Science fiction and fantasy
by Robin Hobb
Meanwhile in the country a conflict is brewing between the Witted and those who despise and envy them. Persecution is on the rise, and those people believed to have the magical ability to read the minds of beasts face gruesome and painful executions if discovered.
It's the news that Prince Dutiful has gone missing that spurs Fitz on. The Prince is due to meet his future bride, and if he doesn't return before her party arrives it will be interpreted as a snub that could precipitate another war with the Outislanders.
Fool's Errand takes a long time to build up to the main crisis. That's not to say that it's stuck on recapping the events of previous books and on preparing Fitz for the journey ahead, although there is a little of that going on. The thing is, this novel is gripping even when the characters aren't in the midst of life-or-death struggles or trying to solve impenetrable mysteries. The relationship between Fitz and the Fool is a curious one, their friendship tinged with jealousy but made closer by shared secrets and an intertwined destiny.
Dutiful is a headstrong boy, and in him we see echoes of a younger Fitz, caught up in a vicious political game that he doesn't fully understand.
The Witted are prominent in this novel, which explores some of the ramifications of the Wit bond, highlighting its dangers as well as the powers it can bring. Magic in Robin Hobb's world is always a double-edged sword, with costs and perils for the wielder. It's more than just a source of wonder or a way to get characters out of trouble when things seem hopeless.
Although Fitz may fear he's losing his touch with the passage of time, Robin Hobb proves she's still got the old magic in Fool's Errand. The author weaves a tale as tantalising and compelling as the Skill magic she writes about. The next generation of Farseers are as fascinating and unpredictable as the previous one.
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Review © Ros Jackson
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