I would say this book was for the most part, the poorest of the series. It lacked clear direction in the plot (which often meandered around aimlessly)I would say this book was for the most part, the poorest of the series. It lacked clear direction in the plot (which often meandered around aimlessly) and had one of the biggest cop-out endings ever (though part of the ending redeemed the book a bit). It also lacked the charm of the previous books; it just felt soulless.
I enjoyed the series itself greatly, and found most of the books up to this one to be quite good considering the targeted audience (I particularly enjoyed "Drowned Wednesday"). However I feel like Garth Nix ran into trouble concluding the series, and rather than push the deadlines to add some polish, he just spewed out his draft. There was a lot that could have been cut, shortened, as well as quite a lot that could have been added. In a way, it's not entirely Nix's fault; I feel like however much I enjoyed the aesthetic of "The Keys to the Kingdom", the formula had been fairly exhausted by this book (Arthur get's separated from his allies and must make do in the enemy trustee's domain on his own). However, up until Lord Sunday, Nix had done a great job of putting a new spin on it, so my sympathy is fairly limited.
The book itself was still a fairly captivating read; I didn't find myself necessarily bored by it, though I was frequently frustrated by fairly unimaginative plot directions that could have been so much more. There were a few parts that redeemed this book for me, the scene in which the final part of the Will is released (which without going into details, was really well executed), and the rather bleak "pre-ending".
What immensely irritates me is how that pre-ending is abruptly reversed almost immediately, in the space of a few lines of dialogue. It literally executed the definition of a "Deus Ex Machina" ending. It was honestly something you'd expect from a Goosebumps-type pulp novel. Everything after that initially bleak ending is complete rubbish, the cheese-factor was incredibly high.
Lord Sunday himself was not a particularly interesting character, and had surpisingly little involvement in the plot compared to previous books. He was just sort of "there" for the last few chapters and really didn't play a huge part in the story.
Arthur also degenerated as an interesting character, as his appeal lay within his acting as a channel for the reader. So when the plot itself is interesting, he in turn is an interesting character. However without a solid plot for us to experience through him, you realize he's not particularly complicated either. I mean we know virtually nothing about his interests or background, his personality is rather repetitive (him constantly reminding us how he doesn't really want power) and lacks much depth.
All in all, although still worth reading, this book could have been so much better. There were so many things that could have easily been better handled that were not....more
[This review may contain some spoilers, though I try to avoid mentioning anything momentous in the plot, if you see [SPOILER] immediately stop reading[This review may contain some spoilers, though I try to avoid mentioning anything momentous in the plot, if you see [SPOILER] immediately stop reading my review if you have not read the book]
This book is one of the most emotionally powerful books I have ever read. I'm a man, and like many men, we take pride in the masculine stereotype of withholding tears even from extremely emotional moments. I couldn't do that when reading this book. This book, unlike the many so-called "tragic" movies I've seen managed to get me shedding a few tears at the few tragic moments at the end of book.
First off, I would not say this is perfect. Hobb's handling of the plot is much better than the completely crappy ending of the first trilogy (The Farseer Trilogy), but it's still weak in the endings department. Her immense strength has always lied in her genius in creating amazingly realistic characters (they are the farthest from Mary/Gary Stu's I've ever seen, yet unlike many authors, she doesn't just make them stupid and nasty all the time, the opposite of a Mary Stu) who you come to love, and interesting non-cliche worlds. I have always loved the "Skill" magic system, it's powerful, but not god-like. Using it risks the wielder's sanity and as we have seen, often taxes Fitz greatly to use. It's a magic that can only be mastered through immense discipline and practice, rather than just "finding-your-center" type exercises most books use to explain the main characters sudden mastery of magic. The healing use of the Skill in this book used a very acceptable pseudo-scientific explanation, rather than just automagically fixing someone, the user must completely (or near completely) understand the anatomy of the wounded area, and when the magic is used, it does not simply fix the area, but accelerates the body's healing process (as well as guiding it), but at the cost of quite a lot of energy on the wounded persons part.
