A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 268: Golden Fool, Chapter 18

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.

A chapter titled “Pink Sugar Cake” follows, beginning with part of an in-milieu treatise on teaching the Skill. It turns to Fitz, as Badgerlock, repairing to Verity’s tower, where Dutiful awaits him with the materials requested for Thick–and more, besides. Badgerlock commends the Prince’s generosity but notes some problems with the specifics, with which the Prince does not argue. They confer about the Piebald situation before parting, Badgerlock leaving an admonishment for Dutiful to go about his business as best he can before he himself takes the goods to Chade’s hidden chamber to await Thick.

Photo by Dayan Rodio on Pexels.com

Thick is waiting for him in the room and is surprised that Badgerlock has provided what was promised, if with noted help from Dutiful. Badgerlock gently plies Thick for more information, taking the opportunity provided by a bath and rough tailoring to do so. He finds himself on the receiving end of Thick’s Skill along the way, unintentionally but not the less powerfully, but he learns much as he tends to his student.

At length, Thick resolves to depart, and Fitz forebears to press further for fear of overplaying his hand. After Thick leaves, Fitz ruminates on what he has learned from him and considers what his course of action will be. His need to think becomes restlessness, and he finds his way to sword practice. In practice, his returned skill in a fight is noted, and determines to go into Buckkeep Town to see Hap, to buy more goods for Thick, and perhaps to scout around a bit.

As I reread the chapter, and as I sat down to write this part of my rereading noted, something happened to me again that used to happen quite often when I was writing more formal papers on Hobb’s novels but that has not happened in a while. I started reading, not plumbing the text for details to fuel insights, but reading for the joy of it. And I looked up to find that nearly an hour had passed, and I was several chapters ahead of where I thought I would be, refreshed despite the hour.

It’s the kind of thing that determined what my plan B would be when I fell back into it, the kind of thing that prompted me to pursue a career engaged with the written word. And it’s the kind of thing it’s good to be reminded of, from time to time.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 267: Golden Fool, Chapter 17

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The subsequent chapter, “Explosions,” begins with a spy’s report to Chade about the Outisland delegation’s return from Buckkeep before turning to Fitz’s sleepless review of information left available by his old mentor. Chade joins him not long after, singed and deafened by the result of one of his experiments gone awry. The two confer haltingly until the late hour compels both to rest.

Man servant.
Yeah, he’s happy…
ThereseOfTheNorth’s Man servant on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Fitz resumes his role as Badgerlock and goes about morning chores before resuming Skill instruction for Dutiful and Thick. Before the latter enters, Dutiful spies the figurine the two had retrieved from the beach to which they had escaped from the Piebalds, identifying it as Elliania as she would become. They puzzle over events together before Thick joins them, and instruction begins. As it proceeds, some of Thick’s history emerges; he had been put to work as a cut-purse by his mother and her companions, the latter of whom abandoned Thick after his mother died. That Thick has been unwittingly employed as an informant by Piebalds in Buckkeep Town also emerges, as well as the specific targeting of Badgerlock and Golden.

Thick is dismissed, and Badgerlock and Dutiful confer about what they have learned–which includes the presence of Laudwine in Buckkeep Town. Badgerlock warns Dutiful against going out for the next few days, urging him to use a crass excuse for it: “A headache sounds like a ploy. A boil on your ass doesn’t.” Badgerlock urges Dutiful to aid in acquiring some things Thick had noted wanting, and they part to go about their needed tasks.

For Badgerlock, those tasks involve making a clandestine report to Chade. Along the way, he manages to confirm his suspicion that Rosemary is Chade’s present apprentice, as she seems to have suffered similar injuries to Chade’s own. Soon after, Badgerlock returns to Golden’s chambers with accoutrements for them to eat; Chade greets them there, rebuking them both for their folly in being at odds at the moments and receiving Fitz’s report. Chade notes that direct action is politically untenable, as Kettricken will be meeting with a secretive delegation of the Old Blood soon, and he advises Fitz to monitor things but to not intervene. The Fool offers Chade some assistance with his appearance and, as the meeting breaks up, Fitz muses ruefully on his strained relationships.

