Book Review: Fantasy: Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin Cover

Nearly twenty years ago, Robin Hobb burst upon the fantasy scene with the first of her acclaimed Farseer novels, Assassin’s Apprentice, which introduced the characters of FitzChivalry Farseer and his uncanny friend the Fool. A watershed moment in modern fantasy, this novel—and those that followed—broke exciting new ground in a beloved genre. Together with George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb helped pave the way for such talented new voices as Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Naomi Novik.

Over the years, Hobb’s imagination has soared throughout the mythic lands of the Six Duchies in such bestselling series as the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. But no matter how far she roamed, her heart always remained with Fitz. And now, at last, she has come home, with an astonishing new novel that opens a dark and gripping chapter in the Farseer saga.

FitzChivalry—royal bastard and former king’s assassin—has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past . . . and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one. . . .

Title: Fool’s Assassin
Author: Robin Hobb
Category: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Publisher: Del Ray Spectra
Publication Date: August 12, 2014
Format: Electronic Review Copy
Length: 580 pages
ISBN-10: 0553392425
ISBN-13: 9780553392425

Series or Standalone: The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy, #1

Literary Awards:

Themes: Family/Parenting
POV: Dual First Person
Tense: Past

Reviewer: Atsiko Ureni

How I Got It: Nick received an electronic review copy of this book from NetGalley, and being a huge Robin Hobb fan, of course I said I’d review it.


I always try to write my reviews as soon after finishing the book as possible, because the longer I wait, the more I notice things that weren’t actually so great about it. But as a reader, if the author can manage to sweep those things under the rug long enough for me to finish the book, I’m willing to give them a bit of wiggle room. But, even having only been done for a day or so, I still had a few issues with this book, even though I mostly enjoyed it.


Judging a book in a series is always harder than a standalone. Especially a book that continues a larger series after ten years or more. I loved the rest of Hobb’s Fitz series, and all her stories set in the same world, to be honest. So she has the weight of all her previous (and incredible) world-building work behind this book. That said, I think she still did a great job with her world-building in this novel, tying in with the older books with barely the knot even showing. The Six Duchies still stands out as one of the most beautiful and fully-realized fantasy settings I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. And the setting of Withywoods is in the same vein. I felt just as present there as I did at Buckkeep in the previous novels.


The first major issue I have with the book–and many other reviews apparently agree with me–was the characters. Nettle, Fitz’s daughter with Molly, was almost perfect. A bit clueless about some things, but more by authorial edict than character development. Molly, too, felt like a natural progression of her previous character. But beyond that, the main characters had some serious flaws in their portrayal. Fitz himself seemed to be his old smart self or a complete idiot as the plot dictated. He would ignore his daughter Bee’s problems at one point, and a page later he would be almost the ideal father to her. It was incredibly frustrating in some places. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it contributed to several concerns I had with the way the plot was constructed. When Hobb was on the ball, she was on fire, but when she was off it, she was terrible in this respect.

Bee was another problem character. Again the plot seemed to force her into some unnatural behavior, such as her lack of communication in areas where even a girl her age would have known it was needed. She was portrayed as wiser than her years in many ways, and yet she also had the instincts of a child and the apparent knowledge of how adults are so divorced from children’s politics to be good allies. In many ways, she was an expertly constructed character, despite my issues with the rather cliche “old soul”/ mystical waif character Hobb assigned her. I was so split on Bee. I wanted to love her when sparks of Hobb’s first person characterization brilliance showed themselves. But often I found her annoying.

Finally, several characters were caught up in the authorial persecution of Bee’s character. FitzVigilant(Lant), Shun Fallstar, even Fitz, on occasion. Hobb had so many other seeds she could have nurtured in pursuit of her goal with Bee, and yet she fell back on mediocre conspiracy between characters. Certainly Fitz often joined this conspiracy by being a complete idiot on several occasions.

Shun’s character was quite irritating in that regard. And others. I never figured out why Chade was such an idiot regarding how her temperament might conflict with Bee and Fitz. Why he even let her retain such a temperament in the first place. Several of the characters are getting a bit old, perhaps losing some of their edge. A great route to take, I think, if only Hobb had made better use of it. But it doesn’t excuse their utter failure to think ahead more than three seconds when convenient to Hobb’s plot.

In fact, I might have enjoyed Shun and Lant’s personalities in isolation or in another context. But as is, they frustrated me quite a lot.


For obvious spoiler reasons and the fact that this is an advance review, I won’t be able to discuss the plot issues as fully as I’d like. The main plot was quite interesting. On it’s own, it might warrant a 9/10. But Hobb’s obvious desire to accomplish her set-up and character introductions meant the pacing in this book was off quite often, and the book dragged in areas. Even with the large time-skips near the beginning of the novel. If Hobb had focused more on the main plot, and not dropped such a brutally lazy cliff-hanger at the end of the book, it would have been a great re-entrance into the Farseer universe. There was a lot of potential in the book, and I’m very hopeful that the rest of the series, having its set-up completed her, will be a vast improvement in terms of actual story.


