Royal Assassin, the second novel in the Farseer trilogy, starts where the previous left off. FitzChivalry, assassin trained bastard for king Shrewd has survived the bloody attack which closed the Assassin’s apprentice — but just barely. He is now left crippled, plagued with seizures and weakness; Left battered and bitter. Despite his own judgement and filled with emotion, he soon returns to Buckkeep to fulfill his promise to the king — his pledge of service. Unfortunately for him, things back at home are worse than ever. The king is sick and ailing, the red ship raiders are plaguing the coast — leaving behind even more forged ones, and prince Regal, the royal son who executed the attack on Fitz is left unpunished, as if nothing had happened. Life in Buckeep is worse than before, and even more treachery is on it’s way. A treachery that could destroy everything FitzChivalry has grown to love and care about.
And this is where the novel begins — reviving everything the last book closed on — treason, assassins, danger, love, drama, and more. “Assassin’s Apprentice” is to say the least, as gripping as the last, and another read I could not put down. Everything good about the last novel was here — great characters, great development, and great story. Essentially, this is yet another amazing instalment — but that isn’t to say it’s perfect or problem free. This one had a few rough spots.
For me, I found a few areas to be a bit slow and plodding. There was a point in the book, where I almost pleaded to it that Fitz would finally get to use some of his Assassin skills. For a book about an assassin, there is little assassination. That’s not to say the plot suffered from it, it didn’t — it all made sense, Fitz was never really in a position to use these skills, but it didn’t stop me from wishing. I would have liked to see more stealth, carefully executed plans, etc. I would have liked to see him use the skills he had learned. Most of the action in this novel that did happen (on Fitz part) was un-calculated and unintended. It seemed each instance, he got his way out of a situation by pure luck rather than skill. That was a bit disappointing. None the less, I can let it slide, as It all built up, and by the end it was well worth it.
There was another slight annoyance however, one that bothered me a bit. I won’t give anything away, but if you’d rather not read just a tiny, vague spoiler, skip this small paragraph. The incident with Rosemary, the Queen-in-Waiting’s little servant girl, was totally predictable. How could a trained assassin not figure this out? I assumed it the moment she entered into the novel — and if I could figure it out, I’d think that Fitz, Chade or the Queen-In-Waiting would caught on. None the less, they didn’t, and it all seemed a bit silly. Though in a way I can understand it, I would have thought that three relatively intelligent people, in a time of such danger would have been more careful.
..and those are my complaints, all fairly small. Now onto more good things..
The characters. Yes, the characters once again were simply brilliant. Robin Hobb doesn’t fail to shine in this aspect, and at this point, I can never see her ever doing so. All of the characters are so compelling, and interesting. I grew to have feelings for each one — whether it was love, or hate, or worry, or something in between — I felt it, and that takes a special type of writer to do that. I’ve read so many novels where some (or even all) of the characters are so phony or bland, to the point where there’s no connection. This, like the previous novel, relied heavily on the characters personality and actions, and once again, it succeeded immensely..
Ah, and amongst the excellent characters, there was a new addition. A wolf, and perhaps one of my favorites of this series, Night-eyes! Everything about him was great, from the way he was discovered — the intense moment of emotion and rage that lead Fitz right to his confining cage — to the much needed relief he added to a novel that was so grim. It was simply brilliant, I was so happy to see Fitz once again restore an animal bond, one that this time, WASN’T broken. All in all, this character added so much to this piece, and as always with Hobb, the dialog between them was simply amazing.
We also cannot forget the beloved fool, another stand-out, whom’ in my opinion, is a refreshingly complex and interesting character. Not only does his humor, quick-witted comments and actions grace many of the moments in “Assassin’s Quest,” but there is a new deepness to the fool that is finally touched upon. A deepness that really gives us as readers a different view of him — a more human view — one that really expanded on his character, making him even more interesting and enjoyable. This, was great to see, but not unexpected. Again, I can’t refrain from praising Hobb for her amazing ability to bring her characters to life. She is truly gifted.
There is also a great deal of development in the relationship between Molly and Fitz. While it is the classic forbidden “this can never work’ relationship, it added a new evolved depth to Fitz as a main character, and truly revealed how in some ways he had grown up – yet in others he was still a child. Again, this was a nice thing to see — even if it brought out quite a bit of emotion and strife to a character I really grew to like and care about. From Burrich, to Chade – to the Queen-In-Waiting Kettricken (who really stood out in this novel as a very strong character), and to Molly, to Verity, and even to Patience, each of the characters continued to grow and evolve; This, as before, was a big highlight for me.
Much like the debut novel of the Farseer Trilogy, it all leads to a huge, climatic, impacting ending that changes everything. One that left me, quite honestly, stunned. I found the vivid description and deep emotional outpouring of the final scene to be both haunting and immensely saddening, A scene that will surely stay with me for some time — burnt into my mind. I was utterly chilled by the ending words – by the ending chapter – by the actions that were done, and by sorrow and despair it carried. By the end of the final chapter, I was literally gripping the novel intensely, completely lost in the storyline — and yes, even a bit teary eyed! It was perhaps, one of the most emotional ending I’ve ever read, and truthfully, it left me feeling emotionally drained and a bit depressed. It also left wishing for a happier resolve, a larger glimmer of hope. Sadly however, from my experience with this series, there usually isn’t one. It’s all so bleak. Luckily for me, the third book is already out, and I can start it right away to see how everything turns out – hopefully for the better!
All in all, “Royal Assassin” is yet another amazing novel in the Farseer trilogy. While it was at many times depressing, I found it to be a worth-while read – one where I’ve truly grown to care about many of the characters – yet at the same time grown to hate others. Robin Hobb’s ability to bring her characters to life is a true talent, and as stated previously in this review – the progressive development she works through them is an aspect of these novels that keeps me glued to each page. For whatever happens to the characters I love, I always want to know more – because in many ways, they seem so real to me. As if I truly know them. That is the magic of these books. With that said, I close this review and pick up the next in the Farseer trilogy, hoping to find some sort of relief and resolve. I suggest this to anyone who has read the first book in the series – continue on, it’s definitely worth it!