Fool’s Fate, the final book in Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man Trilogy, ends by being kinder to its protagonist than I expected.
The preceding Farseer Trilogy battered Fitz in body and spirit, scarring him with everything from a grievous arrow wound to losing his first love. Fool’s Errand, the first book in the Tawny Man Trilogy, wasn’t much easier on him when it deprived him of a beloved companion. And The Golden Fool saw him take another nearly fatal injury.
But in the same book, fellow magic-users restored Fitz physically. “Abuse I had suffered at Galen’s hands in the course of his teaching me the Skill,” he notes afterwards, “injuries I had taken as a warrior, and the deep scars from my torture in Regal’s dungeons had been erased.” And in Fool’s Fate, he finally confronts the psychic pain he’s borne since the end of the first trilogy and accepts that the only way to truly mend a damaged soul isn’t to run from life, but to reengage with it.
Hobb gets there by structuring the story unconventionally. The seeming climax comes early, at around the two-thirds mark, when Fitz helps resolve the dragon-related quest that carried over from the previous book. There’s no true antagonist from that point on (except perhaps for Fitz’s stubborn determination to be unhappy). The stakes seemed a bit low in the first chunk of the book as well. In the preceding trilogy, Red Ship Raiders were ravaging the Six Duchies, making the consequences of failing to stop them clear and terrible. But in the Tawny Man Trilogy, the overriding conflict is between two dueling prophecies: those of the Fool and the Pale Woman. We’re told the ramifications of either vision becoming true will be profound, but since these are uncertain futures, the danger feels less immediate. I also thought the Piebald thread from the first book was done away with awkwardly.
Even so, I loved this book, as I have all the entries I’ve read in this series. The worldbuilding is superb: Hobb does the “We’re living in the ruins of a lost civilization” motif better than about anyone else. And low stakes aren’t a deal-breaker when you’re as invested in the characters as I’ve become. After everything I’ve seen Fitz go through, it was satisfying to hear him end by saying, “I am content.”
Of course, there’s another Fitz trilogy after this one. I’m almost afraid to see what Hobb does to spoil that contentment. But I’m definitely going to find out.
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