Tugging at the heartstrings

Gosh, we’re already in the fifth week of my 26-week book challenge, and this week I’m discussing a book that made me cry.

I should probably start by saying that I’m a bit weird when it comes to crying over books (or films, for that matter). There are fantastic books with absolutely heart-rending moments that leave me completely dry-eyed. To pluck a completely random example out of the air, let’s go back to a book that I haven’t discussed at all recently: The Lies of Locke Lamora. Something happens in there that ought to make you bawl. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what bit I mean. But while it knocked me for six, I didn’t cry over it. Yet I can be reading a cheesy romance where you know that the hero and heroine are going to end up living happily ever after, but when they hit the Great Big Misunderstanding I’m crying like a newborn baby.

The basic truth is that I can cry over a book or film quite easily, but I have no idea what it is exactly that sets me off. I thought I was going to cry at the end of The Return of the King (film version), when Frodo sets off for the Undying Lands, but nope. Maybe a bit moist in the corners of the eyes, but no more than that.

There has been one book, however, that made me cry so hard that I literally had to stop reading or risk spoiling the book, and that was Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb.

I’m going to assume that people reading this have read Robin’s trilogies about Fitz and the Fool. If you haven’t and you’re planning to, here be spoilers. If you don’t want to know (some of) what happens, just skip the rest of this post. I know I personally hate spoilers.

Anyway, Fool’s Errand is the first part of the second trilogy about Fitzchivalry Farseer. I’ve already waxed lyrical in some previous post about how much I love Robin Hobb and how much she’s influenced me, but this is specifically about how she made me cry.

The first trilogy ends quite sad, with Fitz’ sweetheart Molly giving up on him and turning to Burrich instead. Considering how much I was in love with Fitz when reading these books (and still am, a little), I was hurting for him. Still, he was alive, and he had the companionship of his wolf, Nighteyes. Not ordinary companionship of man and animal, of course, because Fitz has the Wit – the ability to link minds with an animal and experience the world as they can. It is a bond deeper than friendship, more than love.

This trilogy picks up the story some fifteen years later, and really, with that I could have seen this one coming. Fitz has matured and is now a thoughtful man of mid-to-late thirties, but Nighteyes is a wolf. Fifteen years is a long time for a wolf. Nighteyes is old, and the punishing chase after Prince Dutiful which takes up a good chunk of the latter part of the book is very, very hard on him.

So then I came to this part:

Good hunting. I’m going now, my brother. He spoke with great determination.

Alone? You can’t bring a buck down alone! I sighed with resignation. Wait, I’ll get up and come with you.

Wait for you? Not likely! I’ve always had to run ahead of you and show you the way.

Swift as thought, he slipped away from me, running down the hillside like a cloud’s shadow when the wind blows. My connection to him frayed away as he went, scattering and floating like dandelion fluff in the wind. Instead of small and secret, I felt our bond go wide and open, as if he had invited all the Witted creatures in the world to share our joining. All the web of life on the whole hillside suddenly swelled within my heart, linked and meshed and woven through with one another. It was too glorious to contain. I had to go with him; a morning this wondrous must be shared.

‘Wait!’ I cried, and in shouting the word, I woke myself. Nearby, the Fool sat up, his hair tousled. I blinked. My mouth was full of salve and wolf-hair, my fingers buried deep in his coat. I clutched him to me, and my grip sighed his last stilled breath out of his lungs. But Nighteyes was gone. Cold rain was cascading down past the mouth of the cave.

God, I can hardly type this, because my vision’s gone that blurred. This kind of writing, this emotional gut-punch is what lifts a writer from good to amazing. To tug at the heartstrings like that, and make you cry for a character in a book, that is what true talent can achieve.

3 thoughts on “Tugging at the heartstrings

  1. storytimewithbuffy

    I had to skip the quote from the book because I haven’t read this one yet. I read the first trilogy though and really loved it. I should pick this one up. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Erica Dakin Post author

      Absolutely, definitely worth it. That said, you may want to read the Liveship Trader books first. Chronologically they come before the Tawny Man trilogy, even if they’re about completely different characters. There are links, though, and I’ve always regretted not reading them in the right order.


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