I have really a lot of thoughts about Golden Fool, which (unless something changes) marks the approximate midpoint of Hobb’s travels in her world of assassins and Elderlings and dragons. That clause looks like the kind of clause you say to fill time, but I meant it to actually convey something, which is that the many swirling thoughts and confusions I have not yet expressed are probably in the right place. After all, if I don’t find myself with more questions than ever and my previously held answers upended in the precise middle of a story, when should I find myself in that predicament?
But anyway, the series and the world continues to be both really good and to not bother me as much as it has in the past, on an emotionally depressive level I mean. So those are both things that are great! In addition, they are pretty much the only things I can say that are not spoilers. Well, that’s not quite true. My one line not very spoilerly summary goes like this: this is the book where Fitz learns how to interact with humans again.
Everything else below the cut, though.
So I guess that last thing should be my first point. Because on the one hand, it’s good to see our narrator hero finally having positive interactions with, you know, people. Nighteyes is / was A++, but man cannot live on wolf alone, however Witted he may be. And although a natural consequence of living alone or nearly alone for fifteen or more years is doing a bad job of reintegrating into society, it was nonetheless hard for me to spot that he was having such a problem until things turned a corner and started improving. Unreliable narrators can sometimes be good at seeming reliable, even when the reader should know better. (Or maybe it was just me.) So, as hard as it was seeing him bottom out his ability to live amongst his friends and keep any of them, the turn of the corner made it worth it.
But at the same time… everyone hates and fears the Wit, and ascribes all manner of inhuman abilities to it. Most of which are ridiculous, except for when they aren’t. The Witted can’t make someone’s flock die, that’s dumb… but a predator partner can certainly kill a flock in a night. The Witted can’t transform into animals, that’s dumb… but the main plot of Fool’s Errand was someone who had taken over an animal, with the long term plan of taking over a human body in turn. It’s not the same as transformation, but it’s not nearly as different as the person telling you how dumb the idea is would want you to believe. So, after all of that tension between what people fear and what is real, I end up looking pretty askance at the realization of what fifteen years of Witted non-solitude did to my beloved Fitz. Probably, I tell myself, about the same thing that fifteen years of actual solitude would have done, but I can’t help wondering if the author is making a subtle point instead. Not that the Wit is evil, or that people of the Old Blood deserve all that has happened, but that there are real, non-imagined differences between the types of humans. Like between homo sapiens and superior in Marvel kinds of differences. Has the species diverged? I dunno. Mostly, here at the end of the paragraph, I disagree with myself. Mostly.
A thing I already mentioned is Fitz reaching rock bottom, when he had his fight and falling out with the Fool, over the differences between love and attraction and sex. A conclusion I have very tentatively reached is that, although it’s very obvious that the Fool loves Fitz romantically and probably sexually, that is the least important part of their relationship. I mean, narratively, but also from a character perspective. Whoever he or she may be, the Fool has more important concerns than that love, and sees it as, at best, the reward at the end of the journey, or at worst, a tool to be used to turn the Catalyst in the right direction.
Because, man. I was so sure that Starling had been right at the end of the Assassin trilogy and the Fool was female with Fitz making assumptions, and Amber’s appearance in the Liveship trilogy just cemented that certainty; Amber is who she really is, I thought. But as of the end of this book, I share the narrator’s confusion. However much I may like the Fool, and root for his success over whatever weird plan the Pale Lady has for the future, at this point I don’t really have any kind of vague handle on who he or she really is. Wants to save the world, and loves FitzChivalry Farseer. Any other claims would be blind guesses or even blinder faith. Which is a hard realization to swallow at the midpoint of a series which appears to have said Fool as the main character, whatever I may have claimed herein.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m impressed. But damn.
Anyway, all that’s really left is to acknowledge my excitement that Tintaglia is worming her way into this trilogy, that the bonds between the disparate series grow ever tighter with an eventual big pay off. That, and to say that I super do not trust that one Witted guy Web. I mean, a) because he’s a little too good to be true, b) because as a result of a) everyone trusts him and he immediately got important inner council positioning, but especially c) because his name is Web. That’s just a bad guy name, I’m sorry.