Fool's Fate concludes Robin Hobb's fantasy trilogy "The Tawny Man"--in which Fitz, narrator-hero of the "Farseer" trio beginning with Assassin's Apprentice, plunges into new complexities of politics and magic 15 years later.
The goal is formal peace between Fitz's Six Duchies and the Outislander Raiders, ending a cycle of war fought with weapons that kill the soul, whose horror dominated that first trilogy. A royal marriage is arranged, with the puzzling condition that the Duchies' heir must bring a bride-price of the head of the last male dragon--who's alive but entombed in a glacier. Why?
Fitz's old friend the Fool, a once-albino who believes himself the White Prophet of this age but has mysteriously darkened into the Tawny Man, opposes this dragon-killing. It seems necessary to deceive and betray the Fool for his own good, if only to prevent his self-prophesied death.
Another betrayal: a halfwit master of the psychic "Skill" is needed for this mad quest, and must be lured by Fitz on to ship after ship despite his horror of the sea. Old deceptions return to haunt Fitz, such as the Skilled girl who doesn't know she's his daughter, and others long kept in the dark for what seemed excellent reasons.
Grim surprises, confrontations, a hidden enemy and the old horror of soul-draining ("Forging") all await on the island of the glacier and the dragon. Fitz has more than once been traumatically hauled back from death: now the risks are worse than ever, with an impasse that surely can't be resolved.
Do Fitz and his closest friends win through? That would be telling, but whatever happens, there are high prices to be paid. It's a measure of Robin Hobb's skill with characters and relationships that the final compromises and realistic settlements are so satisfying. Smoothly readable despite great length, laden with charm and terror, Fool's Fate is a fine ending to what is a family as well as a fantasy saga. --David Langford