Man, what a ride. This book was so long, but it was all good. Everything that happened and that was described felt absolutely necessary in the scheme of things, and I didn’t skip a word. It completely absorbed me and when I finished I felt like I had finished a journey of my own.
In fact, it could have been even longer, because I’d have loved to have more detail of when Verity and Kettricken swooped down on Buckkeep and how they finally defeated the Red Ships. I’m not completely satisfied with Fitz’s recounting of it, and the explanation of how Forging was done doesn’t feel right. I mean it kind of makes sense if you stretched your belief within the scope of the world, but no… I need to know more.
And I need to know more about Fitz’s journeys as well. I want to know more about his year with Black Rolf and what he learned. Suddenly six years have passed and he’s acting like an old man when I make him still in his 20’s. Only six years have passed but now Nighteyes is graying when that would make him less than 10 years old. I mean surely wolves live longer than that!
The quick overview of what happened feels like a teaser and after spending so much time and emotional energy on this journey, I feel cheated out of a satisfying closure. There’s enough teased at in the last chapter to fill another book at least! My only consolation is the fact that I know there is more Fitz in the future books.
Coming back to the actual quest, I must say it was a good one. I like how Fitz is not your typical hero. He’s not so fanatically (okay maybe a little) loyal to the crown that he would give up his own child to it. He doesn’t even really want to do any of what he is doing, but is forced into it because of Verity’s skill imprint. All he really wants to do is find Molly and his child and lead a quiet life with them. Even though I never thought Molly was right for him, and I knew that would mean no more adventures, I like Fitz enough to want that for him too.
His PTSD is also heartbreaking, and I found myself missing the berserker of the second book. I hated Regal even more for what he had done, reducing Fitz to a cowering boy instead of the powerful warrior we had come to know and love (and maybe fear a little). I was all for him following through with his original plan of assassinating Regal, but ultimately I agreed that a better mission was to go looking for Verity.
The characters in this book were mostly familiar, with Kettricken and the Fool playing big parts in the quest. Chade and Burrich make appearances, Burrich mostly in Fitz’ skill dreams, but generally they didn’t play as big parts as formerly, and I found myself sort of missing them… especially Burrich. But then we got Starling and Kettle to make up the rest of the team, and as far as secondary characters go, they were okay. Both were irritating, but I liked them well enough.
There was a lot of intrigue sprinkled through the book, like when Starling tells Fitz that the Fool is a woman and I started questioning everything I ever thought I knew. Looking back over everything, I realized it was entirely possible that the Fool could actually be a woman. In fact, was it even gendered at all? Maybe it was a hermaphrodite. And when Fitz actually tried to ask him about it, he never confirmed or denied anything conclusively, except for maybe making a reference as to how he should have shown Starling his manhood when she mentioned “green manhood”. So from that, I think I’ll just go on and believe it’s a he, until proven otherwise.
The thing that really threw me started with the opening paragraphs of chapter 31. That already spoke of betrayal and his child being given up to the king. I thought the one who betrayed him would be Molly, maybe Burrich if I stretched. But then it turns out the elfbark actually hampers the Skill and suddenly it was Chade. That spiraled off into countless other deceptions and betrayals and I was actually freaking out a little. If the betrayer was Chade, that changed everything! Eventually, I carried on reading and the true betrayal came to light, but man, that was a stressful hour…
And last but not least, Regal. Spoiled, petty, clueless Regal. Who cared more about winning and power than what it entailed. I have to take a step back from my intense dislike of him and look at the bigger picture. Sure he needs to take responsibility for his actions and his beliefs and such, but if you think about it, his mother was a horrible person and did quite a number on him. She had fed and stoked his jealousy, planting delusions of grandeur in his head and making him believe he was so much better than Chivalry and Verity and should have inherited the crown instead. She basically moulded him, and if he had been stronger of character, or if someone else like Verity or Chivalry had spent more time with him and included him more, he could have turned out different. Or maybe not. As it is, I laughed when he was killed by the ferret.