Robin Hobb terrifies me. I enjoy her books in theory. Parts of the Farseer trilogy were fantastic and I really liked the Liveship Traders (though her habit of dragging chapters on and on infuriates me). But most of my trepidation is due to the awfulness that was Assassin’s Quest. Boy oh boy was that book bad. I mean, I stopped reading it for 3 months when I was 85% done with it because it was so boring. But, when looking at her overall body of work that I’ve read, I’ve genuinely enjoyed her characters so I knew it was just a matter of time before I got to the Tawny Man series.
And after a rough start, I was pretty shocked by how engrossing it was!
It was a fool’s errand to assume Robin Hobb wouldn’t drone on and on.
Lets get this out of the way. This book has no business being 660 pages long. Everyone complains about how the movie version of Return of the King refuses to end. Well this book refuses to begin. The first 220 pages consist of NOTHING happening. Sure we meet characters, both old and new, but it is all variations on the same thing. Not boring, thankfully, but holy poop, was it ever repetitive. A full third of the book was dedicated to introductions and repeated musings. This could have been cut in half.
Now that that unpleasantness is behind us, here’s the good stuff. This book was Robin Hobb at her best with characterizations. Fitz and the Fool’s relationship was as good as it has been and I loved their banter. And maybe it’s because I got a dog since reading the first trilogy but Nighteyes was a major improvement for me. His and Fitz’s arc in this book may have been a trifle predictable but it was great. Their interactions were meaningful and heartfelt and their love for each other had me (a very tough and manly man) quite emotional. Other characters like Chade really get some strong moments in the limelight, and Prince Dutiful is well drawn. (Really my only complaint is the character of Jinna feels unnatural but my guess is that she will be made more relevant in future books).
And now, for the biggest improvement from the original Farseer trilogy…a main plot that kept me engaged! Granted it was almost like you had to get through a 200 page prologue but the search for Prince Dutiful had the right mix of mystery, adventure, and emotion. I was worried throughout that it would devolve into the nonsense that I hated Assassin’s Quest for but, nope, this plot was awesome and Fitz and Dutiful’s conflicted emotions towards each other drew me in. I could have done without the abrupt “everyone’s lives are saved” moment towards the end but, all in all, great plot.
However, my lord, can she pleaaaaase shorten her chapters??? She can get too descriptive and it doesn’t help that every chapter is like 20 pages. And she doesn’t do those breaks in the middle of chapters! COME ON! It’s so hard to figure out a natural stopping point when reading at night.
So this would have been my favorite Hobb book if it had gone ahead and started right away rather than meandering about. There are some dangling plot threads that I assume will be wrapped up in later books and I absolutely want to see what happens next.