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The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

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17 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

The second half of RWC is waaaaaaaay better then the first. It really should be looked at almost as one book.

Yeah, I flew through those two books as fast as any of the Fitz books.  I couldn't put them down.  The character growth amongst all the Rain Wilders was great, but man... the growth and maturity in the dragons was just phenomenal.  So much going on there that it's hard for me to fathom anyone considering them a slog.

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I was reading about the split from 2 to 4 books for the RWC. Simply in terms of planning and layout, Hobb seems to use a similar structure for her trilogies. At least, the two that I've read. So it's interesting that she went with 2 (and then 4).

All this talk of dragons makes me really want to get them now. No spare time for the moment... but once I do, I might accidentally fall into a book store and lose money but find novels.

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Okay so I still haven't bought/borrowed the Liveships Traders so I've gone back to reading the most recent series, Fitz and the Fool.

So far it's the first one to have rapid time changes. Only a few chapters in and three years have passed, just flying past! Interesting pacing difference

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21 hours ago, Yukle said:

Okay so I still haven't bought/borrowed the Liveships Traders so I've gone back to reading the most recent series, Fitz and the Fool.

So far it's the first one to have rapid time changes. Only a few chapters in and three years have passed, just flying past! Interesting pacing difference

You're doing yourself a disservice, but to each their own.

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2 hours ago, aceluby said:

You're doing yourself a disservice, but to each their own.

Yeah, probs, but oh well. :P I didn't really get the references to the others on the beach in the earlier books, and I still enjoyed the books fine. I'm too impatient and want to know everything now!

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It’s really Book 3 That is rewarded best by having read Liveships and Rainwilds. Although the whole trilogy is just filled with nods and references to stuff from previous books. It really does a fantastic jobs of pulling toge5er all of the threads that have run throughout the series and brings them together into a cohesive whole.

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Yeah, book 3 definitely pulls them all together for a massive payout IMO.  And while you'll definitely still enjoy it, you're going to miss out on all the relationships and character developments of the ships, dragons, sailors, and keepers.  It was my favorite part of the book.  And if you do go back, you're definitely spoiling yourself since you'll know who is around and who isn't years down the line.  To each their own, but I would never recommend it.

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Well I've already started. Maybe I'll finish this book off, then go back and read the rest, and then return for the final two. I don't own them yet anyway, so won't fall to temptation.

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The Tawny Man #1: Fool's Errand

 
Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Red Ship War. FitzChivalry Farseer is believed dead, with only a few knowing the truth that he survived and helped end the war and the threat of the cruel King Regal. Living a comfortable life as a smallholder with his wolf Nighteyes and an adopted son, Hap, Fitz occasionally has strange dreams. He dismisses these, until his old friend the Fool visits with news: Prince Dutiful, the son of Queen Kettricken and the late King Verity, has vanished in a very strange manner. Reluctantly, Fitz returns to Buckkeep and a life he thought he'd left behind.
 
Fool's Errand is the fourth novel featuring the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, picking up after the events of the original Farseer Trilogy. It's also the seventh novel overall in the Realm of the Elderlings setting, which now extends across sixteen books. It's a bit of a fresh start in the series, as although it follows up on events in the Farseer books (and a brief mention is made of the Liveship Traders trilogy), it also introduces new characters and new storylines.

Fool's Errand is a slow book, at least to start with. The first 200 pages - more than a third of the novel - are taken up by Fitz's home life and routine, with lengthy ruminations on chicken-farming. Fitz's main concern isn't war, death or assassinations, but instead raising enough coin to find his adopted son a good apprenticeship. Some may find this sequence interminable, but Hobb uses this sequence to establish Fitz's good, comfortable and quiet life away from the mayhem of the court, and what it means when it is taken away when a new crisis erupts.

The rest of the novel is more familiar: a prince has gone missing, the Witted people of the Six Duchies are rebelling against the persecution and murder of their kind by forming an armed resistance and a new peace treaty between the Duchies and the Outislands is in jeopardy. Keen for people to not realise he's survived, Fitz adopts a new identity (the uncouth Tom Badgerlock) and undertakes clandestine mission for the crown. This results in some splendid, classic epic fantasy elements such as an awkward cliffside sword fight against superior enemy numbers, the experimental use of magic and the gradual teasing and unravelling of a labyrinthine conspiracy.

This doesn't mean that Hobb's straying too far from her established tropes. When in doubt about what to do next, she just makes Fitz's life more miserable and horrible than ever before, killing off loved ones and finding ways to put him in as awkward and painful a situation as possible. It's all vaguely depressing, which is an odd juxtaposition given that the second half of the novel is as lively and swashbuckling as Hobb has ever gotten.

Still, if you're in the mood for a beautifully-written, somewhat melancholy fantasy where the focus is firmly on the characters rather than magic or battles, Fool's Errand (****) is a very fine novel. It's also surprisingly stand-alone: you'd definitely miss a fair amount if you hadn't read the Farseer trilogy, but the plot is focused on a new story and situation. Also, whilst the story clearly is set to continue after the final page, there's no major cliffhanger ending. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

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The Tawny Man #2: The Golden Fool

Fitz has returned to Buckkeep, but it's far from the hero's welcome that might have been imagined. He serves the Queen and spymaster Chade incognito, posing as Tom Badgerlock, bodyguard and servant to the visiting "Lord Golden" (in reality, the Fool, likewise in disguise). He now has to train Prince Dutiful in the ways of both the Skill and the Wit, whilst also investigating the threat the Piebald (militant Witted rebels) pose to the crown. But delegations from overseas arrive, one from the Outislands to the north and another from the Liveship Traders of Bingtown, both emissaries bringing opportunity...and great danger.

