A satisfying end to the author’s Tawny Man trilogy.
As before, the story is narrated by FitzChivalry Farseer, the royal bastard trained as an assassin. Prince Dutiful, heir apparent to the throne of the Six Duchies, has promised his fiancée, an Outisland princess, that he’ll bring her the head of a dragon frozen on an isolated northern island. Now, Hobb (a.k.a. Megan Lindholm) explores the consequences of that promise, both for the young couple and for those required to help the prince fulfill it. Lord Golden, the former royal fool, has foreseen his own death on the island where the dragon is buried. Fitz, whose life is deeply entangled with the fool’s, decides to prevent his friend from taking the journey. On the trip to the Outislands, the prince’s companion Thick, a half-witted peasant gifted with extraordinary telepathic powers, becomes convinced he’ll die of seasickness; the prince puts him in Fitz’s care, no light burden. And upon arrival in the islands, the royal party learns that the dragon-slaying that Dutiful has promised is opposed by a significant faction among the island notables. Dutiful shows his growing maturity by negotiating the diplomatic hurdles skillfully; the compromise solution is that the prince will take only a token force with him, escorted by a wicked band of island warriors who will witness his deed and report it to the full council. And, as it turns out, the dragons have something to say about things, too. Hobb works this complex situation into an atmosphere-filled adventure on the glacial island, with a fair quota of surprises. As in the first two entries, much of the tension comes from the interaction of a large group of characters with conflicting agendas and considerable power to enforce their wills.
A winning combination of strong characters and colorful societies.