After 10 long years, Robin Hobb revisits two of her most beloved characters, Fitz and the Fool, with Fool's Assassin. If the ending of Fool's Fate made you want to fling the book across the room, you'll be happy to hear that Fitz and the Fool do meet up again.
The opening of Fool's Assassin finds Fitz living in relative peace at Withywoods with his beloved wife, Molly, but naturally that doesn't last long. Fitz is still making his characteristic bad decisions and is completely unable to understand that he is well loved. Fool's Assassin is the first volume of a trilogy, so there's a fair amount of setup before things really get going. We meet a few new characters and some old friends reappear. As usual, things go awry, and the book ends with a good, solid cliffhanger.
Hobb is particularly skilled at building multidimensional characters.By the time you finish reading even one of her books, you feel as if you've known the characters half your life. She is a fabulous storyteller and does a bang-up job of world building, but it is her ability to effectively capture the interior world of her characters that sets her apart. (Well, that and her propensity for repeated suffering, both mental and physical.)
Fool's Assassin is not a good place to begin the Farseer series. You won't understand who all the characters are and what their shared history is. There are two fairly sensible ways to read Hobb's work if you haven't already: start with either The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice) or Liveship Traders (Ship of Magic). Either trilogy can be read first, but both trilogies need to be read before starting the Tawny Man books.
If you're a complete stickler for chronological order, Assassin's Apprentice is probably where you should begin. But Ship of Magic is a much more enjoyable read. There's still plenty of heartbreak and hardship for all the characters involved, but there's a romance or two, exciting discoveries, and a lot of sailing — with pirates! It also gives a more nuanced look at the Fool, one of the most important characters in the Farseer books.
I recently reread Assassin's Apprentice and liked it much better the second time around. I knew Fitz would survive, more or less, which made reading his many trials and tribulations much easier to take. Hobb gives most of her characters a great deal of emotional complexity, but Fitz in particular is all kinds of complex. He is not a sassy man with a sword. A trained killer, he is melancholy, broody, loyal past the point of stupid at times, and given to bad decisions.
Books mentioned in this post