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Fool's Assassin: Fitz and the Fool #1    by Robin Hobb order for
Fool's Assassin
by Robin Hobb
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Robin Hobb's Fool's Assassin begins a new cycle in her brilliant Farseer epic fantasy series. Though I've also enjoyed her Liveship Traders and Soldier's Son series and Rain Wilds Chronicles, her Farseer and Tawny Man books have always been my favourites. So I was delighted to open this one.

The world believes that FitzChivalry Farseer died at the hands of Prince Regal. But he was magically revived, with the unintended consequence of slowing his aging. He achieved his destiny as a Catalyst and was allowed to retire from politics and marry his beloved Molly. Now, as humble Holder Tom Badgerlock, he looks after their daughter Nettle's estate (Nettle leads King Dutiful's Skill-coterie). Though he sorely misses Burrich, his wolf Nighteyes, and the Fool (last seen ten years before), Fitz is content in his new, peaceful life at Withywoods, and in the company of Molly and his stepmother Patience.

The action develops slowly, our first hint at what's ahead occurring at a Winterfest celebration. Unusual and odd looking minstrels come and go, as does a messenger for Fitz - when he finally gets around to looking in his study, papers are scattered and there is blood - did something happen to the messenger? Life goes on. Molly and Patience age. Fitz dreams of torture and the Fool.

Then Molly, years past the possibility of childbirth, tells Fitz she is pregnant. Everyone humors her, believing it's the onset of senility, but two years later, an odd, tiny girl child is born. She develops very slowly and most people believe that Bee is simple minded - but she is far from it and has true Dreams. Very slowly, Bee and her father draw close and he shares with her the locations of entries to the numerous secret passages in Withywoods. And a second messenger arrives and dies, after sharing prophecies of an Unexpected Son.

Bee's life becomes more difficult after spymaster Chade asks Fitz to take on two charges - FitzVigilant as a tutor for Bee and the very spoiled Shun (another Farseer bastard) for her safety. Then, after this long, slow build-up, what has been dreamt and prophesied comes to fruition in a series of violent encounters that leave many dead and Fitz devastated. It will be a long time (if ever) before he can assume his simple lifestyle again. I love immersing myself in Robin Hobb's richly realized world, and can't wait to read more of this new Farseer saga.

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