A bit of background:
I came very late to the party when it comes to fantasy fiction. A devoted fan of Game of Thrones on TV, I nonetheless found this far too violent, ruthless and bloody to become fully enveloped into the fandom and to read George R.R Martin.
So it was a massive surprise that I devoured the first book of the Fitz & the Fool trilogy ‘Fools Assassin’ by Robin Hobb with such gusto. As a non-fantasy reader of this fantasy novel, I have to say this has transformed by appreciation for the genre.
Hobb creates characters that are vivid and believable, faulty and undoubtably human. They are motivated by what motivates most of us: love, kinship, family, loyalty, history, tradition, restlessness, curiosity. Although living in a fantastical world populated by mind-readers and those with skill magic, the characters are completely authentic.
The plot rockets along at a rapid pace. Hobb never leaves behind new readers with her narrative. Even though there’s something like 12(?) preceeding books to Fitz and the Fool, and a whole web of characters and intersecting plot lines, Hobb maintains a high level of explanatory storytelling, illuminating the way with her prose and introducing what came before in previous books in the most tantalising way, so that now I want to venture to the very beginning and read all of the other books in the massive series.
George R.R. Martin Versus Robin Hobb
Although Hobb is often compared with George R.R Martin, they couldn’t be more different as master craftspeople of fantasy fiction.
Martin’s books are focused on the gross injustices and harshness of a vast world that is unpredictable and fallible. Where even the most loved characters can suddenly be taken from us (much like our own world). Hobb’s books are concerned with the inner cerebral world of emotions, psychological powerplays, loyalties and love. Hobb’s books traverse a much more intimate level of inner life than Martins, they are also imbued with a lot more altruism and a sense of justice for good characters, who seem to (for the most part) come to no harm. If bad things happen to the good eggs, then those who perpetuate the damage get their comeuppance eventually. That’s definitely not so in Martin’s books.
As it says on its dust jacket, Fitz & the Fool is as addictive as morphine and probably just as satisfying and delicious. I’m now plunged headlong into book two of Fitz & the Fool trilogy, Fool’s Quest – watch this space for the next review.
In the meantime here’s an interview with both Martin and Hobb at a recent book fan’s love-in. I think Hobb (or Margaret Lindholm as she’s commonly known) seems humble and reserved here; whereas Martin seems pompous and slightly full of himself. You could cut the air with a knife at how many people were geeking out in that room!
Have you read any Robin Hobb or Martin for that matter, what do you think?