be “that evening, when I had returned”, and “that night, I had slept”?
491 Cons. Bee plans to be first to the dining table, but “Shun had preceded me”; her tutor “was behind” her. The order is described very carefully, yet when the tutor arrives, he apologizes to Fitz. When did he get there?
504 Error “I wondered if they thought he already knew all about me or if, as I did, knew it indicated he already disapproved of me.” – Apart from the if that should be whether, something is missing there; leaving out the subordinate clause “as I did” leaves “[…] or if knew it indicated […]”, which doesn’t make sense.
510 Sugg. “[…] with earnest mockery.” – Shouldn’t that be “with mocking seriousness” or similar? It seems the author is trying to express that he’s mocking, but pretending to be serious; “earnest mockery” sounds as though he’s seriously mocking someone.
521 Error “[…] several of your wish yourselves elsewhere.” – Should be of you.
529 Sugg. “[…] charms carved from antler” – Not sure, but shouldn’t it be from antlers, or from an antler?
541 Error “[…] and it become even rarer once one has a child.” – Should be becomes.
552 Error “He twisted away to me to reply to [someone else]” – Should be away from me.
555 Gr. “[…] how much further he could see from his height.” – Should be farther, since it relates to physical distance.
556 Error “[…] the thirsty garden that only been waiting” – Should be that has only been waiting.
560 Gr. “Row of scars lined his face” – Should be rows of scars.
568 Error “How could I call for you to save me from when I had not rescued you […]” – There appears to be a word missing after from.
625 Error “[…] and when back for Priss” – I think when should be went.

I thought I’d post this since I haven’t had a reply from either HarperCollins Australia nor from Robin Hobb’s facebook page. Maybe they’re already aware of these issues; if not, I hope someone somewhere comes across them and finds them useful to improve future editions of this great book.

Review of Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Having finished reading Robin Hobb’s latest work, the recently published Fool’s Assassin, Book 1 of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and having freed up some time on the weekend, I’m finally ready to write the review I mentioned in my previous post.

I’ll keep this post relatively spoiler-free for those who haven’t read it; of course, I won’t be able to restrain myself from writing another spoiler-laden post later on….

The Front Cover

Fool's Assassin Front Cover

The front cover of my copy of Fool’s Assassin

This version of the front cover (the UK large paperback version) has been kept relatively simple in design, but done lovingly with embossed fonts and a gilded look that seem to want to let you know you’re holding a masterpiece in your hands, even before you read the endorsement from George R. R. Martin.

At first glance, the daggers make sense for something bearing the word “Assassin”, but the significance of the bee near the top won’t – at least not until you’re about a fifth of the way through the book’s 630 pages. The snow-covered scene around the first letter of the title is a simplified drawing of the location where most of the story takes place: Withywoods.

The Back Cover

Fool's Assassin Back Cover

The back cover of my copy of Fool’s Assassin

Turning the book over, you’ll see the blurb, another bee at the top, and a butterfly wing at the bottom, the significance of which will be made clear later.

Re-reading the blurb again now that I’ve read the book, I find the last sentence to be a little misleading, but I’ll get to that.

The Backstory

While Robin Hobb does try to cater for first-time visitors to her Realm of the Elderlings (the name given to the world in which most of Robin’s stories take place) by gradually mentioning (some of) the most important parts of what has happened previously, I would probably not recommend this book as an introduction to her writing.

Those not familiar with Fitz’s tendency to overthink everything and his failure to understand why some people care about him without having ulterior motives may well consider him an unrealistically masochistic drama queen who loves to feel sorry for himself. However, if you are among that group, I would heartily recommend introducing yourself to what has to be one of the best fantasy series ever written (you can probably tell that I’m completely objective) by beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice (see the list of books there), Book 1 of The Farseer Trilogy, and working your way through that trilogy as well as The Tawny Man Trilogy, at a minimum. Ideally, read The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles as well in order to get a full understanding of the story. It’s worth it.

Those who do know Fitz, on the other hand, have suffered with him through all the heartache and pain Robin has wreaked upon him, and know of his unique combination of talents as well as the sacrifices he has made for his kingdom, will most certainly appreciate that the author takes it easy on our favourite unsung hero… at first. And they will love the story Fitz has to tell.

To give you a quick summary of the backstory… ok, I’ve made several attempts at writing this and gave up. There’s no way of doing the story justice and keeping it relatively short at the same time, so, once again, I’ll refer anyone not familiar with the backstory to the previous trilogies. And, if you like, to my Fitz and the Fool post from a few months ago, where I wrote about their wonderful friendship.

The Plot

Fool’s Assassin begins slowly. (In fact, I said the same thing in my Assassin’s Apprentice post, but it’s even more so in this case.) Fitz, who, as previously, tells the story from a first-person perspective, lives and, somewhat surprisingly, enjoys a quiet life in the backwaters of the duchy in which he grew up. Known as Tom Badgerlock, for it is safer if no one knows that FitzChivalry Farseer is still alive, he and his wife Molly look after the Withywoods estate, where once his father Chivalry lived (and later died from his “accident”) after abdicating the throne over the revelation that he had fathered a bastard.

Fitz has many regrets, mostly about losing Burrich, the man who raised him, and about the fact that the Fool seems to have moved on without as much as a word (“doesn’t call, doesn’t write…”) after taking his leave at the end of Fool’s Fate. He deals with his melancholy by writing each night, presumably the story of The Tawny Man, his current musings, and sometimes doing translations of Skill-related writings for his old mentor Chade, the assassin-turned-royal-advisor to King Dutiful with whom he occasionally keeps in touch. He also keeps in touch with Nettle, his daughter with Molly, who is now a grown woman and Skillmistress in Buckkeep, where the royal family lives. However, Fitz wants nothing to do with the goings-on at court.

