Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Middle Book Syndrome strikes again!
I was a big fan of Fool's Assassin, a book which, after it got through the early doldrums, ended up being an excellent fantasy read with a lot of wrinkles and points of interest. It was contained while still keeping an epic feeling, and that's not easy to do.
Fool's Quest falters, yes, but not in a terrible way. As an anticipated title, the amount of time the book spends effectively milling around and waiting for an endpoint or some action feels almost inexcusable, but it's part a style choice that doesn't always work when the scale of the story has grown so much. Fitz (basically) the bureaucrat isn't entirely the same as Fitz the woodsman away from the world he was once part of, and it becomes a stumbling block for a lot of the book. Only when a key decision is made regarding Fitz and certain family members does the book really kick into gear and, while the final quarter of the book doesn't exactly redeem the first three-fourths, it does create a marvelous run up to an interesting finale and some significant anticipation for the third book.
The problem with Quest, though, is that so much of it could have been excised. Many strange choices (including an explanation for Fitz's daughter, Bee, that was a little unsettling and yet didn't quite seem to intend to play that way, although my lack of experience with prior Fitz/Fool books may shade this) and some character confusion keep this from being the great tale it could be, but that's why Middle Book Syndrome is a thing.
I'm excited for the third book and I enjoyed this second one more than I sound like. Just maybe hold off until we're close to the final release date of the next book first.
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