Whether you casually picked one of the Robin Hobb books, read about them, or some good friend told you to check them out, you probably got here with the same question both old and new fans come across at some point in this journey: “How do you read the Robin Hobb books in order?”
Naturally, The Realm of the Elderlings saga —Robin Hobb’s most well-known work— is originally divided into four trilogies, one tetralogy, one novella, and six short stories. With this amount of material, the reading order could get confusing.
In this article, you’ll find out exactly how to read all of Robin Hobb’s books in order. Please note Robin Hobb has other books besides The Realm of the Elderlings saga, but here we’ll focus on it as it is the only one that has many different books.
Robin Hobb Books in Order of Publication
To make this list easier to digest, we’ve divided the Robin Hobb books in order of Publication AND Series.
The Realm of the Elderlings
The Farseer Trilogy
- Assassin’s Apprentice (1995)
- Royal Assassin (1996)
- Assassin’s Quest (1997)
The Liveship Traders Trilogy
- Ship of Magic (1998)
- Mad Ship (1999)
- Ship of Destiny (2000)
The Tawny Man Trilogy
- Fool’s Errand (2001)
- Golden Fool (2002)
- Fool’s Fate (2003)
The Rain Wild Chronicles
- Dragon Keeper (2009)
- Dragon Haven (2010)
- City of Dragons (2011)
- Blood of Dragons (2013)
The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
- Fool’s Assassin (2014)
- Fool’s Quest (2015)
- Assassin’s Fate (2017)
The Realm of the Elderlings novellas & short stories:
- The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince (Farseer Trilogy’s prequel)
- “The Inheritance” in The Inheritance & Other Stories
- “Homecoming” in Legends II
- “Words Like Coins” in A Fantasy Medley
- “Blue Boots” in Songs of Love and Death
- “Cat’s Meat” in The Inheritance & Other Stories
- “Her Father’s Sword” in The Book of Swords
- “The Triumph” in Warriors
- The Inheritance & Other Stories (2011) contains seven stories written as Megan Lindholm and three stories (all set in the Realm of the Elderlings: “Homecoming”, “The Inheritance”, “Cat’s Meat”) written by Robin Hobb.
How to Read Robin Hobb Books in Order?
The most common way to read the Robin Hobb books in order is as follows:
Farseer trilogy → Liveship Trader trilogy → The Tawny Man trilogy → The Rain Wild Chronicles → The Fitz and the Fool trilogy.
You’ll profit the most this way. However, there are a few exceptions that can be made.
The Farseer, The Tawney Man, and The Fitz and the Fool follow in chronological order the story of the main character FitzChivalry Farseer, so they should be read in this order.
Liveship Traders and The Rain Wild Chronicles take place in different far-away regions with different characters, so theoretically they could be read independently from the other three trilogies.
Somethings is missing? Keep reading if you are wondering when you should read each short story in The Realm of the Elderlings universe.
Realm of the Elderlings Short Stories
It’s actually not that important.
Robin Hobb’s short stories are told by different characters, and they just give subtle suggestions about what is going on in the universe at the time of each story. Their purpose is to deepen the literary universe rather than contribute to the main stories.
Nevertheless, if you still want to follow a set Robin Hobb reading order, below we’ll specify at what point of the main story each of these tales develops.
- Homecoming, The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince, and Cat’s Meat take place hundred of years before the first book – they relate the origins of the kingdom.
- Words like Coins, Her Father’s Sword, and Blue Boots are placed somewhat at the middle of the Farseer trilogy.
- The Inheritance takes place between the Farseer and the Liveship Trader series.
Who is Robin Hobb?
Robin Hobb is one of the pseudonyms novelist Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden uses to publish her work, which focuses primarily on fantasy, although she has written some science fiction.
From 1983 to 1992, she wrote exclusively as Megan Lindholm, her first pseudonym. Her works under that alias tend to be contemporary fantasy. In 1995 she began using the pseudonym Robin Hobb for books themed towards more traditional epic medieval fantasy. In this period, she first published her famous Farseer Trilogy and continued with this alias for her Realm of the Elderlings series.