I note with some interest Fitz’s refusal to dose himself with elfbark early in the chapter. I’ve noted his addiction repeatedly in the rereading series already, so many times that it boots little to cite examples; I don’t think, however, I’ve noted the interaction of his addictions–to his magic and to more “normal” drugs–although my work in the substance use treatment center showed me that many who experience addiction to one thing also experience it with others. That is, few who have a chemical dependency have it with only one chemical, in my experience. More interesting, though, is that Fitz rejects the chemical not because of its health effects, but because of its interpersonal effects–and that does seem to mirror what I saw from many clients; the degradation of their own bodies did not push them to seek treatment so much as the degradation of their social connections, whether shown by running afoul of legal authorities (law enforcement or family protective services) or by the intervention of their families and friends. Just an observation, really, at this point.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 266: Golden Fool, Chapter 16

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The following chapter, “Fathers,” begins with a brief in-milieu commentary about trans-oceanic trade to Jamaillia before taking up some days after Fitz’s meeting with Kettricken. Lord Golden resumes his social schedule, but the Fool remains absent from Fitz. Badgerlock begins to teach Dutiful and Thick the Skill, meeting some resistance from the Prince, who feels himself affronted. Thick is somewhat more tractable, but a tense exchange ensues, nonetheless. At the end of it, an accord is reached, Dutiful and Thick agreeing to Badgerlock’s tutelage.

I do so love her work.
Katrin Sapranova’s Swift and Burrich, used for commentary.

A summons from Chade calls Badgerlock away, and Fitz stalks through the hidden passages of Buckkeep to answer it. He finds a meeting in progress between Swift, a son of Burrich who has answered the summons Kettricken issued for the Witted, since Burrich’s antipathy towards the Wit is well known. Burrich arrives shortly after, and Swift is dismissed while he, Chade, and Kettricken confer. Burrich refuses permission for his son to enter the Queen’s service, preferring instead to do what he can to work him into enough discipline to resist use of the Wit; he cites Fitz, whom he believes long and ignominously dead due to having recovered his pin from Shrewd, as an example of what the Wit can do. As Burrich departs, Chade calls to Fitz to note the option to meet again with the man who had raised him.

Fitz declines, but goes out into Buckkeep Town, checking on Jinna–who is absent–and Hap–who is at work where he should be. He goes to the Stuck Pig again, and he is again confronted by Svanja’s father, Rorh Hartshorn. A melee ensues and is broken up by the City Guard–as Hap watches, sorrowing over the ruination of his prospects with Svanja. The youth berates his foster-father, and Fitz recognizes his own youthful impetuousness regarding Molly. Hap calms and apologizes, and Badgerlock sends him off warmly, returning to Buckkeep Castle–and passing Burrich and Swift along the way. He finds the Fool still enwrapped in his role as Lord Golden, and he retires for the evening.

Sleeping, he is again contacted by Nettle, whom he calms with news of Burrich’s return and Swift’s. Thick also reaches out to him, backhandedly thanking him for quieting Nettle’s upset. And another voice speaks to him strangely through the Skill, unsettling him utterly.

From the vantage of rereading, I know well what that last voice is, and it is one that has been encountered before in the rereading series. I’ll not offer more on the matter for the moment; I’ve been told that there are first-time readers who are looking at my summaries and commentaries, which flatters me (hi, folks!) and warns me against doing too much in the way of spoilers. I make no promises save that I’ll try not to make too many mistakes in that line. (And happy reading to you new folks!)

From that same vantage, as well as simply from narrative structures and patterns, it’s clear that Burrich and Swift will both be making other appearances in the text, as will Nettle. It’s a regular family reunion brewing, really…

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 265: Golden Fool, Chapter 15

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Quarrel,” opens with an in-milieu commentary on what might be called tourist attractions in the Out Islands. The text pivots thence to Fitz ruminating on Thick and on his own comments to Chade not long before. At length, he recalls having received intelligence, which he begins to review. As he does, he finds confirmation that his true identity is known, and by those he can least afford to have know it; he mulls over the implications of it and of the ensuing events.

It doesn’t go well for either of them, no.
Katrin Sapranova’s The Quarrel, used for commentary.

Fitz determines to discuss matters openly with Chade and with the Fool, and he goes off to sleep–poorly, against Nettle’s dream-driven Skill-work. The next morning, he rises and collects Lord Golden’s breakfast in his guise as Badgerlock, and is bidden take a small flower arrangement along with the tray. Returning to the chamber, he asks the Fool for a whistle for Thick before confronting him about the performance of Amber with Jek. It does not go well for either of them, leaving each of them emotionally wounded by the other. The problem is exacerbated by the Fool’s illness, and Fitz chews sullenly over his old words and older recriminations for the next several days as the Fool keeps to himself and the Bingtown delegation departs.

