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Fool's Errand, book #1 of The Tawny Man, by Robin Hobb

Review by SS

Spoilers for The Farseer and The Liveship Traders!

We return once again to Fitz, now a middle-aged man living in isolation from the life he once knew at Buck. His only companions are his wolf, Nighteyes, and the fosterling boy he took in, Hap. But even though Fitz wants nothing more than to be left to this quiet life, visits first from Starling, then the Fool, show that the time of his solitude has passed.

Fitz is charged with the task of returning the Prince Dutiful to the castle. The prince – either captured or run away – must be back before his bethrothed, a girl of the Outislands, arrives for their ceremony. Fitz, the Fool – now wearing the guise of a foreign noble, and a Huntswoman called Laurel begin to track down the mysterious Piebald, a group who embrace their Wit heritage and demand that it be recognised.

Of all the Hobb books, this is my favourite. The books and series which preceded it has given it freedom to develop plots and characters largely free of exposition about the world, the characters, etc. There is also the joy of trying to piece together how everything from Farseer and Liveship fits into this new story. The development on the characters of Fitz (who I think could only have had the legacy to be as he was because we knew him so well as a youth in the Farseer series) and the Fool are wonderful. Fitz is not always likeable, but he is understandable. And the Fool is again my favourite character. I like the mystery and changability of him, and his good heart beneath it all.

Fool’s Errand encompasses only a surprisingly short amount of time. The start covers a few months, but theactual body of the book takes place in about a fortnight. However, this has not made the book slow-paced. On the contrary, it moves very quickly and vividly, so there is never a dull moment. It is packed full of action, with enough detail and thought to keep it balanced, but never so much that it becomes tedious. The excerpts at the start of each chapter from “books” serve to explain the knowledge we need to fully understand the story, without bogging down the actual narrative. Hobb’s writing is fluid and easy to read.

I give Fool’s Errand 4.5 out of 5 amulets. I strongly recommend this book. However, while it’s not essential to read Farseer and Liveship first, reading the precursors does add a lot to the book. Fool’s Errand is surprisingly a lighter read than Farseer, which I thought was quite dark. This was an excellent book and I can’t wait to read the next two!

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