Her personal story began in 1952 when she was born in California. At the age of nine, she and her family had to abandon California to live in Alaska. Quite a change of weather.
This lifestyle adjustment was sudden and dramatic. The family made a living with a meat store in the front yard. This store eventually became her first quiet place to work her writing during summer when it was unused.
She has won the World Fantasy Awards, and many fantasy writers have acclaimed her work. Orson Scott Card Card has said that she “without a doubt sets the standard for current adult fantasy novels.”
Robin Hobb Books Summary
The Farseer Trilogy
It consists of three books called The Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and The Assassin’s Quest; the three books are placed at the Six Duchies, a former commercial coalition ruled by the Farseer lineage from the fortress-city of Elk Tower.
The story begins around the enigmatic character Fitz Chivalry Farseer, a king’s bastard whose destiny will be to serve as the king’s personal assassin and protect his kingdom from the shadows.
This trilogy starts from the moment the bastard is delivered to the care of the King to take over his care, so throughout the trilogy, we will see him grow and go through hardships because of his bastard status.
In addition, he will have to face the difficult task of two problems: the War of the Red Sails, a kingdom that comes from the seas to battle against the Six Duchies; and on the other side, the conspiracy of his uncle, the Prince Regal who wants to become king at any cost.
The Liveship Traders Trilogy
These books are placed in a different kingdom —Bingtown—, located to the southwest of Six Duchies. Geographically, it is described as a small portion of coastal land. What is unique about this place is that it is the only place where the Naos Redivivas are built; merchant ships with the ability to have a consciousness of their own, after three generations spend their lives into them. This is possible through a magical type of wood. The conflict arises as a result of Bingtown seeking independence from Jamalilla.
In this trilogy, many things are explained, like the Farseer’s origins and some revelations about the existence of dragons. It is also important to say that there is not only one main character but mostly the Vestrit family, merchants from Bingtown. The three books are The Ships of Magic, The Ships of Madness, and The Ships of Destiny.
The Tawny Man Trilogy
The events here occur 15 years after the War of the Red Sails, switching back the perspective to Fitz Farseer, now as an adult and dejected after his last adventures. The Fool, a character that appears in both the Farseer and the Liveship Traders trilogy, returns to guide Fitz to fulfill his prophecies.
In this story, the reader will see how the first two sagas intertwine, introducing characters from the Bingtown at the Six Duchies. We will notice how the roles are reversed, becoming from disciple to instructor.
Another noticeable detail is that it focuses on explaining more about the magic of Skill and Wit, refining more information than the previous story. In this literary universe, magic is subtle and exists in two degrees. They are both extremely difficult to master.
Skill is only within reach of a few descendants of the Farseer. In ancient times, cliques of people who mastered it were formed to support the king in battle with their energy. But in the time of Fitz, this magic has fallen somewhat into disuse, and only four cats can use it well.
The person who controls the Skill communicates mentally with others or even imbues them with thoughts without them realizing it. However, the Skillful (so are called the ones who use this magic) is always tempted to get carried away by the river of its power and end up lost among its currents.
Wit, on the other hand, is more widespread, albeit in secret. The society of the Six Duchies persecutes this form of magic. It allows creating bonds with animals. Even among its practitioners, one must tread carefully when using it, and there are certain rules. Publicly admitting that one use Wit would lead to death on the scaffold.
The Rain Wild Chronicles
The Rain Wild Chronicles is a story about dragons, their human-dragon keepers, and their quest to find the lost city of KelsingraIn. In a desperate attempt to discover the whereabouts of the silver wells the malformed newly hatched dragons need to survive, the keepers undergo a “memory walking”, looking through the genetic memory of ancient Elederlings.
Moreover, the Duke of Chalced has dispatched his forces to the Rain Wild Lands with a bloody mission: slaughtering the dragons to prevent his own death, overshadowing their fate.