Kettricken occasions comment by riding out to interrupt an execution, redeeming the accused and imposing a stiff injunction against the offending community. Controversy surrounding treatment of the Witted emerges as she issues a call for a Witted delegation to attend to her. And, after an exchange with Chade, Fitz is admitted to attend upon her, as well. They confer about Nettle, their conversation prickly but ending in amity.

I note with some satisfaction that the concern I voice in commenting on the previous chapter, that promises made to Fitz seem to be up for renegotiation, is addressed in the present chapter. I note, too, that the tensions among characters are not brought up and dismissed, even as Fitz makes changes to his behavior (or starts to do so). It’s not so easy to set aside years of practice, particularly when those years are angry ones full of impetuous decisions that end up causing no small harm. It’s something that, like Fitz, I learned (insofar as I have learned it; I’m not a good student in all subjects) far later than ought to have been the case.

There’s a reason “to teach and to delight” have long been called the ends of literature…

I should note, too, before I forget, that many of the works treated in the Fedwren Project speak explicitly to the Fool’s performance across gender roles, the very thing for which Fitz unsuccessfully tries to upbraid the other. That the attempt is unsuccessful says something worth considering, I think…

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 264: Golden Fool, Chapter 14

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The succeeding chapter, “Scrolls,” begins with part of an in-milieu folk tale before marking the departure of the Outislanders from Buckkeep. Fitz rehearses some of the fallout from the challenges Elliania and Dutiful had put to one another, as well as arrangements for Dutiful’s coming trip to the Outislands and his itinerary therein. He notes that many Six Duchies nobles also began to depart, but that the Bingtown delegation did not. This includes Jek, around whom Fitz continues to be markedly uncomfortable.

We’re getting here…
Pink sugar cakes by Katrin Sapranova, here, used for commentary.

Fitz also notes that Laurel is gone. Chade has precious little information to offer, only noting that the Queen gave her permission to go out and agreed to keep the nature of the errand a secret. Rumor reports that Laudwine is returning to power among the Pieblads, and Fitz mulls over developments with Dutiful and Thick, both. He also notes his certainty of a Wit-using spy in Buckkeep (other than himself), one that had possibly compromised Chade’s hidden chambers. When Chade and Thick arrive in those chambers, Fitz is distracted from his intent to discuss that concern by Chade’s own worries. And Kettricken’s command that a dedicated search for Skill-users be conducted, which includes Nettle.

Fitz balks at the idea and muses on his insufficiencies. He manages to get Chade to agree to request of Kettricken that she leave Nettle out of things, albeit begrudgingly. And he does report his suspicion of the Wit-using spy, providing evidence to support the conjecture. Chade notes worsening affairs among the Bresingas at Galekeep, positing that the Piebalds are using the estate to regroup and reorganize. The old assassin provides some additional documents to Fitz and leaves Thick in his care. Fitz finds himself comparing his attitude towards Thick to Galen‘s toward himself, and he begins to soften towards him. He finds himself empathizing with Thick more and more, seeing himself in the other.

A couple of things stand out to me as I reread the chapter this time. One is that Nettle is strangely back in play as a bargaining item among the Farseers. If memory serves, Fitz had already successfully secured agreement, and more than once, that Nettle would not be roped into service to the Farseer throne, particularly with the Skill; that matters have shifted to require another negotiation…I’m not sure if it was an authorial / editorial nodding-off (quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus–aut Robin) or a retraction from Kettricken or what. Still, it invites attention, and not necessarily good attention, either.

The other is the strange position Fitz takes with Thick. It is not until he begins to see himself in Thick that he begins to treat him kindly, really. I know that much of the appeal of the Fitz-centric novels–of the Elderlings novels, generally–is that their protagonists are flawed, and Fitz does have reason to dislike Thick; he is something of an ass to him. But it still smacks of…problems that Fitz does not react well until he can begin to equate Thick to himself. After all, a person shouldn’t need to experience mistreatment to believe it happens, or to know that it’s wrong…

Let’s start out the new year right!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 263: Golden Fool, Chapter 13

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The following chapter, “Challenges,” opens with translated in-milieu commentary about mapmaking in the Outislands. It moves to Fitz’s departure from Jinna on amicable but tentative terms with her. He glosses the passage of several days and the events, noting the continued avoidance of the Bingtown delegation by the Narcheska and her uncle. Fitz and Chade confer about the implications of the strained relations among the three parties, as well as about Fitz’s tense relationship with Starling. They also talk of Dutiful’s suspended Skill lessons–Selden’s presence makes them perilous–and the Narcheska’s afflictions by tattoo and Henja.

