Reading Robin Hobb makes me feel like I'm back in school ... or it would do if that were where I learned to write fiction. I have on occasion felt rather pleased with my writing, but reading Hobb's work always makes me realise I've got a long way to go.
Hobb's particular mastery is in characters and the relationships between them. No story is going to work in the long term unless the characters hold you, unless you care what happens to them. Hobb doesn't rely on shock or purple prose, she uses the understated power in close observation and an intimate knowledge of her subject.
In Fool's Assassin we're starting a third trilogy with characters that first came to the page 19 years ago.
Many readers will have literally grown up with Fitz and the Fool, some others may have grown old with them. Two decades is long enough to see substantial changes in the readers, the characters, and the writer herself.
This is a book that wouldn't be possible without the groundwork laid before. It builds on the history we have with these characters and exploits it. The story that we see unfold has echoes the story that has gone before. Like a piece of music it builds on themes, reflects earlier melodies, improvises around them, and plays an old refrain.
Sections of the story that I can't describe for fear of spoilers hit particularly strong chords with me and were very moving, but whatever individual experience you bring to the book it's going to play on your heartstrings.
This isn't a high adrenaline book, though there's plenty of tension. It's more subtle than that, a more reflective and slower-paced tale. Hobb works her magic though and I felt gripped throughout. A powerful, passionate book that takes #1 spot on my reading list this year.
I've said in the past that I wanted to be careful not to wear out my characters' welcome. It can be an uncomfortable reading experience to fall out of love with a character, to grow bored with them. The lead character in my first trilogy, Jorg Ancrath, burned very bright and that intensity couldn't be sustained over a long series. With Fitz however I find that none of the enchantment has been lost and that it's not habit that keeps me following his story - it's because it's as strong and compelling as ever it was and a privilege to walk the pages with him.
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