The following chapter, “Connections,” opens with in-milieu commentary about the White Prophet and Catalyst from the perspective of the priesthood of Sa before turning to Fitz’s frantic Skilling to Chade. He meets with his old mentor, reporting his findings and concerns, the two connecting the Pale Woman to Elliania through Henja and conferring about steps to take as they move forward to address the challenges Dutiful and Elliania had presented to one another. Their talk ranges to Skilling before Chade informs Fitz that he will be “hired” into the Queen’s Guard so as to report on the coming meeting with the Old Blood delegation and secure Dutiful as he attends it.
Skill lessons resume, if with some difficulties and missteps, and Fitz continues to recover from his near-death. He is accepted easily into the Queen’s Guard, guessing that others in it are clandestine agents, a well. Fitz improves his relationships with both Thick and Hap, but his relationship with the Fool grows more and more tenuous. For his part, Lord Golden begins to slide into dissolution. Fitz also muses over the arrival of Civil Bresinga at Buckkeep, and he confers with Dutiful about him before one of their Skill lessons, and during that lesson, Thick demonstrates the depth of his power in the magic. Chade uses the opportunity to summon Skilled ones to Buckkeep, and another voice makes itself heard to Fitz, though not the others.
One of the things in Hobb’s prose that sometimes grates is a tendency to rush things later in her novels. The present chapter is an example of it, with much glossed so as to make room for events that have to be put into the book before it concludes. This is not to say that much attention needed to be paid to the events that are glossed over, certainly, nor is it to say that I could do better. The latter is assuredly untrue; writing fiction is not among my skills (even if writing about it very much is!), though that does not mean I cannot comment on what seem to me to be lapses in excellent work. Loving a thing–and I think I’ve made it clear that I love reading Hobb’s writing–does not mean ignoring areas where it is not as strong. And what’s coming is an area of strength, so there’s that.