G.R.R. Martin described Robin Hobb’s books as « like diamonds in a sea of zircons. » and her Realm of the Elderlings Series is epic.
What is Realm of the Elderlings about?
Robin Hobb’s Realm Of The Elderlings series is an epic fantasy saga sub-divided into four trilogies and a quartet, and completed with a novella and some short stories.
All stories take place in the Realm of the Elderlings, as we follow the destiny of many characters, like FitzChivalry Farseer, The Fool, Althea Vestrit, Malta Vestrit, Alise Kincarron and more. It is a world with magic, wolves, dragons and liveships.
Realm of the Elderlings Books in Order:
I. The Farseer Trilogy
- Assassin’s Apprentice – Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
- Royal Assassin – Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.
- Assassin’s Quest – King Shrewd is dead. As is Fitz—or so his enemies and friends believe. But with the help of his allies and his beast magic, he emerges from the grave, deeply scarred in body and soul. The kingdom also teeters toward ruin: Regal has plundered and abandoned the capital, while the rightful heir, Prince Verity, is lost to his mad quest. Only Verity’s return—or the heir his princess carries—can save the Six Duchies. But Fitz will not wait. Driven by loss and bitter memories, he undertakes a quest: to kill Regal.
II. Liveship Traders Trilogy
- Ship of Magic – Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships—rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Now the fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. For Althea’s young nephew, forced to serve aboard the ship, the Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the ship—and the Vestrits—may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider: the ruthless buccaneer captain Kennit, who plans to seize power over the Pirate Isles.
- The Mad Ship – The Vestrit family’s liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia’s love. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship…
- Ship of Destiny – As Bingtown slides toward disaster, clan matriarch Ronica Vestrit searches for a way to bring the city’s inhabitants together against a momentous threat. Meanwhile, Althea Vestrit continues her perilous quest to track down and recover her liveship. Bold though it is, Althea’s scheme may be in vain. For her beloved “Vivacia “will face the most terrible confrontation of all as the secret of the liveships is revealed.
III. The Tawny Man Trilogy
- Fool’s Errand – Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Red Ship War. Since then, Fitz has wandered the world accompanied by his wolf, Nighteyes, finally settling in a remote tiny cottage. But lately the world has come crashing in again. The Witted are being persecuted because of their magical bonds with animals; and young Prince Dutiful has gone missing just before his crucial diplomatic wedding to an Outislander princess. Fitz’s assignment to fetch Dutiful back in time for the ceremony seems very much like a fool’s errand, but the dangers ahead could signal the end of the Farseer reign.
- Golden Fool – Prince Dutiful has been rescued and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. There FitzChivalry Farseer, gutted by the loss of his wolf, must take up residence at Buckkeep as a journeyman assassin. Posing as a bodyguard, Fitz becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls, guiding a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day. Bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz finds that his biggest challenge may be simply to survive.
- Fool’s Fate – A small and sadly untried coterie – the old assassin Chade, the serving-boy Thick, Prince Dutiful, and his reluctant Skillmaster, Fitz – sail towards the distant island of Aslevjal. There they must fulfil the Narcheska’s challenge to her betrothed: to lay the head of the dragon Icefyre, whom legends tell is buried there deep beneath the ice, upon her hearth. Only with the completion of this quest can the marriage proceed, and the resulting alliance signal an end to war between the two kingdoms…
IV. The Rain Wild Chronicles
- The Dragon Keeper – Here be dragons—but debilitated, deformed, damaged dragons, hatched too soon, sick and starving, into a world that has mostly forgotten them. Eventually driven out by the Traders Council, the hatchlings decide to seek Kelsingra, their ancient home. Caught up by the dragons’ plight and longing to escape unhappy families and the stifling Rain Wild culture, self-taught dragon scholar Alise Kincannon and teenage tree-dwelling mutant Thymara volunteer to accompany them on the quest, with the help of magnetic liveship captain Leftrin and a host of colorful characters.
- Dragon Haven – As the fledgling dragons and their keepers forge a passage through the uncharted waters of the Rain Wild River, they are supported by the liveship Tarman, its captain, Leftrin, and Alise Finbok. A vial of dragon blood can earn a man enough gold to last a lifetime: there may be some in the party who see the dragons as more valuable as body parts than whole and alive. But it is the Rain Wilds themselves that may provide the deadliest danger as they make their way towards the mythical haven of Kelsingra.
- City of Dragons – As the misfit band approaches its final destination, dragons and keepers alike face a challenge so insurmountable that it threatens to render their long, difficult odyssey utterly meaningless.
- Blood of Dragons – The legendary blue dragon Tintaglia. is dying of wounds inflicted by hunters sent by the Duke of Chalced. If Tintaglia perishes. her ancestral memories will die with her and the dragons in the city of Kelsingra will lose the secret knowledge they need to survive. Their keepers are in a quest of recovering the Elderling magic that once allowed humans and dragons to co-exist. In doing so they risk losing their own identities, even their lives…
V. The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
- Fool’s Assassin – Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably with his beloved wife Molly these many years. But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line and assassin. Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger? Suddenly Fitz’s violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.
- Fool’s Quest – Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world. Now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter. Distracted, Fitz lets down his guard and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon. Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.
- Assassin’s Fate – Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.
Bonus. The Realm of the Elderlings novellas & short stories
All short stories can be can be read at any time.
- Homecoming – Available in The Inheritance & Other Stories. Told through the journal entries of Lady Carillion Carrock, the story follows a group of Jamaillians who have been exiled to the Rain Wilds, and are attempting to settle there. Take place before the Farseer trilogy.
- The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince – Long before the time of Chivalry Farseer, there was Princess Caution Farseer, destined to fall dangerously in love where she ought not. The child she bore, a Witted boy known as the Piebald Prince, rose to favor despite his questionable bloodlines. But the dukes of the Six Duchies backed Canny Farseer for the throne. And so both young men competed for power and for the love of the same lady. Such rivalry could end only in bloodshed… Take place before the Farseer trilogy.
- Cat’s Meat – Available in in The Inheritance & Other Stories. It describes the events of a few days during some springtime in the lives of Rosemary, her child Gillam and the cat Marmalade. Take place before the Farseer trilogy.
- Words Like Coins – Available in A Fantasy Medley. It takes place in Tilth and follows Mirrifen, a former hedge-witch’s apprentice and Jami, her sister-in-law and what happens when a drought brings pecksies into their lives. Set during the time of Assassin’s Apprentice / Royal Assassin.
- Blue Boots – Available in Songs of Love and Death. Timbal is a recently orphaned kitchen girl whose only treasure in the world are the blue boots her father bought her shortly before his death. She falls in love with the minstrel Azen who is staying in the Keep to entertain and serve Lord Just and Lady Lucent. Set during the time of Assassin’s Apprentice / Royal Assassin.
- Her Father’s Sword – Available in The Book of Swords. In the early days of the Red Ship War, Taura is a girl living in a coastal village of Smokerscot when the folk of the Six Duchies is only beginning to understand what Forging is. The story also features an appearance by FitzChivalry. Set during the time of Assassin’s Apprentice / Royal Assassin.
- The Inheritance – Available in The Inheritance & Other Stories. Short story about Cerise, a Bingtown trader who inherits a wizardwood pendant from her recently deceased grandmother, along with the family name. Takes place before Ship of Magic.
Thanks to my friend Carole for writing this guide.