Fitz has been persuaded back to court, posing as a servant to the decadent Lord Golden (who is the Fool in disguise). In secret, he will train Prince Dutiful in the magic known as the Skill.
The peace remains fragile, so the diplomatic wedding between Dutiful and the Outislander princess is a crucial alliance. But when Elliania arrives she challenges the prince to undertake an impossible quest before she will accept him.
He must kill Icefyre, one of the last true dragons. And Fitz and the Fool must go with him…
Length: 641 pages/25 hours
Published: 2011/2013 (originally 2002)
Publisher: HarperVoyager/HarperCollins UK Audio
The Golden Fool is the second book in The Tawny Man trilogy, which is the third trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobb. I have been reading this series as I’m following along with the Catch-Up Book Club on BookTube, and I’ve been really enjoying it!
The Realm of the Elderlings is an epic fantasy series, spanning a world that only gets more complex as the books progress. We learn more about the magic with each book, and find out more about characters who have so far remained quite a mystery (particularly the Fool).
If you haven’t read the Farseer or Liveship Traders trilogies, then you should read those before you read The Tawny Man trilogy, especially the Farseer series. This trilogy will make little sense to you if you haven’t. Hobb tries, I think, to build reminders and explanations of past events into the narrative. But I think that if I hadn’t read the previous trilogies I would feel quite lost.
Hobb’s writing is always brilliant, and that’s no different in The Golden Fool. The story is told in first person POV, from Fitz’s perspective. He’s telling the story from some point in the future, when he is, presumably, older and wiser. I think this perspective gives a gravity to the story.
As I said, the world is only getting larger with every passing book. This book expands the world to include the Outislanders, who were the enemy in the Farseer trilogy. I think including them in this way takes away the ‘evil’ element that came across in the earlier books. They are humans just like the people of the Six Duchies, and relationships between warring nations can change. I like that Hobb includes this, especially as now Fitz is older he’s more likely to see the situation in a nuanced way anyway (as compared to being 15 in the first books).
Of the books I’ve read so far, The Golden Fool is the slowest of them all. Not a lot happens as far as the plot is concerned. It’s very much about setting up for the final book, Fool’s Fate. I think as we’re so familiar with the world and characters now, the series can get away with a slow book like this. Simply just reading about Fitz’s daily life is comforting, in a way. Fitz is quite an introspective character, and the symbolism of his life in Buckkeep now compared to when he was a boy isn’t lost on him. We get a lot of musings about how things have changed (and how they haven’t).
The Fool is still as mysterious as ever. We do get more information about him in this book though, so the mystery is starting to unravel a little. We also get a hint in this book about what the overall quest of the entire series is going to look like, wrapped up in of course more mystery. As far as characters go, I’m not the biggest fan of the Fool. But I’m not sure I’m supposed to be. We know very little about him or his motivations throughout both stories, and it’s never easy to tell what his true intentions are.
The Golden Fool carries on with the same storyline about the Wit, the sister magic to the Skill, which the characters see as dangerous and undesirable to have. People are, in fact, killed because of possessing it. This type of prejudice does mirror, I think, the prejudices faced by the LGBTQ+ community over the years. It’s possible this is where Hobb drew her inspiration from. The Fool is of course still the only character connected to the LGBTQ+ community, and there are scenes in this book that do briefly touch on being queer. Though, because we know so little about who the Fool truly is, it’s not clear how accurate this is. I appreciate this storyline about prejudice, misinformation and hostility towards people simply because of who they are. I think it’s something many of us can relate to.
Though The Golden Fool is probably my least favourite book in the series so far, I still enjoyed it. I’m struggling to see a scenario where I wouldn’t enjoy a book in this series. I’m looking forward (eagerly) to reading Fool’s Fate.