Except for Molly, no one around him knows of his abilities with the “royal” magic, the Skill, nor of his Wit, the baser magic that allows him to sense almost all forms of life and to communicate with animals. Not to mention that he is a trained assassin. Since his wolf-partner, Nighteyes, died many years ago, he has never wanted to bond with another animal.

Even strange events one Winterfest, when a messenger appears, asking to speak to him but disappears before he even has the chance to meet her, aren’t enough to make him realise what is going on. As before, he still possesses an extremely bright mind, but continues to wield it with all the finesse of a blacksmith doing fine embroidery. Web, the Wit-expert, is visiting and tells him that the strange “performers” who turned up unexpectedly shortly after the messenger seem invisible to his Wit-sense. This should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the previous books, but Fitz simply finds he’s enjoying himself while hunting for clues as to what happened to make the messenger disappear without delivering her message, leaving nothing but some blood stains. When the trail goes cold, he dismisses it as odd but not worth pursuing.

Contrary to what the blurb suggests, his life does not erupt into any further violence at this point. Rather, it continues peacefully for many years.

The Skill-healing performed on him by his “coterie” in the previous books has the lingering effect of keeping him healed and looking young, while Molly, ever pragmatic, refuses similar treatment. Thus Fitz gets to watch her age and regret that she cannot bear him any more children. (After Nettle, Molly had several other children with Burrich, who married her when everyone thought Fitz dead.) And then, well into menopause, Molly claims that she is finally pregnant. The reader’s heart, once again, breaks ever so slowly as Fitz struggles with the realisation that Molly is becoming senile, insisting she is right about her pregnancy as the seasons pass.

As mentioned above, I do not wish to spoil the story if you haven’t already read it. Suffice it to say, then, that there is more heartbreak in store for Fitz, as people he holds dear pass away, but there is also a wonderful new friendship that takes up the bulk of the book, a fateful reunion with the Fool (I won’t count that as a spoiler – given the book’s title, you’d expect the Fool to make an appearance, even though you wouldn’t expect it the way it happens, which will make you ponder several possible interpretations of said title), and even a few chapters from a new point of view.

The end of the book arrives suddenly. Having lulled you into a deeply intricate world of magics known and unknown, having built for you a spectrum of friends and enemies, the selfless and the selfish, and everything in-between, Robin Hobb springs the Fool on you from an unexpected angle, revealing that he has been seeking to contact Fitz for a long time and is attempting to find someone referred to only as “the unexpected son”. The story lives up to its title long before the reader realises it.

(Some of) The Details

Like in Fitz’s previous writings, each chapter begins with a few sentences or paragraphs of other writing – something Fitz found in historical scrolls, missives he has received, intercepted, or written but never sent, publications on various subjects, and so on. Typically, Robin uses these to give you a glimpse of the theme ahead, or some insight that will help you understand the greater story, although the connection between this “appetiser glimpse” and the chapter that follows is not always immediately obvious.

Isolated though Fitz is from the rest of the Six Duchies, the greater story around him continues, too. The land is in the process of adding a seventh duchy after the death of Eyod, Kettricken’s father and ruler of the Mountain Kingdom. Kettricken is no longer queen, having given the reins to her son, King Dutiful (who makes a couple of very small appearances; it seems Fitz is still successfully repressing the fact that he is actually Dutiful’s biological father). Nettle has managed to build a new coterie with several Skill-users for the King. The Witted, once hunted and killed, are now more accepted into society thanks to Web and the events of the previous books.

Once again, the realism present in a work of fantasy fiction is something to which all fantasy writers should aspire. The characters are finely-wrought and act believably in accordance with their own well thought-out backstory and the setting of the detailed tapestry that forms their world.

Robin does not buy into the “don’t ever use adverbs!” BS that some editors and writers seem to preach; she uses them, but not overly so to the point that it becomes a crutch. She manages, as ever, to use language that gives her writing that “authentic olden days feeling” without it sounding artificial or too try-hard, and without sending the average reader to the dictionary.

One thing that really bugged me, though – being a writer myself who is a bit of a grammar Nazi – was the number of errors in the book. Many were relatively minor and would be overlooked by most, but some are glaringly obvious. I’m wondering whether the publishers’ proofreaders (surely they have those?) and editors were on vacation to let that many errors slip through. I’ve contacted the publishers and will be emailing them a lengthy list of these errors in the hopes of stamping them out for future editions, at least. (Update: email sent!) I may also write them up as a blog post.

One for the Fans

Robin Hobb is an author who does not need to establish her credibility in a world of readers clamouring for high-paced, hard-hitting action. Rather, she is able to take her time, re-introducing the readers to characters directly and indirectly as though mentioning long-lost friends to her fans, who will be thrilled.

If you want hard-hitting non-stop action, this book will not be what you expect. If you enjoy letting yourself be drawn into a very rich and well-crafted world, however, where attention to detail is required to understand the finer details of the plot, you will love Robin Hobb’s latest book.

The author once said that Fitz’s story was done, and that she would not write any more stories involving him. That was before The Tawny Man. I am glad that Fitz once more managed to rattle around Robin’s brain and made her realise that there is more to his story that is worth telling.

Personally, I can’t wait until Book 2. And then Book 3. And, oh, I hope it doesn’t stop there.