As my regular readers know, I’ve been spending a considerable amount of my reading time re-reading old books (i.e. books I had already read at least once). This has been a fun experience, and I’ve shared most of it with you on this blog. Among others, I’ve covered Mistborn, the Dresden Files and most notable (with respect to this post): Old Man’s War.
The reason I’m highlighting Old Man’s War is because Zoe’s Tale nearly reduced me to tears twice. John Scalzi almost made me cry. But where John Scalzi brought down my shields but failed to penetrate the hull, Robin Hobb managed to overload the warp core. The culprit? Fool’s Assassin, a book I already considered one of her best.
Before I go into the spoiler section, I need to get one thing off my chest. I’ve heard at least three different people say to me that they’d started reading Dragon Keeper as their first Robin Hobb book. Erm… sorry? What? Dragon Keeper is the tenth book set in the Elderling universe, and is filled with references to both the Liveship Traders series, and to a lesser extent the Tawny Man trilogy.
Fortunately for them, they seemed to like that book even with all that missing information. Robin Hobb is that good!
The plan was simple: re-read every book set in the Elderling universe (in order), and finish by reading Fool’s Quest for the first time, a grand total of 15 books. This took a while, of course, especially since these books aren’t exactly small. Here are some observations:
- I prefer the books with Fitz as protagonist. It’s not that the stories of Liveship Traders or Rain Wild Chronicles aren’t compelling, but somehow they don’t quite compare to Fitz’s adventures. Catalyst indeed
- Award for most annoying side character: Hest Finbok (from Rain Wild chronicles). I actually cheered when he got eaten. Second place goes to Kyle Haven.
- The Elderling universe has a good approach to magic. There is significant power in both the Wit and the Skill, but not in an overpowering way. The Six Duchies are mostly like a medieval European society, even if the Farseers would never have lasted this long without the Skill.
- Dragons! Something tells me that even after fifteen books, we still don’t fully know everything we need to about dragons. Okay, granted, the first five books didn’t have actual dragons, and it was mostly just Tintaglia’s show until Fool’s Fate and arguably the conclusion of Rain Wild Chronicles, but still
- As much as I was saddened by Assassin’s Quest’s not-so-happy-ending, knowing the conclusion of Fool’s Fate makes it less sad
- On the other hand, there’s Fool’s Assassin. So we have six books of Fitz experiencing all sorts of shit, from his early childhood until his… sixties, I think? It’s a bit tricky with his body refusing to grow old. He gives his life to serve his Farseer family, and after all that, he manages to reunite with the love of his life: Molly. They live happily together at Withywoods, and they even get a daughter (easily the weirdest pregnancy in any fantasy novel I’ve read, though not in a disturbing way). And then comes the scene where Molly dies. This just broke me. I don’t think any other book has ever managed to make me cry, but that scene did! Mind you, I’m a big crybaby so it was bound to happen sometime, but damn, that one hit me in the feels.
- Fool’s Quest: this did not go the way I expected it to. Not at all. I expected Bee to be spirited away to the Fool’s school early on, and then have Fitz go after her only to find her turned or something, and then a third book where they face each other?
So, the verdict: these books were awesome. Read them again! I did, and I cried!