The characters, especially the Fool have been greatly expanded over the duration of the Tawney Man Trilogy. This was a series that should never been split from the "Farseer Trilogy", as characters that were once completely two-dimensional grow to become almost real, and the reader loves them. The Fool went from simply being a Jester that followed Fitz around to a rich character, little bits of his past was given to the reader, as well as a more detailed opinion of himself. We see that the Fool has many "facets" of his personality, some completely different genders. The most pivotal thing that has gradually been revealed since the last book in the Farseer Trilogy up until Fool's Fate, is that he is in love with Fitz. While Fitz considers the Fool to be his closest friend (the highest relationship with a man that Fitz can conceive of), the Fool loves him with all of his heart. I am completely heterosexual, I don't have a problem with Homosexuality (my belief is that your sexual preference is completely your choice, it's really no one else's business), but many books that include homosexual characters ("Boudicca" ring a bell?) completely "rub me the wrong way", as the characters that you once thought to be heterosexual suddenly "change" when their homosexuality is revealed, often becoming feminine and coy. The other common issue with books containing homosexual characters, is that their homosexuality is often revealed in the form of a sudden, abrupt sex scene, completely the wrong way to gain the acceptance of a heterosexual reader. Robin Hobb's gradual easing of reader into accepting the Fool's sexuality (it's implied that he's bisexual) made it easy for me to accept, in fact, it seemed completely natural and I had no objection. In an argument between Fitz and the Fool, the Fool reveals that he loves Fitz, just as Fitz would love a woman. The Fool explains to Fitz that he loves him, and would "bed" with him, as Fitz would say, but he understands (well, he doesn't really, perhaps because of his cultural background, or different species, he does not seem to separate the concepts of sexuality/love/friendship, but he does accept that Fitz simply can't have a sexual relationship with a man and that Fitz in incapable of reciprocating that love in that way,) that Fitz does not want a sexual relationship with him, so the Fool is content to simply be Fitz's friend. Never before have I been so comfortable with a characters homosexuality (again, I'm not homophobic, but it's difficult for a heterosexual to understand/relate to homosexual characters), for the first time I could understand a male characters love for another male character. Starling is also a character that received a good deal of expansion in the end, finally we're given an explanation for her often heartless personality, rather than just thinking of her as "that bitchy character" (remember that she revealed she was raped a few chapters after she was introduced in the Farseer Trilogy, but that's not the only reason for her bitterness)
The loose threads left over from the Farseer Trilogy are finally for the most part tied. Some things are never answered, but not in a "just-forget-about-it-reader" kind of way, they just are not important in the "grand scheme of things". A wise author never "ties" every hanging plot thread, mainly because it's difficult to do so naturally and because it leaves the books universe open in the readers mind.
Many people do not like the depressive endings that the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawney Man trilogy had (the Tawney Man Trilogy was much happier in the end, but there was a bitter aspect to it), which is understandable. What the reader must realize is that as a reader, you rarely know what you actually want. You always sympathize for the main character and desire for everything in their life to work out, but you may find that if the author actually gave into your desire and made a "and they lived happily ever after" ending you thought you wanted, in all likelihood, you would hate it. If you like those kind of endings, fables/fairytales are the type of book you should be looking at, not the "realistic" fantasy genre.
An important thing to know before reading this (I would almost say a warning), is that this book will have you depressed when reading the final chapters. The utter bleakness will seap into your own life, even when doing other things. I am fairly unreceptive to emotional aspects of books/movies, but this book honestly made me depressed for the rest of the day after finishing it. I had no idea why until I reflected a little and found that I had been very effected by certain tragic elements (that I will not reveal for the sake of people who haven't read the book). I suggest reading this when you have time off, as you may not be able to face work/school the day you finish it. I'm serious, this book had me in a full blown episode of depression for a day. That's how powerful it is. It's a good thing though, it's rare for me to feel such powerful emotion, you almost savor the sadness.
