As with the previous installments of the Farseer Trilogy, “Assassin’s Quest” starts where the previous closed – continuing where the chilling and explosive ending had once left us. King shrewd is dead, Verity has left Buck in an attempt to seek the help of the ancient elder-lings, and Fitz has once again been ravaged and left at death’s door. All seems lost, and with Regal now declared as king, things can only go from bad to worse. Amongst this, the FitzChivalry we once knew is now completely broken and gone — solely bonded as one with his wolf partner NightEyes. Yet, buried deep within his wolf – an act that was made as an attempt to avoid the pain of his physically brutalized body – his true existence and self lingers. Can he come out of it? Can he once again return to the man he was? Can things be set right..or is all hope lost? Thus’ begins the Assassin’s Quest.
Robin Hobb once again creates a deeply woven, character driven, emotionally charged novel – one that kept me up half the night on many occasions. From the continual development of her already established characters, to the new additions that weaved their way into the story as the plot progressed, Hobb once again shines when it comes to her creation and expansion of interesting characters. From a new wandering Minstrel – determined to find a song, to an old witty woman with a strange and compelling past – to Fitz, Chade, Molly, and the Fool, the characters and their interactions yet again remain as strong as ever.
Along with Hobb’s amazing talent of breathing life into her characters – her ability to continually put out engaging content throughout the pages of her stories once again fulfills my expectations – especially for an ending to a trilogy, as so many become bogged down and slow. While I have read a few comments stating that the beginning of this novel is a bit draggy, I myself found it, for the most part, otherwise – and in the end, I found “Assassin’s Quest” as a whole to be more engaging and intense than the previous.
Unlike the other novels of the Farseer Trilogy, which were primarily set in the city of Buck – the “Assassin’s Quest” is everywhere but there – which for me, was an added bonus, as another 800 or so pages set in Buckkeep could have become a bit tiresome. After the last installment I was in definite need of change, and with this one, I got it. While there is a lot of traveling, and at certain moments, there were slow areas which had me aching for other character involvement (as Fitz traveled alone for a time), as soon as it became a notice for me, the story and situation seemed to pick up – and soon enough new and interesting faces were introduced. And of course, with the new faces brought a lot of interesting aspects to the story — all of which kept me drawn to this book.
In fact, for me, some of the best moments came from these new faces. One character in specific struck me, and that was the old, witty woman named Kettle, whom along the way becomes one of Fitz’s new companions. Straight from her first appearance she adds much to this piece – humor, drama, emotion. There was one scene in particular that got me – one where Fitz attempts to help her with something that’s been troubling her for years – something that has imprisoned her emotionally into her own sort of hell. This particular scene had me glued to the pages, enthralled by both the situation and dialog. I found it to be quite emotionally engaging. Along with Kettle, we were also given the new character of Starling – a wandering minstrel on a mission to create a song that would be remembered for all time; what better way than to follow a witted bastard who is the center of so much plight?
Along with the change of scenery and the additions of great new characters, there were also several scenes which held a certain level of intensity that the previous books lacked – scenes that I had been dying for since the first novel. Throughout this entire trilogy, my biggest complaint has been the fact that these books are based on the life of assassin, yet little to no assassinations occur. Fitz learns the art, talks about the art, but never truly uses the art. In this novel, that changes, and once I hit chapter 9 (which I will say very little of), I was gripping the novel intensely and silently cheering Fitz on. Finally, just finally, there was a taste of vengeance. A vengeance the reader needed as much as the character.
While I truly enjoyed the majority of this novel, there were still some aspects that I didn’t like..and since this is a review, I will state them. For one, the drastic and some-what abrupt change in the Fool’s character had me a bit disappointed – as he became far too serious. He was, in my opinion, one of the few characters to bring a bit of humor to such bleak happenings, and for him to be drained of his sharp wit and humorous actions was a big down-side. It’s not to say I was against his character development, I wasn’t … and I felt the second installment progressed his character perfectly, but in some ways I felt that he was changed far too much in far too short of time (for the reader). Never-the-less, he was still enjoyable, and I still love the Fool, I simply felt a bit saddened by his sudden shift of personality.
Aside from the change of the Fool, there was also a point where I was simply fed up with the constant torture and abuse of Fitz. It was almost as if Hobb was obsessed with abusing her main character – to a point where it became slightly displeasing and disturbing. While most of the trilogy was quite dark and bleak, I was hoping for a bit of relief with this one. A bit of happiness..a bit of something other than pain for him. Unfortunately, little was to be seen. That makes me weary of checking out her other work so soon…as I do enjoy a break from such emotionally draining content.
And lastly, there was also the ending. While I’ve heard some say that it was terrible – and even go as far as saying it was the worst ending ever for a fantasy trilogy, I myself found it to be a mixed bag. On one hand, it wasn’t nearly as bad as some were saying, and in many ways went above my expectations – as I was prepared for something far more bleak and unfulfilling – however, it did seem a bit rushed – as if Hobb came to a point where she simply wanted to finish, and so she did. There was also a lack of description in this piece, especially towards the final few chapters. While the others endings were both intense and shocking, I found this one to be a bit anti-climatic – as the novel was so long, and so many things took place, by the time we finally got to the ending, it felt a bit disconnected and abrupt. Though I will say, it turned out better than I had expected, and while Fitz’s outcome was still, in many ways depressing, he came out in a far better light than I predicted. Though for his character, the feeling of bleakness that filled much of this series was still there.
With that said, I enjoyed “Assassin’s Quest,” and judging the trilogy as a whole, I can very confidently say that I was truly impressed. This series of novels bared very little disappointment — and while certain things could have been improved, and at times it was quite dark and depressing, I still closed the final chapter of the final book with a sense of awe. For it was truly an adventure – one that connected with me on an emotional level. From chapters to chapter, and from book to book, I became immensely engaged with the story and characters. Especially with Fitz, NightEyes, and The Fool – all of whom’ became quite special to me as far as characters go. I will surely remember them. So all in all, this is one trilogy that will stay with me for some time, and one that I can safely recommend to others. If you enjoy a good ol’ epic fantasy trilogy with deep, complex characters, unique elements, and good writing, I would suggest this to you. For it to me, is one of the best fantasy trilogies I’ve ever read.