“Utter loneliness was planted in me then, and sent its deep roots down into me.”
Author: Robin Hobb
Category: High Fantasy
Publication Date: March 1st, 1996
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
For those that haven’t had the fortune of coming across this, the band Within Temptation actually have a song about this series called Hand of Sorrow. Definitely check it out!
Fitz was born the bastard of Prince Chivalry, the firstborn son in line for the throne. At 6 years old, Fitz’s mother decides that she can no longer care for him and so he is deposited in the care of whatever soldier happens to be on guard duty.
The story itself is very slow-going. It basically just follows Fitz as he grows up at Buckkeep largely in the care of a man that once worked for Prince Chivalry. Through Fitz’s eyes, the reader gets a sense of the world that this story takes place in, the magic system, and who the main players are. Honestly, in some ways, this book was more an elaborate setup in world-building than an actual story. Most of it was setup for the future books in the trilogy.
That said, this works for this book though because it spent a lot of time exploring several concepts.
First of which is the idea of naming.
The royalty in this country are named after different traits. Fitz mentions that it isn’t known whether being given a certain name actually sets that person’s character or whether the person becomes that trait subconsciously. This is an interesting take on the nature v. nurture discussion.
A prime example is Fitz. When he is first asked what his name is when he is dropped off at 6 years old, he responds only “Boy.” The man that ends up taking care of him, Burrich, starts calling him Fitz and it sort of sticks. Some other characters made a comment about only Burrich would do that or something to that effect so I had to look up what Fitz means. Apparently it is a really old French word (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong!) meaning “son of…”
So even though he is called Fitz he still has no name and, in the tradition of naming those of royal blood, therefore no character trait attributed to him.
What does this mean for the character though? Does it mean he is a blank slate? Or is he…nothing?
I would actually love to have a discussion with others that have finished the series on this! Fitz is an intensely lonely person, the nature of his birth disconnecting him from so many people that he otherwise would have been close to. He is intelligent but not exceptionally so.
Continuing the tradition of naming, I felt that Shrewd and Regal were both worth being mentioned.
Shrewd, the current King, is exactly what his name suggests. The connotations for the name are somewhat negative but he isn’t a bad person. He doesn’t dance around people’s feelings and what is or is not morally acceptable but he is not a bad person.
King Shrewd’s youngest son is Regal. This name was intended to inspire a sense of the royalty that he is but the character is also just as pretentious as his name.
The continuing message among all of these is that no one person is ever just one thing.
The story also had a lot to say on the topic of what leadership is or should be and how loyalty is earned. There was a ton of commentary on the responsibility of royals and what it looks like when someone (Regal, Galen, I am looking at you two…) disregards that responsibility and only wants to be “special” and also what the burden of leadership is supposed to be. And as for loyalty, I loved the message that all it takes sometimes is a kind word to inspire devotion.
Although this is not one of those stories that is jam-packed with action or that introduces some insanely original world-building, there is a subtle aspect to the quality of the writing and Fitz’s personal story that pulled me in. I actually read this series about 10 years ago and while I was surprised by how much I did remember of it, I had forgotten most. Coming back to it as a more experienced reader, I enjoyed this book more than I did originally. High recommended.
This one was interesting. I enjoyed the magic and the mystery behind it. I enjoyed the story. The political intrigue that was brewing could be exciting. Seeing this world through Fitz’s eyes gave a cool perspective on leadership and that there is more than one way to be a leader.
My only criticism I have is that due to the writing style, things could be days forwarded through or glossed over. And example is with a character death early on in the book. At the start of a chapter it simply says, “The day I heard this person died…” and just moves on. There were some dramatic moments that do happen later on due to this event, but these typenof situations feel skipped at certain times.
Very fun read though, and I am looking for ward to the rest of the series.