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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.

Finished my first draft – with the help of Fool’s Quest

So it’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally there. I finished writing the first draft of my first book.

Yattaaaaa!

Yattaaaaa!

Feels sooo good to say that. That last stretch was tough. Especially because… just because.

For the past few months, I finally knuckled down, didn’t allow myself any distractions, and just wrote. I didn’t blog, I didn’t read others’ blogs (sorry!), I didn’t allow myself to sit down to read another book (more on that below), I hardly did any of my other various favourite time-wasting things. I got into the zone and wrote and wrote. Sometimes, at the start of a writing session, I went back to earlier bits and changed things I’d made notes on, but while I was in the zone and writing, it felt fantastic and I didn’t dare break myself out of it.

Want to know one of my main factors of motivation? (Apart from the wonderful support of my family, and the pure joy of writing that is its own reward, that is.)

Well, I’ve been looking forward to the release of Robin Hobb’s second book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, Fool’s Quest. So have my wife and my daughter, who are also hooked on Robin’s books (have I mentioned that I met her?!?). The book was due to come out on the 13th of August 2015. Well, I promised myself that I wasn’t allowed to read it until I’d finished writing my last chapter. Today is the 18th, and let me tell you, the last few days have been… excruciating. That was a mean, mean thing to do to myself. But you know what? It worked. I wrote more and better than ever before. (At least, the “better” part is what I’m telling myself. Shh! Don’t ruin it. I’m still riding that high.)

I know there’s still a lot of work to be done before my work is submittable, even to beta readers. I still have a few “[TODO]” markers in my draft that need attending. I’m pretty good (why am I being humble, I’m awesome! Like I said, shush!) with spelling and grammar even while I’m writing, but I’m sure there are occasional typos, and I’ll need to check for inconsistencies of PoVs, use of pronouns in my paragraphs, do cross-reference checks to make sure I’m not getting any names of minor characters muddled up, and so on.

But… I’m over that hump. Plus, I’m allowed to read Fool’s Quest now! Yay! My wife has already read it (finished about an hour after I got done writing, in fact), so now she’s in the position that I’m usually in after I’ve finished reading a book and have to wait for her to catch up so we can talk about it. I hope the book will have fewer errors than the last one, but other questions are much more important. Will Fitz finally Wit-bond again? Will the Fool pull through? (He has to, or the trilogy wouldn’t be named well… right?) What happened to Bee? Will we see more chapters from her perspective? Grrr.

Getting started on it as soon as I finish this blog post, which should be right about… now.

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.

Back – and ready to read Fool’s Assassin

After being away from home (and from blogging) for a while, I’m back again, and really looking forward to reading Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb, Book One of the new Fitz and the Fool trilogy. I couldn’t buy the book while overseas (at least not in English), so I bought it from Target back here in Perth for just under $20 (which is a decent price since the RRP is nearly $30).

I’ve got a bit of time this week to read it, but I’m a rather slow reader. (Plus, I’m still jet-lagged, so I’ve only read about 30 or so pages of it before becoming too tired to read last night.) So it’ll take me a few days to get through it – as much as I’m dying to devour the whole book in one sitting, I prefer to soak up every word and imagine every scene like a private movie in my head. Call me crazy, but it’s how I read.

Once those few days are up and I’ve read it (I’m hoping to finish on the weekend, but might not get there until next week), I will most definitely blog about my take on the book (yes, there will be spoilers!). It will, I surmise, most likely be a very positive review; after all, Robin Hobb is my favourite author for a reason (as George R. R. Martin says on the cover, it’s “Fantasy as it ought to be written”). Having said that, I’ve built up quite some excitement for this book, so it’s possible the book might not live up to my high expectations. (Possible… but doubtful. Despite the errors I’ve already found in the first 30 pages. Maybe I’ll blog about those, too.)

