New Book Review: ASSASSIN’S FATE by Robin Hobb

Dark Adult Fantasy

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The stunning conclusion to Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which began with Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest

“Every new Robin Hobb novel is a cause for celebration. Along with millions of her other fans, I delight in every visit to the Six Duchies, the Rain Wilds, and the Out Islands, and can’t wait to see where she’ll take me next.”—George R. R. Martin 

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.


REVIEW

First, I’ve been reading this series since not long after it first came out. Fantasy has always been my first and most enduring love. You do have to read the series to understand this book.

The blurb calls this a stunning conclusion to the series.

It’s right.

Robin Hobb is one of the very few (Less than five now) established authors I still auto-buy. Price of books and my anemic book buying cash and all. But I always buy the books about Fitz.

I bought this one release week and I’ll be completely honest, I had trouble getting into it. Passive voice. It’s my Achilles heel in reading and it will always throw me out of the story. So when I first picked up this story, hoping to escape, it irritated me enough to put it down when I caught several instances of passive voice in the first few pages.

I’m glad I finally got around to picking it back up again.

Man, when it finally grabbed me by the throat it pinned me down and held me almost unable to breathe for an entire weekend.

By that I mean I got NONE of my chores done, my hubs brought me dinner because I kept forgetting to eat and I forgot to make coffee one day because I was SO ENTHRALLED by the story. COFFEE people, I forgot COFFEE!

Now. I read fast, but this book is almost 900 pages long, I started it late at night on Friday and just finished it. A little before midnight on Sunday.

I didn’t do much of ANYTHING except read all weekend because I had to know what happened to Fitz and Beloved.

Had to.

It’s really good. I cried. A lot. Ugly, messy, cry, and I’m still content with how the story ended. I wish it hadn’t HAD to, because these were the only characters by this author that I connect with, but it’s still a fantastic conclusion. Even though my heart aches.

I’ll miss these characters, miss looking forward to new books with them. Badly. Sadly, Bee doesn’t do it for me as a character.

Somehow, I had also missed that Beloved is gender-fluid throughout the whole series, and though they aren’t named that way, it’s quite clear when I think about it. I suppose I could be coding it, but I really doubt it. Probably one of reasons I’ve loved these books, and reread them so many times for so many years.

I will say: Content Warning on a deliberate mis-gendering by Fitz for Beloved. That stung a bit to read. It worked for the characters, story, and world though, so it’s not a complaint. Just a warning.

SCORES

Readability: 5/5 star-1586412_1920 It’d be around 9 or 10 if I could rate that high on my system. I didn’t quite drop my tablet on my face, but that’s only because I’m trying to discipline myself into actually SLEEPING at night.

Arcs: 5/5 star-1586412_1920As I finished this last installment, I have to wonder if Ms. Hobb had this entire series planned from the get go. The series arcs, relationship arcs, and multiple trilogy arcs are so masterfully done. SO well done. It’s amazing. Truly.

Craft: 4/5: star-1586412_1920 I wish I could give it a full on five-star rating, but I did have trouble getting into it because of the passive voice. I found a couple of sections dragging and would’ve advised the author cut a few scenes to speed pacing. Still loved the book and the sheer scope of this story… it’s freaking phenomenal. Hobb carries well her laurels of being one of the best fantasists in the genre.

 

 

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New book review: MASK OF SHADOWS by Linsey Miller

Dark, Young Adult Fantasy, Gender Fluid main character, LGBTQIA+

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling gender fluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

REVIEW

I don’t read a lot of YA because it has to be so dark it pretty much isn’t meant for younger kids for me to enjoy it.

This book did not disappoint. It’s upper YA, the main character is in their late teens and they grew up hard, an orphan from a war. They’re a thief who becomes an assassin. PERFECT.

I first asked for the book from Netgalley when I heard through Twitter that it had a gender fluid main character.

Being non-binary and the parent of someone I think is likely to decide they’re enby too, I couldn’t click on the request link fast enough.

The voice in this lifts up off the pages and grabs you from page one. I fell in love with the MC, Sal, by page three and by chapter three the book had hooked me good and hard.

