The Tawny Man, Book 2, Golden Fool, Robin Hobb - 06.03.07 ****
Fitz - in his disguise as Tom Badgerlock - has sucessfully rescued Prince Dutiful from the Piebalds and returned to BuckKeep with Lord Golden. Not all who set out on the daring rescue have survived, though. Emotionally bereft after the loss of NightEyes, Tom tries to fit into his new life at the palace. The demands on his time and energy are nearly endless - train the Prince in the magic of the Skill, form a Skill coterie for the Prince, protect the secrets of his daughter Nettle, pursue his sky duties for Lord Chade, and try to guide his foster son, Hap, through the perils of city life and the dangers of young love. The betrothals ceremonies for the Narcheska are continuing, as are the trade agreements with the Out Islands, but it seems that someone is determined that the FarSeer reign should fail. The queen continues to receives threats against the Prince, and the Piebalds would like nothing better to reveal the Prince to the world as Witted. Someone is spying on Lord Golden, and on Tom, and the Piebald leader that Tom maimed in the Prince's rescue seem set on revenge against him.
As the civil unrest grows, Tom's problems continue to multiply. When a delegation of Bingtown Traders arrives to beg the Six Duchies to join the war against Chalced, the Out Islands embassy takes offense and returns homes with the Narcheska. She challenges Dutiful to come to her home and prove himself worthy of being her husband by killing the Black Dragon, Icefyre, a mythical beast rumored to sleep under the ice of a glacier.
Lord Golden, upon hearing this, begins to puzzle out some of the events that have transpired of late and deduces the existance of a second White Prophet - one with her own Catalyst - and who seems to be struggling to defeat Tom & Lord Golden's desire to turn time into a better path. But she can only triumph if Tom doesn't survive. Tom begins to realize the extent of the Fool's efforts to keep him alive all these years, and the friendship between the two continues to grow until the fateful day when Jek arrives with the Bingtown Traders. When Jek reveals the Fool/Lord Golden to also be Amber (see, The Liveship Trader series), Tom is crushed yet again. He suddenly feels that he doesn't know his best friend at all, resulting in an ugly confrontation where both speak things that should never be said. The rift between them seems unbridgeable.
But when the plots and conspiracies against him suddenly come together, Tom finds himself (yet again) badly wounded and nearly dead. Those he trusts and loves must all join together to use each of their Skills to save his life, and once more the biggest challenge is to simply survive.