Also on my “TODO” list for the near future is finally catching up on reading some of my favourite blogs (yes, there will be comments on older posts I think, it’s been quite a while) and blogging about how to merge two versions of the same document (with LibreOffice Writer, in my case) that started out the same but have had different edits made, since I’m going to have to do that with my manuscript soon anyway. I’ve done it before and it’s quite easy, actually.

Anyway, there you go – my “I’m back for more” post. 🙂

In case you’re interested in previous Robin Hobb-related posts, here they are, 3 from the A-Z Challenge in April and two from a couple of months ago when she visited Perth:

(The one about hobbitses, on the other hand, has nothing to do with Robin Hobb. But it’s funny. I think.)

Thank you, Robin Hobb!

Following on from my post that Robin Hobb is in town, I actually went down to the event yesterday, stood in line to get in for way too long, sat around for another couple of hours waiting for her to be where she’d be signing books, stood in line again to get my turn, and then… finally met her in person.

Robin Hobb signing my books

Robin Hobb signing my books.

And it was awesome!

In case you don’t know, Robin Hobb is my favourite author. Reading her Farseer trilogy is what inspired me to begin writing. I’m not normally much of a fan of anything (at least nowhere near the extent of some of the people at the expo – wow, talk about nine kinds of crazy!), but her I had to go and see.

Robin Hobb after signing my books

Yes, she’s as nice as she looks. (The horrible quality of the picture is my fault.)

I wasn’t sure what the limit was for number of books she’d sign, so I brought two bags of books, agonising over which ones I’d leave at home, because I knew I’d kick myself if she was going to sign them all and I’d only brought one or two.

My Robin Hobb books

No, I didn’t take ALL those books to be signed. (But almost – my shoulders are still aching from carrying them all day!)

Signatures galore

Turns out, the limit was three, but luckily, I’d brought along my minion daughter, so between us, we got six of them signed.

Assassin's Apprentice Signature

My signed copy of Assassin’s Apprentice

Blood of Dragons signature

Robin Hobb’s signature on my copy of Blood of Dragons

Fool's Fate Signature

My copy of Fool’s Fate, now signed by Robin Hobb

I must admit I was slightly nervous just before it was my turn to meet her, but she was so down-to-earth and approachable that I found myself relaxing and thanked her for inspiring me to write. With a smile, she asked me how that was going, and I told her that I’d had a short story published but was currently working on the first part of my fantasy trilogy. She was friendly, natural, and encouraging, and seemed like a great person; I wish we’d had more time to chat, but of course I didn’t want to impose (I’m sure she gets enough craziness when she attends those types of events. I know many people say things like “it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting you” without really meaning it, but in this case, it was completely sincere.

Jo Spurrier

While I was there, I also purchased the third book of Jo Spurrier’s Children of the Black Sun trilogy, North Star Guide Me Home and had it signed by Jo Spurrier, who was also amazingly nice.

Jo Spurrier's signature

Jo Spurrier signed my new copy of her latest book

Queues

A staggering number of people lined up to pay stars and starlets between $20 and $50 per signature, and even more for pictures with them. Lots of people attended the cosplay part of the Supanova event, which I have to say didn’t appeal to me at all, but to each their own I suppose.

Celeb queues

People queuing up to see (or be seen with, or photographed with, or have something signed by) celebrities like Ming-Na Wen

More celebrity queues

More celebrity queues… George Lazenby, Richard Kiel, and so on.

Fitz and the Fool

So altogether a great day despite all the waiting and standing in line. I cannot begin to express how much I’m looking forward to reading Robin Hobb’s new book, Fool’s Assassin, due out in August, when Fitz and the Fool make a welcome return to my imagination.

Oh, and I told Robin Hobb that I was hoping that she wouldn’t reveal the Fool’s gender in the new books. In her typical way, her reply was simply, “Well, if he doesn’t tell me…”

So, from me, a heartfelt “Thank you!” to Robin Hobb.

Robin Hobb is in town!

First, apologies for not blogging for a while – I could say it was all because I was too busy (which I was), but there may well have been an element of laziness involved as well.