Matters are improved.
Image is from Faceless Trey’s Tumblr, here, used for commentary.

Fitz additionally chews over the strain in his feelings towards the Fool, Chade commenting aspersively on them; they also talk briefly of Hap, Fitz recalling Hap coming to him. They part to prepare for their evening’s work, Chade acting as councilor and Fitz as spy in the tunnels. He observes as Elliania and Peottre make a delayed entrance and the Narcheska voices doubts about the betrothal. She issues a challenge, and Dutiful erupts into acceptance of it before he can be halted, whether by Kettricken’s words or Fitz’s Skill-command–the latter of which he sets aside. Dutiful issues one, in turn, which Elliania accepts; if he is to slay the dragon Icefyre, she must accompany him to see it done–or to affirm there is no dragon to slay. In a generally approving tumult, the betrothal is formalized, and a toast is drunk to the intended couple.

The present chapter is near to the middle of the book, and the present novel is the second in the trilogy; it’s as near to the center of the series as could be desired. For those taught with Freytag’s pyramid in mind, it is a “natural” place for the climactic action to occur–and the mutual challenges and acceptances would seem to fit that rubric. While this is not the inciting incident of the plot–not even as presented in the novels, let alone within the broader context in which the events depicted exist–it is a cause of much of the action to come, as well as marking off the end of what is primarily explication (in the “main” plot, at least, or the one concerned with the fates of peoples and nations). Hobb does demonstrate a tendency to make such moves in her work; I’ve noted it before, here, here, here, and here, if not elsewhere. It’s not to be wondered at, then, that she does it again.

And as far as ways to make that climax happen go, teenagers are great. Ill-considered emotional outbursts come off as authentic, verisimilitudinous, from hormone-riddled people whose brains remain in development, after all…

Care to help me close out 2021 well?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 262: Golden Fool, Chapter 12

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Jek,” opens with an in-milieu translated commentary regarding the violent removal by Tintaglia of Chalcedean forces from Bingtown Harbor. It pivots, then, to Fitz returning wearily to his assigned chambers from his audience with Chade and Kettricken, rehearsing how it had gone–which was not entirely well for him.

Illustration series for the Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
Image is Katrin Sapranova’s Jek, used for commentary.

When he returns to the chamber, Fitz finds Jek present, which disconcerts him. After an increasingly tense exchange, during which Fitz introduces himself as Tom Badgerlock, the Fool-as-Golden returns, recognizing Jek immediately and leading to some awkwardness all around. Badgerlock is dismissed, but Fitz spies out the reunion of the two and muses bitterly on the performative aspects of the Fool’s identity. Jek reports events down the Cursed Shores and in the Pirate Isles, noting what is said of Kennit’s child and of Althea and Brashen Trell.

Fitz fumes at the revelation, withdrawing and rebuking himself as he stalks through the hidden corridors of Buckkeep Castle. He spies out the Narcheska, finding her assailed magically via intricate tattoos of dragons and Peottre doing what he can to ease the girl’s sufferings. Fitz ascends to Chade’s tower room, grumbles about the lack of attention paid it by Thick, and writes out a report for the old assassin.

Descending, Badgerlock goes out into the common areas, where he is confronted by Selden. The Vestrit youth plies him for information, which questioning Badgerlock deflects through his servant’s manner. It is a near thing, though, and he stalks off in some haste, thinking about what will happen and purposing to see about Hap. Along the way, Starling confronts him, and an angry exchange ensues that leaves Fitz hollow. He proceeds to drink too much, and he goes to Jinna to apologize to her. At length, and after rebuking him for his many follies, she accepts the apology, and they return to some accord.

A couple things pop out to me in the present chapter. One is a bit of internal inconsistency that annoys; Althea’s sister is repeatedly identified as Malta–her niece–rather than as Keffria. It’s a small bit of editing mishap that might’ve been corrected in subsequent printings–I hope it has been–but I can only read the copy of the novel I have…

The other is something about which several of the entries in the Fedwren Project concern themselves: the Fool’s performed gender-fluidity. I’ll note here, as I have in many other situations, that those who have applied themselves to that study have done so with far greater insight and skill than is mine to employ, certainly at this point in my life, when I am so far away from academe as I am. I’ll note, too, that many people deal with similar situations, if not presented as forcefully as with the Fool. How many of us, as children, were shocked to learn that our teachers existed outside the classroom when we ran into them at the grocery store or the gas station? How many of us, upon finding out that our parents are people, felt they had failed us? How many of us, seeing our children grow away from us, are stunned by the realization that they are separate little people?

