Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate is the grand and multifaceted conclusion of the Tawny Man trilogy that began with the novels Fool's Errand and Golden Fool. Prince Dutiful of Buck in the Six Duchies has been betrothed to Elliania, matriarch-in-training of the Narwhal Clan of the Out Islands. However, Elliania puts one condition on the marriage: Dutiful must place the head of one of the last two dragons, Icefyre, on her mother's hearth. Dutiful accepts the challenge and sets off on a quest to the north where the dragon is said to be buried deep in ice.
Dutiful is accompanied by FitzChivalry Farseer, whose youth is recounted in the earlier books. Fitz is generally believed to be dead and is posing as one of Dutiful's Royal Guard. The Fool of the title is Fitz's best friend, Lord Golden, and the fate of the world rests on the decisions made by these three men. Fitz knows that the Fool believes he must die on the quest to somehow bring dragons back into the world. Fitz gets the Fool arrested to stop him from accompanying Dutiful's group, but when they arrive at the island of Aslevjal to kill Icefyre, the Fool is waiting for them on the beach. Hobb successfully mixes identity, secrets, betrayals, quests, dragons (and how to make them), war, physical and mental handicaps and exploration in a tale that focuses on what makes us human: facing ourselves, the consequences of our actions, and death. Fool's Fate is reminiscent of Ursula Le Guin's The Other Wind in its treatment and questioning of death and bears comparison to the finest moments of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. This is a rich, enchanting fantasy from one of today's best practitioners, and those who enjoy it are encouraged to seek out Hobb's earlier work written under the name Megan Lindholm.
Gavin J. Grant is co-editor of The Year's Best Fantasy &and Horror, to be published this summer by St. Martin's Press.