The first chapter in the first novel of the Tawny Man series, “Chade Fallstar,” opens with the cryptic Kelstar’s Riddle: “Is time the wheel that turns, or the track it leaves behind?” It moves thence to Fitz, narrating in first-person, noting the return of a familiar figure to his life when he was thirty-five; he muses on middle age and its uncertainties as he details his situation and circumstances leading up to the arrival; Nighteyes, the wolf, sleeps and dreams, and Hap, his fosterling, is away with the minstrel, Starling. Nighteyes wakes and rebukes Fitz for his angsty reminiscences and abjures the lingering draw of the Skill that Fitz details.
Fitz is further shaken from his reverie by the wolf’s announcement of a stranger approaching. It is Chade Fallstar, Fitz’s mentor in assassination, now openly a royal councillor; he is described as he brings gifts and news to his grand-nephew. Fitz notes that he goes by Tom Badgerlock in his current life, citing a shock of white hair, as he tends to his guest and asks after his purpose; Chade reports on his lost daughter, Nettle, and his and Nettle’s shared foster-father, Burrich. Fitz tries to puzzle out his old mentor’s motives as reporting continues, and Chade eventually lets slip that the queen, Kettricken, and he want Fitz to return to Buckkeep to serve as tutor to the sole prince of the realm, Dutiful.
Fitz initially refuses the offer, though not without reservation, and Chade presses him about his reasoning. Fitz continues to articulate his refusal, noting his willingness to leave aside the pension he had quietly been receiving; Chade does leave the topic aside, and his visit continues amicably afterwards. Among the topics treated is Chade’s experimentation with blasting powder, which he demonstrates in Fitz’s hearth, to their mutual regret.
The next morning, Chade makes ready to leave, and Fitz sends him off with a selection of offerings from his home. After, Fitz muses on the visit as he and Nighteyes make to hunt, and he contemplates returning to the Mountain Kingdom and what he found–and left–there.
The Tawny Man series is the first of Hobb’s series that I started buying while it was still coming out, and I lament that I did not pick up a hardcover of Fool’s Errand when it hit shelves; I did not make the mistake again. It was a delight to return to Fitz and the Fool, to the Six Duchies, the first time I read the book; it was one of those I bought, sat to read, and lifted my eyes from the pages only a few hours later, having finished. I feasted upon it hungrily, wolfing it down (yes, pun intended) as it were bread and I a starving young man; I glutted myself upon it. But it is better than bread and beef and beans and beer at the board, for when taken in, it yet remains and can be feasted upon again and again.
At least until the pages tear and the binding falters. But my copy’s not nearly there yet.