When Assassin’s Quest closed, Fitz was living in self-imposed exile. Wracked with pain, he had chosen to discard the magical gifts that had seen him survive the wonders and torments of navigating the legendary city of the Elderlings, and of raising a dragon.
Now, in this the first of a new trilogy, we are returned to the world of the Six Duchies and the lives of those who managed to survive the events of the first Assassin trilogy. Fifteen years have passed and events are about to sweep Fitz out of his quiet backwater life and into the main political current again. Persecution of the Witted has become rampant throughout the Six Duchies despite Queen Kettricken’s effort to damp it. The Witted themselves have begun to strike back.
So when 15 year old Prince Dutiful disappears, is it only because he is nervous about his betrothal ceremony to an Outislander princess, or has he been taken hostage by the Witted? Worse, is he perhaps another ‘Piebald Prince’, a Farseer tainted by Wit magic? As the desperate situation worstens, Kettricken has no choice but to summon Fitz to Buckkeep, for who better to track the young prince down than another gifted with the Wit, together with his bonded companion, the wolf Nighteyes?
Length: 23 hours
Published: 2013 (originally 2001)
Publisher: HarperCollins UK Audio
I’m reading the Elderlings series as part of the Catch-Up book club on YouTube, and I’m really glad I decided to participate in it. I first read Assassin’s Apprentice many years ago, but never continued with the series. So having that online accountability every couple of months (even if no one is actually checking up on me) helps me stay motivated to continue the series.
Fool’s Errand is set in a mediaeval-inspired world, and throughout the series we get various different types of magic. It is a soft magic system though, so there are no hard and fast rules (but we do get dragons!). I really enjoy the world of the Elderlings, especially as we’re drip-fed little bits of information about the wider world throughout the different trilogies within the wider series.
The story starts quite slowly, as we pick up with Fitz’s life after fifteen years have passed since the end of Assassin’s Quest. In the meantime, the events of the Liveship Traders trilogy have happened, and while those events are never directly referenced, they are indirectly. I think without reading the Liveship Traders, you would be a little confused about certain things within the narrative.
Some of the characters from the Farseer trilogy (the first one in the series) return in this trilogy (The Tawny Man), though not all, and most aren’t as prominent. The story focuses on Fitz, the Fool, and Nighteyes, and of course Prince Dutiful who is a new character. The story is still told through Fitz’s first-person point of view, and the way Robin Hobb has evolved Fitz’s voice as he has aged has really added to the reading experience. Hobb is an incredible writer. The emotion she provokes, as well as the way she writes the different characters shows just how accomplished she is. I never feel that she’s overwriting or underwriting. She gives us enough information so that we can see and understand the world, without including too much to detract from the story.
I wouldn’t say that Fool’s Errand is my favourite book in the series, in fact it’s probably one of my least favourites. It’s not as big in scope or dramatic as some of the earlier books. It’s a slower story, and more about Fitz as a person and the local politics of the Six Duchies. I do feel like this book was setting up the rest of the trilogy for something bigger though. Again, Hobb has a real talent for interweaving these stories with different elements, and leading the reader through the lives of the characters, through the big and small moments.
I liked most of the characters in the book, though I wanted to hit Prince Dutiful at points. He’s fifteen years old and Hobb does a good job of depicting just how annoying that age can be. The really amusing thing is though, that 15 is about the age Fitz was for most of the first trilogy, the Farseer trilogy. So we are now seeing what Fitz would have come across like to other characters in those earlier books, but through Fitz’s adult eyes. It feels like quite a full-circle moment.
There is a really sad moment later in the novel, and you suspect it’s coming for most of the story. Hobb does an amazing job with that scene. It made me cry. And I don’t often cry at books.
The narration of the audiobook was also really good. I think on balance I prefer reading this series physically, but I certainly wouldn’t shy away from the audio in the future.
I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, and finding out more about this world and what’s going to happen to the characters. I would highly recommend starting with Assassin’s Apprentice if you are new to the world. These are big books, but completely worth the time investment.