The big news for me is that my favourite author, Robin Hobb, is in Perth, Western Australia, this weekend at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre, as part of an event hosted by Supanova, the “Pop Culture Expo”. She appeared in Sydney last weekend and will actually be in my town for the next couple of days!

From the official guest page:

Robin will conduct a general admission Q&A each weekend, and participate in signing sessions on Friday in Sydney (2pm to 6pm), and throughout each Saturday (10.30am to 5.30pm) and Sunday (11am to 5pm) in both cities.

I’ve been in awe of her ability to tell wonderfully intricate stories for many years and am very much looking forward to meeting her in person (nearly as much as I’m looking forward to reading her next book). This is not something I would normally do, and none of the other celebrities that will be at this event would get me excited enough to go see them in person. But Robin Hobb has been my main inspiration to start writing myself, and I can’t not go and see her. I’ll do my best not to gush and stammer like a star-struck imbecile, but can’t really make any promises. Of course I’m going to take along my favourite books and will hopefully get some of them signed.

Also attending the event will be Jo Spurrier, whose third book in the excellent Children of the Black Sun trilogy I have yet to read (I might buy it there if I can), as well as several other authors.

Have you ever met a “celebrity” in person, or even Robin Hobb herself? If so, was it what you expected and would you recommend it (not that you could change my mind!)? If not, was it due to a lack of opportunity or because you didn’t want to destroy your image of that person? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Robin Hobb – A to Z: R

R is for Robin Hobb, my favourite author and probably the author whose writing has most inspired me to attempt to write myself. Two of my previous A to Z challenge posts, the very first one on Assassin’s Apprentice and the “F” post on Fitz and the Fool, have featured content related to Robin Hobb’s work, so today, I’ll try to minimise the swooning and just write a little about the person behind the pseudonyms.

Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb in 2011; image embedded from Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia will tell you that Robin Hobb’s real name is Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, and that she published a number of books under her first pen name, Megan Lindholm, before taking on more epic fantasy as Robin Hobb, starting with the Farseer Trilogy. She still writes using both names and uses different styles for both; Megan Lindholm books seem to be a fair bit shorter while Robin Hobb’s are more epic in scope. Well, unless you count short stories, which are also kind of… er, short.

Margaret/Megan/Robin will be making appearances in Sydney and in Perth (where I live) in June, and I’m looking forward to being able to see her in person (without gushing or screaming like a teenager seeing The Beatles, hopefully) and getting her to sign one of my books (oh, but which one?).

If you’re a writer looking for some great advice, and the secret of how you can become a writer, check out Robin’s excellent post on I Want To Be A Writer, But…. Ok, I’d better hit the “Publish” button now because it’s nearly midnight and this post needs to be for today.

Any favourite writers or other idols you’re looking forward to seeing in person? Let me know in the comments.

Fitz and the Fool – A to Z: F

F is for Fitz, for FitzChivalry, for Farseer, for friendship, and of course for The Fool. If you don’t know, please go and have a quick read of three trilogies by Robin Hobb (Farseer, Liveships, and Tawny Man), then come back here (oh, fine, read the Rain Wilds Chronicles as well, while you’re at it, what’s another four books between friends… I’ll wait). Otherwise you’d be missing out. Plus, there may be spoilers.

You’d be missing out on knowing and understanding what I consider to be the best-written friendship in literature. No, I don’t mean just in epic fantasy. In literature. Ok, maybe that’s overdoing it a bit – after all, I haven’t even read more than two gazillonths of what’s out there. (Do you think you know one that’s better? Let me know in the comments… but have you read those three trilogies I mentioned?!?) Personally, I can’t think how any friendship of which anyone has ever written could compare. I set no boundaries on my adoration for this friendship. None at all. Do you understand me?

I set no boundaries on my love. None at all. Do you understand me?

— The Fool, in The Golden Fool

Here’s your chance to go away if you don’t want to read any spoilers… [cue elevator music while you scroll down].

