The first chapter of the novel, “Piebalds,” opens with in-milieu commentary detailing the groups origins, propaganda, and practices. It moves then to pick up directly where the previous novel ends, with Fitz-as-Badgerlock ending the night in Jinna’s home, waiting for Hap to return; Fitz muses on circumstances, including the revelations each has about the other. At length, Hap returns, exulting in Tom’s unexpected presence; he briefly seeks to relate his deeds and doings before being reminded that he has work in the morning, and he goes off to bed. As Tom makes to leave, Jinna again warns him about Hap’s dissolution.
As Fitz makes his way back to the castle, he is pursued and accosted by Pieblads who mock and taunt him. He is unassailed, however, and recriminates himself for his oversights as he proceeds back. The annoyance becomes anger as he reaches the castle gates and accosts the guards on duty, though he soon realizes his error. Swiftly enough, he returns to the duties he has as Badgerlock to Lord Golden, reporting events to him there. Golden notes Chade’s actions from the previous night, and as the two confer about all that must be done, Fitz realizes he has left his notes in his cottage–where any could find them. The Fool urges caution against Fitz’s sudden concern. Fitz accedes and makes preparations for the day to come.
The present chapter does an admirable job of explicating the events of the previous novel, catching up readers who either began the series on the second novel (I’ve had to do it several times for freelance work, so I know it happens for good reason) or who had had some time between reading Fool’s Errand and starting Golden Fool. And it does a good job of laying out the central conflicts of the present novel, hinting towards tensions surrounding homosocial and homosexual relationships as well as pointing out the problems of the Piebalds and of Dutiful’s training–in addition to motioning towards the cultural friction between the Six Duchies and the Out Islands. In brief, the first chapter does all of what a first chapter ought to do, which makes for helpful rereading; even if it’s not been long since I finished Fool’s Errand again, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to read Golden Fool for more than citation-mining, and it’s a welcome return.