It doesn’t feel like a debut novel. (Though, as an author/editor/publisher, I know most debuts aren’t the author’s first book.)

It felt so amazing to see a gender fluid character being accepted for who they are. Not a lot of fuss or muss about it. I even loved Sal’s prickliness about the issue. It’s perfect.

Content Warning for a misgendering by one of the antagonists.

The story was fast paced enough to keep me flipping pages and I fell more and more under Sal’s spell the entire time I read. Nearing the 3/4 mark I once again bemoaned my inability to draw well enough to capture my ideas because there is a scene between Sal and the love interest Elise that I want to draw soooo badly.

I’ll just have to wait until someone more talented than me does so.

I just loved this book so much. I love it enough that I’m preordering a hardcover copy for my DD, who I have a feeling will be enby when xie figures xyrself out.

Side characters are real and well developed with their own clear motivations and lives. Quirks that bring them to life. The auditions chilled my blood and made me need to know what would happen next.

I will critique it a bit here though because I do feel, from an editorial standpoint, that it could have been deepened better with more physical description of the characters, things like facial expressions, how their bodies are positioned within the rooms. The assassination and battle scenes are fantastic, some of the more passive scenes needed a bit more depth.

I craved more backstory of the world (because I loved it so much). It wasn’t needed but I do like very richly detailed stories and I wanted a bit more detail. Grounding the scenes in the five senses would have made me feel the story more.

I’d also say that adding beats to lead into scene breaks would be helpful. It felt a little jumpy from one place to the next, almost retconned at the end. A chapter detailing what happened from the end of climax chapter to beginning of denouement chapter really would have tied things together very neatly.

The climax felt rushed and little confusing, I had to actually go back and reread it to make it clear in my mind what was happening. That’s where grounding the scenes really could have helped more because I shouldn’t have to go back and reread to keep track of what was going on.

I also really should’ve FELT the sadness of what happened. I didn’t, which made me sad. Gah, reviewing without spoilers is hard.

Leave it at this, something bad happens, and I didn’t feel the bad as much as I should’ve. With what happened, I really should’ve had an aching chest from Sal’s responses, and I didn’t. I wanted more of that.

I had a few issues with the likelihood of the lead in to the next book, as well. It just doesn’t make sense that what happened, could’ve happened in a palace with guards and what not around. It fell a little flat for me. But anyone who knows me, knows I’m incredibly picky and a gifted developmental editor, sooo… it’s just me saying, gods this is so good, but it could have been better IF.

Yes, I drive my husband nuts.

Absolutely none of my critiques ruined the book. I’m still buying one for a gift and I’ll be eagerly looking for the second book in the duology.

SCORES

Readability: 5/5 star-1586412_1920 I’m a character driven story lover, and Sal is so REAL in this book that I feel like I know them, that they could walk through my door and I could have (very carefully policed) tea with this amazing young assassin. I stayed up past my bedtime until I forced myself to put the book down.

Arcs: 4/5 star-1586412_1920 Here I’m probably being too picky. It is YA and it felt it, but what can I expect from YA? The arcs are solid for the age group. Character and story arcs are very good, romantic arc was sweet and made me go awwww, more than once. But it’s also why I don’t read a lot of YA because I always want MORE. More real, deep, gut wrenching… more visceral description, more sex… Regardless, arcs are extremely solid and well expressed for the age range.

Craft: 4/5: star-1586412_1920 Absolutely excellent leap-off-the-page-and-strangle-you-characterization. Amazing pacing. Needed beats in between scenes, needed a tie it all together chapter between climax and denouement, needed to have the scenes grounded in the five senses. Story is fantastic, page turning, and the gender fluid character is deftly handled. I caught one homonym error and a couple of uses of passive voice that the story would’ve been better served without. Other than that? It’s excellent. (Do keep in mind that ARCs are uncorrected, so the final book you get when released may not have those issues.)

Go and do the pre-order thing already! (It makes a huge difference to the author if you preorder, because then the publisher knows to put more money into marketing and that people want to read that kind of book from this author.) I promise this book is worth it.

You can pre-order from:

Amazon

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

You can connect with the author, Linsey Miller via her

Website

Twitter