Fool's Errand cover

The cover of Fool’s Errand, Book One in Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy

The reason I say it’s the best friendship ever written is that it is not really a romance, nor a bromance, nor yet is it entirely platonic. (Well, one of the reasons. I can see I’m making myself very clear here.) I suppose it has a lot to do with the question of the Fool’s gender, an issue that is never fully answered*. It is exactly that lack of a definition of what the Fool is that leaves the nature of his/her/its friendship with Fitz open to the reader’s interpretation. Fitz and the Fool, Catalyst and Beloved… it’s a complicated relationship, to say the least. Fitz has a brilliant mind, but he can be thick as a plank at times. Yet you can’t entirely blame him for wanting to define what the Fool is and what their frienship is, or could be.

You are confusing plumbing and love again.

— The Fool, in Assassin’s Quest

Had the Fool’s gender ever been fully revealed by Robin Hobb, I doubt my memory of it would be as positive, or my joy at re-reading the series as great (I do hope this won’t be revealed when the next book comes out later this year). If you’ve read all three trilogies, I’m sure you’re aware that the Fool’s appearance and persona as he presents it in the Six Duchies (i.e. the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies), changes significantly, though not completely, when she (I don’t think there’s a way of doing this without mixing pronouns) becomes Amber, the mysterious carver of beads (I’ll never forget that “OMG!” moment when it finally clicked after so many hints). The Fool is a masterful actor and can slip into any role without much effort. The only thing the reader knows for sure is that the passion with which the Fool fights for what he believes is the destiny that is best for the world, is unfeigned and constant.

As a White, he is not the same as a human, although he appears much like a somewhat feminine man, or a somewhat masculine woman. Unlike Fitz, the Fool considers “plumbing” to be unimportant, often teasing Fitz about his fixation with it and about wanting to know the Fool’s gender. Only towards the end of Ship of Destiny do we get to see an expression of Amber’s love (however that is defined) for Fitz, when she carves Fitz’s features onto the Paragon, including the earring that is laden with such meaning throughout the series. My interpretation is that she is choosing between carrying out what she believes is her duty as a White Prophet, to guide the “wheel” of the world into a better rut, and giving in to her love for Fitz. She is very young for her kind, but always chooses the former, yet a part of her is always considering the “what ifs” of the latter.

Love isn’t just about feeling sure of the other person, knowing what he would give up for you. It’s knowing with certainty what you are willing to surrender for his sake. Make no mistake; each partner gives up something. Individual dreams are surrendered for a shared one.

— Amber, in Assassin’s Quest

Later, as the Tawny Man and Lord Golden, he is more mature, but being reunited with his Catalyst also brings back the dilemma. Fitz is also more mature and seems more willing to accept the friendship without fully understanding it.

Beloved, I have missed your company.

— Fitz, in The Golden Fool

The friendship even endures after Fitz carries the naked, unconscious Fool to safety in Fool’s Fate. Does he find out the Fool’s gender (or lack thereof)? You would have to assume so. Yet he has the class not go blabbering about it to the reader, nor even to reveal it tactfully. I sincerely hope Robin Hobb’s upcoming trilogy, The Fitz and the Fool, will continue not to spoil my ignorance in this matter*. Sometimes, not knowing can be more delicious than knowing.

I have waited patiently for many a sequel to finally be published. I have cursed George R. R. Martin for making excuse after excuse and delaying publication of a book that was supposedly “almost finished” for years. (At least now he has the TV series to prod him along to finish the books in time.) I have lamented Robert Jordan’s passing and fretted to find out whether his epic series would ever be completed. Never have I anticipated any book anywhere near as much as the next in the story of the Fitz and the Fool, The Fool’s Assassin.


* Update: See my post “Thank you, Robin Hobb!” for the great answer the author gave me when I told her I was hoping she wouldn’t reveal the Fool’s gender in the upcoming books…