Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on December 4, 2018
I noticed when skimming the other reviews that a lot of people didn't seem to like this book. I was not one of them. Where some people found middle-aged Fitz annoying, I found him relatable. This may say more about my own personal failings than about Hobb's overall level of skill (I, too, struggle with letting go sometimes...okay, maybe more than sometimes), but regardless, I enjoyed Fitz as a protagonist in this book. I actually liked him much better than I did in the Assassin books. The character formerly known as The Fool (and by another name in another trilogy, if you're paying the least bit of attention) continues to delight, as does Nighteyes. Reading about both of them was like reuniting with old friends. Some of Nighteyes' "dialogue" had me literally laughing out loud at times. No, Kettricken doesn't get much attention, but that's because she's not a significant character in this book, and that's okay.
Hobb continues to expand her world-building exploration of the Wit and the Skill in this book in ways that intrigue and provoke reflection on a variety of topics, from small-scale ones such as personal boundaries in relationships to larger-scale ones such as how humans in general tend to "other" and find reasons to hate and fear one other. The tempo does start off slow, but that seems appropriate given that Fitz starts off arguably "stuck" in the isolated life he has chosen. That sort of life has a slow tempo built into it (as anyone who has lived in relative isolation can attest), so causing the reader to experience that tempo is just one more way that they can become immersed in Fitz's experiences- as I did.
Without getting into spoilers, I will say that even though I saw some plot twists coming, it didn't diminish at all from the experience for me. There were still parts near the end where I couldn't bring myself to set the book down, and had to read just one more chapter, even if I should have been sleeping. And there were parts where I cried. And kept crying, well after I'd set the book down. That might sound bad, but I wouldn't trade away the experience of reading this book for anything... strange as it might sound, I loved it.
The epilogue initially struck me as strange and irrelevant. At the time I shrugged and was just like, "whatever." Then twelve hours later I was laying down with a cat on my chest, just contemplatively looking out a window, and all of a sudden the theme hit me like a tsunami crystallizing on impact. It just all came together in a single moment, and shifted something in my soul a little bit.
Anything that can cause that is very good writing, indeed. Maybe I read it at the right time, and that amplified the impact. But it still had to be the right book, at the right time. So while this was an enjoyable escapist adventure in a detailed fantasy world (as Hobb provided in her previous two trilogies), it also tells what can be (depending on the reader, I suspect) a deeply meaningful and thought-provoking story. I expect this one will stay with me for some time.