Something to consider.

Care to help me ring in another new year? I’d really appreciate it!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 261: Golden Fool, Chapter 11

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The subsequent chapter, “Tidings from Bingtown,” begins with an in-milieu commentary regarding the perils of trading along the Cursed Shores, from Chalced down to Bingtown. It pivots to Fitz-as-Badgerlock arriving at the shop where Hap is apprenticing and confronting the youth about his assignations with Svanja. Recalling his folly with Molly, he rebukes Hap for his incaution, to no avail as the teenager stalks off to his apprenticeship. Chewing on his regrets, Fitz returns to Buckkeep Castle and to the Fool-as-Golden, learning from the Fool that Chade expects the two of them to observe a meeting from the Bingtown Traders and Kettricken in which an alliance between Bingtown and the Six Duchies against Chalced will be up for discussion.

The Tawny Man Book 2: The Golden Fool - The Ambassador
Little Selden is grown up…
Image is John Howe’s The Ambassador, used for commentary.

After some preparation and some difficulties in navigation, Fitz and the Fool take up a position to observe the reception of Bingtown’s embassy. Fitz Skills a warning to Dutiful, noting the reaction of one of the embassy’s members to the use of the magic, and the two listen to the presentations and speeches being made. The thrust of the matter is presented: Bingtown seeks a military alliance with the Six Duchies–perhaps to include the Mountain Kingdom, as well–against Chalced. One of the ambassadors, Selden Vestrit, announces himself and his mission from Tintaglia, speaking of “true dragons” in a way that scandalizes the court and deeply offends Kettricken. Chade manages to call for a recess, and Fitz and the Fool make their way to Chade’s hidden chambers.

Secreted away, and over brandy, the two confer, Fitz musing bitterly on his old follies and the Fool offering such philosophical comfort as there is for the pain of nostalgia. Fitz recalls an earlier conversation the two had had and asks about Bingtown’s dragons, at which prompting, the Fool offers a reasonably straightforward discussion of the creatures and a gloss of their history. When Fitz asks about why the information had not been given to Chade and Kettricken, the Fool cites his existence as the Prophet, rather than the Catalyst, which vexes Fitz, again.

Chade arrives at the chamber shortly after. He notes that, in the wake of the recess with the Bingtowners, Elliania and Peottre “required” an audience with Kettricken, in which they argued against “any sort of alliance with ‘those dragon-breeders'” and occasioned a sharp retort from Kettricken. Fitz asks for a conference with Kettricken, Dutiful, and Chade to present information.

Doing the write-up for this chapter began to feel like a little bit of a research project–which is a good thing for me, as might be imagined. (I kept going back to school for more such things, after all.) The chapter calls back to several other points in the series, as is entirely sensible; it helps the verisimilitude of a novel or series of them to be internally consistent, and one way of promoting that consistency is to make reference, overt or tacit, back to previous events. Pulling up the references, while perhaps a bit of tedium for many, tickles my nerdy fancy. It’s like piecing a puzzle together, really, although I enjoy doing it more than I do solving jigsaw puzzles (on my own; they’re more fun with others).

I do see some strain in the current chapter, though, related to the callbacks. The tension centers on the dragons–the biological and constructed ones. In some ways, the present chapter reads as an attempt at canon welding, with concomitant problems. Certainly, ideas can and should evolve over time, and writers’ work will necessarily shift as the writer does. That doesn’t mean things are always harmonious, however, and attempts to sing those chords sometimes result in dissonances–productive, perhaps, but not necessarily always so. I’ve not always regarded it kindly, myself; how it might change as I continue to reread, I do not know. Yet.

It may be a bit late for holiday shopping, but the need for writing goes on–and so does my being able to help with it!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 260: Golden Fool, Chapter 10

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The following chapter, “Resolutions,” opens with a report made to Chade at the end of the Red-Ship War before turning to Fitz stopping off to spy on Elliania en route to Lord Golden’s rooms. He overhears a strange conversation among the Narcheska, Peottre, and their supposed servant Henja, one in which the last tries to command Elliania to bed Dutiful, only to be refused. The Narcheska purposes to show herself as a woman grown and to rebuke Dutiful for his social gaffe, overruling Peottre’s objections.

FitzChivalry _ Lord Golden
These two, at it again…
FitzChivalry _ Lord Golden by
TakikoKyuuketsuki on DeviantArt
, used for commentary.

