“Assassin’s Fate” by Robin Hobb

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the Realm of the Elderlings series.

Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books are one of my favorite fantasy series’ ever, and the ones featuring Fitz even more so. Assassin’s Fate is the ninth book featuring Fitz (and the sixteenth book overall), so I already knew what it was going to be like and that I would love it.

Assassin’s Fate picks up where Fool’s Quest left off – Fitz and the Fool are in Kelsingra on their way to Clerres (the home of the White Prophets and their Servants), seeking revenge for Bee’s abduction and presumed death. Bee is also on her way to Clerres, dragged along against her will by the Servant Dwalia. This has been the longest journey in the books so far, but the events of this book makes it all worth it. We’ve been seeing the corruption of Clerres and its effect on the Fool for many, many books now, and the conclusion of that arc is deeply fulfilling.

I’ve been worried about where Fitz would end up in this book, I intuited that it would be the end of his story (although I was desperately hoping I’d be wrong) because of the title of the book as well as some of Bee’s dreams from previous books. I don’t want to the spoil the book so I’m not going to confirm or deny my suspicions, but I will say that the ending is more than satisfactory, and that this is one of the rare books that I’ll admit made me cry (and it’s not just me, the Assassin’s Fate discussion on the Robin Hobb subreddit was full of people saying they cried).

I’m not sure what Hobb is writing next, but I hope it’s another book in this world. I’ll happily read whatever she writes though.

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)
Del Rey, 2017 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #9: Winter’s Heart

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

WoT09_WintersHeartOkay, this entry is going to be much shorter than the previous ones (although probably not shorter than the next one). I want to get to Knife of Dreams and further as soon as possible.

The major awesome thing that happens in this book is that saidin gets cleansed. This is probably one of my favourite scenes in the series – Rand and Nynaeve channeling furiously for hours while their allies, both male and female, Aes Sedai, Asha’man, Sea Folk, and Seanchan fight off at least six Forsaken. I would really love to see this on film at some point.

Other plotlines that advance – the Black Ajah hunters in the White Tower finally find their first sister, Perrin finds out about Faile’s kidnapping and is anxious to do something about it (while Berelain takes full advantage of the situation), Rand kills the Asha’man that tried to kill him at the end of the last book, and finally accepts Cadsuane’s guidance. Oh, and Min, Elayne and Aviendha bond Rand (which involves Min and Aviendha meeting and getting drunk with Birgitte). And the Sea Folk continue to be extremely annoying.

A major part of the book is Elayne trying to consolidate her power even more, and some Darkfriends trying to get closer to her. I wasn’t really that interested in it, although it should be more interesting now that she has armies marching on Caemlyn, and she’s made a deal with the Borderlanders to pretend to match on Caemlyn. Oh, also, she’s pregnant.

Also, apparently Mazrim Taim being a Darkfriend was made clear in this book – one of the evil Asha’man says that Taim ordered him to kill Rand. I guess it isn’t fully clear – he could’ve just been jealous of Rand, but it’s a very strong sign.

It was interesting to see Elaida’s party’s reception at the Black Tower – I didn’t remember the forced bonding, and definitely not that Logain did it. It seemed way too much like a mixture of Compulsion and damane to me – I didn’t like it at all. I guess it’s Taim’s orders, and Logain’s trying to obey enough not get kicked out of the Asha’man so he can help the Light, but ick.

I know you’ve been waiting for me to mention Mat. Mat is back, although he doesn’t show up for half the book. And Tuon is finally introduced! And kidnapped when Mat escapes Ebou Dar, along with her maid, a couple of former Aes Sedai damanes, some sul’dam, Egeanin and Bayle Domon, Setalle Anan, the former Panarch of Tarabon, Thom, Juilin and Jain Farstrider (whose identity we’re not aware of yet). A very disparate group of people, and I’m looking forward to their adventures.

Rand is still extremely hard – he talks about killing people with absolutely no emotion, and he mistrusts everyone. He makes for a really unpleasant protagonist, especially since not just one but three of the main character girls are in love with him. There are already mentions of weevils in the food (although it’s not connected to his temperament yet). I can’t wait until he gets over his nonsense, but I think that takes until Knife of Dreams.

Crossroads of Twilight next… I’m not really looking forward to it.