The Golden Fool is the middle volume of the Tawny Man trilogy, as well as the eighth book in the wider Realm of the Elderlings series, bringing the overall series to its halfway point. Its predecessor, Fool's Errand, was one of the stronger single novels in the series, with a very good, mostly self-contained storyline. The Golden Fool, alas, isn't quite as strong at standing on its own two feet, but it is very much what readers have come to expect from a Robin Hobb novel: introspective, brooding but also a deeply human work of fantasy fiction.

The Golden Fool centres itself on Fitz's relationships at Bukkeep, with Queen Kettricken, Chade, his foster-son Hap, Prince Dutiful and, most notably, the Fool. The Fool has always been the most enigmatic character in the series (for all that he is the only character to appear in every book to date) and Hobb has been very careful not to give away too much of his secrets. This book doesn't really get into that either, instead being more interested in the ambiguities of Fitz and the Fool's relationship.

That's not to say there isn't any action - the plot turns on a very brutal sword fight - but it's definitely a quieter and more introspective book than even the norm for Hobb. At first I thought the detailed account of Fitz's everyday comings and goings for the Fool, Chade and the Queen was a prelude to a more traditional fantasy narrative (as was well-done in Fool's Errand) but instead it turns out to be the whole book. This makes The Golden Fool a prime example of "middle-book" syndrome, one which exists to bridge the start of the story to the end.

Still, even a slow, bridging Robin Hobb novel is a cut above most fantasy. The prose is exemplary, the characterisation is absolutely first-rate and it's a brave and refreshing fantasy novel where the most important thing that happens is a quiet (but brutally honest) conversation between two old friends. And it does leave the story in a very interest place for the next novel in the series, Fool's Fate.

The Golden Fool (****) is available now in the UK and USA.

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Golden Fool was actually one of my absolute favourites in the series, because it feels like the book where Fitz really sits up and starts paying attention to his relationships and who the people in his life are. This is best represented by his relationship and interactions with Chade, where Fitz starts to realise that his every interaction with Chade is influenced by who Fitz and Chade were fifteen years previously, and their relationship then, and who they are now, and he starts to consider in what arenas he does and does not trust his judgement.

That felt like a more epic and momentous reordering of a fantasy world when I read it than most cataclysmic events I have read in other series. Hell, it often felt more significant to me as a reader than the go to world-altering stuff in the Elderlings series generally.

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Agreed, Golden Fool was excellent. In some ways the novels blend together as a series so it is harder to remember individual installments but I do recall the excellence and reading experience I had with this one.

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I think the Tawny Man trilogy in particular blurred together as one installment for me so I often struggle to recall where each book leaves off (though I could of course never forget the sadness that comes twoards the end of book 1 :crying: never forget). However I do recall finding the stuff in Fool's Fate especially enthralling 

Spoiler

The stuff on Aslevjal and the Pale Woman's dungeons is particularly harrowing, especially in respect of Beloved. And while i know some think the ending strings on a bit too long I enjoyed it, and in hindsight the rather abrupt ending doesn't bother me so much. My biggest criticism of Fool's Fate is probably still the arrival of Burrich on Aslevjal. Not so much that he was there, but that Hobb didn't find a tidier way to get him there. As things stand it appears that she realised how much she needed to have him there so poof there he was. Not a major problem but it always stands out to me on rereads.

 

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The whole of Fool's Fate is just a fantastic book to me. Loved the stuff on Aslevjal as well, really stood out as a setting.

Probably because she manages to do such a good job of drawning you into the story with her characters, you're involved more in the specific setting as well.

I was interested to see if there was any news at all on if she has a new book up her sleeve. After some digging I did find this, from a recent blog post:

Quote

The second thing I’m realizing is that I’m no longer as driven about my writing. In fact, I haven’t typed anything on any story for over a week now. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve retired as a writer and didn’t really notice I’d done it.

For now, there’s a lot to keep me busy around here, and I’m rethinking how to balance my life. ‘What to leave in, what to leave out’ as the song says.

I’m still writing in my head, of course. While I’m mowing the field and planting seeds, the stories unfold and I hear the dialogue. But it’s like watching something simmering on the stove, and knowing that it’s not ready to serve yet. The stories need more time before they are ready to be written, perhaps.

So for now I’ll keep tending the land and thinking the stories until I feel it’s time to sit at the keyboard and write again.

But then this interview from even later , it says:

 

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2018/07/robin-hobb-changing-cultures-writing-about-violence-and-anonymity-living-farm

Quote

Hobb hasn’t ruled out coming back to the Elderlings, but she is currently writing something new: an urban fantasy story based near Tacoma, Washington State, where she lives. “It’s a story I have wanted to write for a long time, but I don’t know if anyone will want to publish it.”

 

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