Fitz reports to the Fool, who reports in turn the invitation to ride with Dutiful. Fitz resumes his guise as Badgerlock, attending to his servant’s duties and taking in such gossip as he can as he does so. When he returns, he finds Golden waiting with yet more finery for him to wear–and he largely approves of it, this time. The two join the party awaiting the Prince’s pleasure, and the Narcheska and her uncle make a decided statement with their delay and deportment–one that is understood by all in attendance.

Riding out in party, Dutiful Skills to Fitz, complaining of his treatment. Fitz counsels him to caution and calm, and the youth hopes for a return to normalcy that will never come. Entertainments follow the ride, and in the evening, Badgerlock goes to the Stuck Pig to seek out Hap. There, he is confronted by Svanja’s father, and he attempts to defuse the confrontation. As the two fathers go in search of their wayward children, Fitz confronts the ineptitude of his own actions and muses bitterly on them.

Ah, Dutiful; suffering punishment is not the same as making amends. But Dutiful is young, certainly, and has been sheltered; he can, perhaps, be forgiven for not knowing it. Fitz, however, is neither young nor sheltered, and he has had ample opportunity to learn the lesson he knows Dutiful has not. Not that I’m necessarily any better about things, although my child is not yet running around in the night with strange people of whom I do not approve…Still, one of the values of literature–whether “high” works or genre fiction–is that it allows the reader to see things from other perspectives. So seeing, we have the opportunity to learn, if we can make the leaps to distill out the lessons being taught and to connect them to our own lives. It’s not an easy thing to do, certainly, at least for me; for all that I have advanced degrees, there are areas in which I am a poor student, and rereading sometimes reminds me of so much.

It is a reminder I could probably use more often than I get it.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 259: Golden Fool, Chapter 9

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Stone Wager,” begins with an in-milieu note about Skill training before moving into the approach of winter and Fitz’s gloss of tasks and progress. He continues to serve the Fool-as-Golden in his role as Badgerlock, passing information along to Chade, and he continues his assignations with Jinna, settling into a predictable routine that he knows is perilous. Still, with no action from the Piebalds or Laudwine, and few items of note from his continued espionage, Fitz flags in his vigilance.

Fitting that I write about the approach of a winter holiday on the approach to a winter holiday…
Image found here, used for commentary.

The state of affairs in the Six Duchies appears fairly settled. While animus against those with the Wit remains in place, actions against them are quieted. Fitz takes the time to seek out Hap, learning that he frequents the Stuck Pig with Svanja but finding Laurel drinking there instead. They confer, and Laurel notes that she has been messaged by the Piebalds in the form of killing her horse. Fitz-as-Badgerlock attempts to console her, just as Jinna enters; the hedge-witch leaves in vexation, and Badgerlock is caught in an uncomfortable misunderstanding. He escorts Laurel back to Buckkeep Castle and calls on Chade, with whom he discusses what he has learned.

Fitz is left to consider matters as the winter progresses and he continues on his duties. Starling makes much of her happy marriage, and Fitz finds himself visited in dreams by Nettle. Skill-lessons with Dutiful continue, as well, and Dutiful reports a social gaffe he has made. Fitz offers such advice as he can, though he notes such matters lie outside his expertise.

After Dutiful leaves, Fitz reports to Chade again, finding Think has been summoned. Thick speaks of Dutiful and Nettle, something Chade uses as a rebuke to his erstwhile apprentice and prod him about his daughter and her training. Fitz rejects the idea, though Chade continues to press it. Fitz notes that Black Rolf might be a candidate for training in the Skill instead of Nettle, and Chade reports that Rolf is several years dead from fever. The two reach an accord, and Chade departs.

There’s clearly a lot going on in the chapter, and of the sort that leaves me once again feeling pity for Fitz. It is perhaps a keener thing this time than in previous readings and iterations, because what’s happening with him is more authentic that the higher-fantasy shenanigans that he does get into across the novels where he features. Yes, of course, I expect to see magic and action in a fantasy series, and Hobb does not disappoint in those regards, but it is the tensions of being a parent and in shifting relationships with his own parent-figures, the unfortunately timed misunderstandings surrounding coworkers and something that approaches romance, and trying to make sense of things while working multiple jobs for agencies that would see him to his grave (again) without hesitation if it suited their interests that make Fitz a realized character, one accessible to readers.

I think I just ran myself into the idea that Fitz is a millennial. I’m not sure how to regard that assertion, really, although it does seem to check out. I’ll have to think on it some more, I suppose. But that’s hardly a bad thing, having getting to think about what I read…

If you’ve liked what I write here, think about what I can write for you!