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #9)
Tor Books, 2000 | Buy the book

“Naamah’s Kiss”, “Naamah’s Curse” and “Naamah’s Blessing” by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah's Kiss coverYes, I’ve been reading a lot of Jacqueline Carey lately. (wait until I get to my Robin Hobb backlog – I’ve got four trilogies and a book of short stories to review…)

I don’t think there’s an official name for this trilogy, just “the Moirin trilogy”, but it’s the third trilogy in the Kushiel’s Legacy world (my review of the “Imriel trilogy“, and the individual books of the Phèdre trilogy: Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar.) It’s set a hundred years after the events of the previous books and features an entirely new protagonist – Moirin mac Fainche of the Maghuin Dhonn, who happens to be half D’Angeline. I pretty much have the same cricitisms and things I love for all three books, so I won’t be reviewing them separately.

Jacqueline Carey writes beautifully, I love the lush descriptions of her world, and I was really excited to see more of it – Ch’in, Bhodistan, Vralia, the Tatar steppes – even the New World! I thought the way Raphael ended up using Caim’s gift was ingenious. I love her subtle use of words, I love her characters, I love her twist on the “love conquers all” cliché.  I can’t not enjoy a Kushiel’s Legacy book… but these books didn’t live up to the previous trilogies. Here’s why:

Naamah's Curse cover

  • Moirin’s diadh-anam: As a child of the Maghuin Dhonn, Moirin has a very convenient thing called a diadh-anam. Whenever Moirin has to make a decision, it’s simple – she consults her diadh-anam. If it’s leaping, she says yes. If it’s still, she says no. This always turns out to be the right choice, and this means Moirin never has any internal conflict and turns out to be a Mary Sue. Her diadh-anam even points her to the direction she needs to go in next – it gives the idiom “moral compass” a whole new meaning. Very occasionally, her diadh-anam is silent, but Moirin ends up making the right choice anyway, and it leaps afterwards
  • Bao:  Bao is the worst character. He’s absolutely unbelievable. In Naamah’s Kiss, he’s surly and resentful, although a good fighter and protective of his master.  Then after a few months, Moirin realises that he’s beautiful? By book 2, he’s Moirin’s one true love and his character has changed completely – he’s now stubborn and confused, trying to figure out his feelings – kind of similar to Joscelin in Kushiel’s Chosen. In the third book, despite his ordeal at the end of the second, he’s suddenly a loving and patient husband – also like Joscelin in Kushiel’s Avatar – except he’s nowhere as awesome as Joscelin, and suffers by comparision. He should’ve been his own character – instead it seems like his character serves the plot rather than developing realistically.
  • The white savior: Like I said above, Moirin is very much a Mary Sue. Wherever she goes, she ends up finding sympathetic ears and changing the face of the society. In Ch’in, Snow Tiger ends up defying her father (something that never happens) to save the realm. In Vralia, she converts a fundamentalist Yeshuite to see the power of love and inspires him to go preach about it. In Bhodistan, she persuades the Rani to abolish the castle system. In Nauhatl lands, she persuades the emperor to give up human sacrifice. Not only does this reduce the lands she visits into stereotypes,  it’s just annoyinNaamah's Blessing coverg! Phèdre and Imriel manage to save the world multiple times without falling into this trope – Phèdre visits Khebel-im-Akkad without effecting women’s emancipation and Menekhet without changing the Hellene perception towards natives. Imriel visits Caerdicci Unitas without changing the stigma against homosexuality. It’s made all the more annoying by Moirin’s observations about how she’s not as good as the legends Imriel and Phèdre.
  • Moirin herself: Okay, Moirin is not that bad – she’s just bland. She has very little internal conflict because her diadh-anam tells her what to do, she’s Naamah and Anael’s child, and that makes her desires a lot tamer than Kushiel’s chosen, so that part  isn’t as much fun either. She had a lot of promise when she was a cave dwelling half-wild girl needing to understand D’Angeline society, but she figures that all out really quickly, which is boring. She’s just nice and kind and she has a destiny.

I still enjoyed the series, and if Carey wrote other books in this world, I’d pre-order them in an heartbeat. But I’d hope fervently they were more like the Phèdre and Imriel series’ than this one.

The Moirin trilogy is  Naamah’s Kiss, Naamah’s Curse and Naamah’s Blessing.

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin Trilogy, #1)
Tor Books, 2009 | Buy the book

Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin Trilogy, #2)
Tor Books, 2010 | Buy the book

Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin Trilogy, #3)
Tor Books, 2011 | Buy the book