[SPOILER] [SPOILER] Despite my earlier assurance that completely happy endings have no place in the realistic fantasy genre, the way the Fool and Fitz's separation in the end was way to depressing. I may have been able to accept the Fool's explanation for why he had to leave Fitz (I'll go over that next), but the whole incident with Fitz getting trapped in the Witness Stone for an entire month (though it felt like a few moments for him, time apparently has no meaning in the "Skill River") and the Fool believing him dead is far to depressing. After the whole argument between Fitz and the Fool, where the Fool told him that they had to go separate ways because they could still make "changes" to the wheel of time (their role as the White Prophet and the Catalyst was at an end when the dragons were allowed to begin repopulating, though they still had their powers and the ability to influence the passage of time (yeah, I know, everyone influences events whether they like it or not, but the Fool devoutly believes in his "religion", so there's no explaining that to him), when Fitz apparently died in the Witness Stones (after the conversation between Fitz and the Black man immediately prior to Fitz's almost death, upon hearing Fitz never came out, the Black Man would almost definitely assume that Fitz perished in the Skill traveling and tell the Fool. The Fool would of course blame himself, thinking that he had for the second time stepped out of his role as White Prophet and "changed" things by telling Fitz to leave, he would be devastated at the loss of his love and friend, and also at the fact that in his mind, he changed the future that Fitz was "supposed" to have. I can only imagine how devastated and depressed the Fool must have been, and following his torture at the hands of the Pale Woman, I have no idea how he could have kept his will to live. I can not understand how Fitz could fail to see this and allow his friend to spend the remainder of his life hating himself. I understand that they have to be separate, but he should at least somehow inform the Fool that he remained living, maybe in the form of a letter sent via ship to him if he could at least not go in purpose (the Fool went to the school of the White Prophets, doubtlessly a notable place where people would probably make pilgrimages to).
Aside from that, I'll attempt to explain my understanding of why the Fool so devoutly believed he had to separate from Fitz. The Fool believes that he is a White Prophet, a person capable of seeing many possible futures and the actions that could make them real. Fitz is his Catalyst, the person that actually makes these changes. If you've played the game Half Life: 2, it's similar to the use of Gordon Freeman by the Gman ("The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world"), in that the Catalyst is used to influence changes to make the "good" futures real. Each White Prophet/Catalyst has a goal, that contributes to the overall "goodness" of the world, slowly moving the world away from Chaos. They do not just keep working until they die, once they succeed in that one goal, their roles as White Prophet/Catalyst are complete. They still have the power to make changes, but to do so could reverse the good they created. Hence the Fool believes that he and Fitz should split up. The white prophet is generally incapable of making changes (and if definitely not supposed to), and the Catalyst apparently does not make significant changes without the assistance of the White Prophet, therefore when apart they are basically powerless. This is why the Fool was so convinced he had to leave Fitz. (hide spoiler)]
I don't think I'll ever read such a powerful book, if you read the Farseer Trilogy and was extremely disappointed by the end, read this Trilogy, trust me, it had the "true" ending....more
This book starts off pretty good, and picks up as it goes along, just as the previous 2 books did. This time Robin Hobb didn't use the annoying "FitzThis book starts off pretty good, and picks up as it goes along, just as the previous 2 books did. This time Robin Hobb didn't use the annoying "Fitz pondering the past" method of reminding the reader of previous events, she integrated the reminders more subtly.
This book becomes fascinating near the end, I couldn't stop reading. I was set for an amazingly epic ending to a trilogy I had come to love. Ultimately, I was disappointed. The ending so surprised me with the completely crappyness of it, that it angered me. I was so disappointed. Robin Hobb employed a "Deus Ex Machina" ending, which left me aghast that a writer who had built herself up as one of my favourite author's would resort to a shitty romance novel plot device. She also heightened the depressivenes of FitzChivalry's life, past levels I would have thought impossible. At the end of the book, his life is so bad, it will leech your own enjoyment of life until you get your head completely out of the book.
There are scores of questions left unanswered, which I won't write specifically which ones, as knowing that their explanations aren't present may sway you from reading this book (you should still read it).
The thing that saved this author from my wrath is the fact that she continued Fitz's story in the "Tawney Man Trilogy". I'm about 3 quarts through the book, and I'm much happier with the direction things are going in. Questions left unanswered by the "Farseer Trilogy" appear to be on the verge of being answered, as they are still important topics in this trilogy.
Basically, expect to be disappointed by the books ending, but take heart in the fact that Fitz's story does continue. Before judging the Farseer Trilogy, read "The Tawney Man" trilogy, as the two series should never have been split into two separate parts.
(Possible Spoiler ahead, if you haven't read the book yet, I suggest you stop reading my review here) The revelation pertaining to Burrich near the end was unexpected, which is something I appreciate in a novel (it keeps me on my toes), but I was a little revolted. It just felt so wrong, not just his age, but the level of trust he broke, and the fact that Fitz's death didn't influence his choice at all. Some will argue otherwise, but Burrich's actions made Fitz's life even more depressing than I could ever have thought possible....more