The Tawny Man, Book 3, Fool's Fate - Robin Hobb, 06.07.07 ****
In Fool's Fate, the conclusion to the Tawny Man series, Prince Dutiful travels to the Out Islands to complete the quest that the Narcheska has charged him with to prove that he is worthy to marry her. He must lay the heads of the black dragon, Icefyre, on the hearth of the motherlodge before she will become his queen. Included in his party are many nobles and merchants, eager for trade with the Out Island tribes, and of course Fitz (still in disguise as Tom Badgerlock), and Lord Chade accompany him. The Fool, in his persona of Lord Golden, also intends to travel with them, but the Fool confides to Fitz that one of his prophecies says that in order for Icefyre to live, the Fool must die - and the Fool has every intention of making sure that Icefyre lives! Fitz manages to arrange for "Lord Golden" to be left behind.
Many adventures ensue and some mysteries are solved, only to reveal deeper mysteries. Who is the Pale Lady? Why does the Narcheska, who seems to like the Prince and welcome the marriage personally, demand a quest from him that, if he succeeds, cause the rest of her people to hate him for depriving the Out Islands of their "good luck" charm? These and other questions weigh on Fitz's mind as they journey to the glacial island where the dragon is supposedly frozen in ice. And to his great surprise, when they arrive, who should be sitting on the landing beach in a large and colorful silk tent, but the Fool. When asked how he got their ahead of them, all he will say is that he flew.
Thus begins the journey over the ice and snow to find the dragon, and as they near their destination Fitz's choice becomes more desperate - in order to save the Fool, the dragon must die, which seems unthinkable, as it may well start a new war between the Six Duchies and the Out Islands. But if the dragon lives, the Narcheska may not marry the Prince and thus dash the hopes of peace and trade between the two nations anyway. In the final showdown, it doesn't much matter, for once again events are beyond anyone's total control, and all the survivors of the quest can do is pick up the pieces and learn to live their lives again.
This was a completely satisfying ending to the series, and I greatly enjoyed it. Although now that it's over I think I can safely say that the character of Fitz drove me crazy - constantly making wrong or impulsive choices, rarelly thinking things through, and even when he did he rarely comes up with the right answers. Still, he and the rest of the bunch are likeable characters, and since the stories came out all right in the end, I guess much is forgiveable.