This definitely felt like a Fitz novel, and though it may seem like I hated everything about the book, it was actually a mostly enjoyable read, even if I have to admit it’s not Hobb’s best work. I do think it’s worth reading, and the portion of Fitz fans who were desperately waiting for more Farseer novels will definitely want to read this. It was great to feel the old characters around me again. Even though there wasn’t a lot of new action and mystery in the novel, it was still interesting, and I wanted to know what would happen as I turned the pages.

That said, for someone just getting into the Farseer novels or Robin Hobb as an author, I would not start here. I would read the Soldier Son trilogy or the original Fitz trilogy first.

Conclusion: 80/100 (Worth the read, but my expectations were much too high)
Premise: 8/10 (For anyone whose ever wanted an “after the quest is over” narrative)
Plot: 8/10 (Coherent and interesting, but had some holes)
Setting: 9/10 (I definitely felt like I was in the Six Duchies. Withywoods especially was great)
Main Character(s): 7/10 (Mostly well-drawn and interesting, but Bee had some issues)
World-building: 8/10 (Lovely, few holes)
Magic System 9/10 (Very solid and integrated to the world, though rarely flashy)
Supporting Characters: 7/10 (The newer characters felt a bit shallow)
Writing: 8/10 (Very evocative, but awkward in places)
Themes: 8/10 (Good themes, and well executed for the most part)
Resolution: 8/10 (Interesting, but an annoyingly massive cliff-hanger)

Buy Or Borrow: Definitely worth buying this. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Similar Books:
The Demon Child Trilogy by Jennifer Fallon
Winds of the Forelands by David B. Coe

Other Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
Publisher’s Weekly
I Smell Sheep
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Kobold Press

Buy Links:
Barnes and Noble

Kindle UK
Kindle US
Google Play


Please Welcome Atsiko Ureni, Our Speculative Fiction Reviewer

While both Marisa and I review YA fiction only to avoid confusion, we both also love various forms of speculative fiction. Sharing both of those loves with us is Atsiko Ureni, who also has his own blog a Atsiko’s Chimney, discussing spec fic, ya, and literature in general. And now I’ll let him introduce himself.


Nick, Marisa, and I have actually known each other for quite awhile, but we’ve only recently come back into communication thanks to our shared love of literature. I’m very grateful that Nick has invited me to contribute to this blog. I’ve always wanted to get into book reviewing, but I’m afraid I’m not so great with the administrative side of things, such as networking with publishers and obtaining review copies. Especially being busy with the Chimney and my writing.

Much like Marisa, I think I’ll eventually find my own voice for reviewing, but until then, Nick has a fairly thorough review template for me to follow as I get used to the job. While I do love YA, my first love has always been speculative fiction, so I’ll be focusing on that and leaving the rest to Nick and Marisa.

Part of the reason I’m excited about doing this is that I think it will push me to read books I otherwise might not. For example, after my first review–Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, Nick has managed to snag a copy of Richard Morgan’s The Dark Defiles, the third book in his A Land Fit for Heroes series (forthcoming from Del Ray Spectra). Normally, this would be a bit dark for my tastes, but since he has it, I’ve been preparing by reading the rest of the books in the series. I’ve finished the first so far–The Steel Remains, and I enjoyed it more than I expected, although it’s nowhere near being one of my favorites.

The later books in a series tend be improve, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy The Dark Defiles much more.

That review doesn’t come out for a few months, though.  MY first review on Notes will be Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

I’ll probably be cross-posting these reviews to goodreads, but I’ll only be linking them over at the Chimney.

Coming Attractions

I’m going to be adding two new features to the blog over the next few weeks.

One of them is a complement to the current reviews. As a reviewer, my goals in writing reviews are twofold:

1. To share my opinion about the books I read, and especially to evangelize for the ones I love.

2. To help readers find new books to read.

Anyone who might be reading a review blog is probably looking for help in finding new books to read. It’s the nature of YA (and literature in general, of course), that certain themes are most prominent in a given book. But for spoiler reasons, I can’t express my full feelings on a book in a standard review. So, to that end, I’ll be posting companion posts for certain of my reviews on here. Mostly to discuss the major theme of the book and how I think it was handled in more detail. I’ll probably bring in other examples of books on those themes, and how YA in general has dealt with those themes as it’s evolved. Obviously these companion posts will have a smaller audience, and they’ll be identified clearly to avoid spoilers for people who dislike such things.

The second new addition has to do with the type of books being reviewed on this blog. I said in my initial post that I would be reviewing both YA of all genres, as well as some literary and speculative adult fiction. However, I don’t want to confuse readers who may only be interested in one or the other, and to keep up with my YA review schedule, especially considering the addition of companion posts/extended reviews, I can’t make the time commitment I believe would be necessary to faithfully meet my reading and review schedule all on my own.

So, I’ll be introducing two new reviewers on the blog:

First, I’ll be inviting my friend Atsiko Ureni from Atsiko’s Chimney to review speculative fiction of the adult variety. I’ll still be handling any that’s Young Adult.

Second, the lovely and charming Marisa Greene will be joining me in reviewing young adult, and also reviewing some New Adult titles.

They’ll both be posting introductions in the next few days.

Finally, my next review will be up tomorrow. I’ve just finished reading Saving June by Hannah Harrington. This will be the first review with a companion post, where I’ll be talking about suicide in YA and the YA road trip novel. Following that will be, of course, Dangerous Neighbors, as I said in my previous post.