A final clash is about to change the course of history forever, deciding the destiny of these believed extinct creatures. The Regal Serpents will rule the globe once again if they prevail. And if they lose, the dragons will vanish from the face of the earth to never return.
Many readers have stated this tetralogy feels like a direct sequel to Liveship Traders, and that it doesn’t pull much from the Tawny Man.
The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
Fitz had convinced everyone except his closest relatives and friends that he had been killed after his previous great efforts. Now he spent ten years as the landholder of Withywoods, his father’s country estate, with his wife and children under the name Tom Badgerlock.
One day, he goes to Oaksbury with his daughter Bee, to get some things for the annual celebration of Winterfest. Riddle, Lant, and Shun join them to Bee’s dismay.
In a tavern stop, Bee is annoyed by the presence of her father’s friends, and she decides to go outside. She comes across a beggar and resolves to emulate her father’s bravery. She assists the blind beggar, but he can see right through her when she touches him.
Fitz rushes over to Bee, terrified that anything has happened to her, stabbing the beggar, mistakingly believing he is attempting to harm Bee. The Fool, Fitz’s good old friend, is revealed to be the beggar, tortured, blinded, and unlike himself.
FitzChivarly Farseer is now full of questions after nearly killing his oldest friend and having his daughter kidnapped by the same people. Fitz may have neglected his skills during his years of calm, but once learned, such skills are difficult to forget.
While it is true that each of the books in The Realm of the Elderlings saga were published in a linear, chronological order of events, two sub-series tell stories more or less independent of the rest.
You can see why reading the Robin Hobb books in order is not so simple of a task, but with this guide, you’re setup for success.
The Liveship Traders and The Rain Wild Chronicles are two stories quite far from the original tale of Fitz Farseer, the central character of the first trilogy; The Farseer, which continues later in The Tawny Man and reaches its conclusion in The Fitz and The Fool, so at least these three trilogies should be read in order.
The short stories are stand-alone tales that enrich the literary universe rather than provide context related to the main stories. Nevertheless, if you are a very picky reader, we share when in the main story each one takes place.
Homecoming, The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince, and Cat’s Meat take place hundred of years before the first book.
Words like Coins, Her Father’s Sword, and Blue Boots are placed somewhat at the middle of the Farseer trilogy, you could read them before or after the second book, and you’d profit the same way.
Finally, The Inheritance takes place between the Farseer and the Liveship Trader series.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out this list of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books in order.
I’m not sure who thought that the Rain Wild Chronicles concluded, but from where the fourth book left off they weren’t occupying the city only exploring it while setting up outside the city and waiting for the ship to return with supplies before winter. As far as the fourth book story goes, I expected another book or 2, maybe 3 to conclude this series as it seemed unfinished to me. This seems to happen with authors who seem to be retiring or who sadly passed away before completing the book series and the family doesn’t allow co-authors to finish the series leaving the stories wide open.
The fourth book on the Rain Wild Chronicles released in 2013 and Robin Hobb wrote three more books after that. She hasn’t written anything in a few years, but to my knowledge, she’s still alive and not “retired.” I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for her lack of new works. I know COVID affected a lot of people different ways. I also know she hadn’t released a book in three years prior to COVID so that’s not a complete excuse, but I’m sure we’ll see her release a new book eventually. As to the Rain Wild Chronicles, it appears Hobb has moved on from that series and would likely write something unrelated. Sorry.
Are you sure you didn’t stop reading at the 3rd book of rain wilds?
By the end of the 4th book all dragons and keepers were living in Kelsingra. As soon as each dragon could fly they lived in the city, using the dragon heated bath houses etc.
Reyn and Malta and their new child had moved there and were considered “king and queen”.
The dagons and keepers had found and made use after restoring the silver/skill well.
At the end of the book the dagons having settled so much into their city declared war on chalced using weapons and harnesses found in Kelsingra.
As the other commenter mentioned, it’s a quadrilogy within a larger story, in the following trilogy we see Kelsingra again.