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Fool's Fate: The Tawny Man Book 3    by Robin Hobb order for
Fool's Fate
by Robin Hobb
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've enjoyed many of the author's earlier books, written as Megan Lindholm, but for some reason missed her three Robin Hobb trilogies - Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man. After reading this final Tawny Man episode, Fool's Fate, I intend to quickly remedy that oversight and catch up on all three trilogies. I would recommend reading Fool's Errand and Golden Fool before this book, as the author builds on a complex structure of societies, and quite a history of events and interpersonal relationships. The main protagonists are the 'Fool' (self-styled 'White Prophet') and his 'Catalyst', 'the stone he would set to bump time's wheels out of its rut.' This is bastard prince FitzChivalry Farseer, now incognito as Queen Kettricken's man-at-arms Tom Badgerlock.

There are two types of magic in this world - 'Wit Magic' that gives an awareness of other life, and a 'Skill Magic' whose powers include telepathy and sharing of dreams. Fitz/Tom helps instruct his old assassin mentor Chade, Prince Dutiful, and the slow-witted but powerful Thick in these talents, in preparation for a quest voyage to the Out Islands, where Dutiful has vowed to give 'the Narcheska', Elliania, the head of black dragon Icefyre (long encased in glacial ice on Aslevjal) in return for her promise of alliance through marriage. Fitz plots to keep the Fool from joining the quest, since the latter prophesied his own death. Achieving their goal is not going to be simple as female dragon Tintaglia also seeks Icefyre, her last hope of a mate. She has been invading the dreams of Fitz's talented, spirited daughter Nettle (who doesn't know he's her real father). And on Aslevjal, an old enemy (a particularly nasty sorceress) is pulling strings to bring both Fitz and the Fool into her sticky web, and who is the Black Man?

It's a richly endowed world in which 'An infinite number of futures bud at the end of every moment, and each one of them can be changed by a falling rose petal.' I enjoyed the misunderstandings between the matriarchal Outislander culture and the Farseers, and appreciated the depth of both the world's magics and its horrors (the notion of the 'Forged' is particularly terrible). The journey on and below the ice, and the struggle to free or kill Icefyre is epic in scope. There's romance and tragedy, friendship and betrayal in the mix, and the author wraps it all up in fitting conclusions to all the tale's heroics, heroes and heroines. Finally, Fitz learns that to cut out the pain of his past is to also lose part of himself. Don't miss this brilliant fantasy series. It ranks at the top of the genre.

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