Review: Assassin’s Quest

robin_hobb_-_assassins_quest_coverTitle: Assassin’s Quest (1997)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 839
Series: Farseer Trilogy #3, Realms of the Elderlings #3 (Series Tracker)

Robin Hobb writes character relationships like no one I’ve read. In Royal Assassin, the novel directly preceding this one, that skill is on full display — FitzChivalry Farseer is in a castle surrounded by his enemies, his allies, his confidants, and his lover. Fitz’s interwoven relationships with these groups made for a very satisfying level of court intrigue.  In Assassin’s Quest, Fitz casts off on his own, leaving Buckkeep behind. It reminded me of the disappointment I felt toward the end of the Harry Potter series, when Harry is no longer at Hogwarts. Harry moves from place to place, spending large chunks of time camped in the woods. It never quite feels as magical as it did back within the confines of Hogwarts.

The word “Quest” in the title is apt. Fitz journeys relentlessly. There are only so many times one can make camp, hunt, and evade capture before it becomes a trifle tiresome. Things unfold so slowly that it feels like Fitz and his companions are wading through quicksand. The events that transpire along the way are interesting enough to recover some goodwill, but it was not always a satisfying journey to me as a reader. While Royal Assassin was always propelling the reader forward toward an ending, Assassin’s Quest felt meandering and stagnant.

There is magic to be found here, however. Between the Skill and the Wit, Hobb has created two unique magic systems that are intriguing in their own right, but Fitz’s possession of both makes for a dazzling combination. The issue is that Fitz is never in full command of his abilities. In fact, no character in this story is wholly themselves. Hollowed out by grief, or the Skill, or secrets, no one is operating at 100% and the wonderfully written characters cannot shine until the final pages. That being said, the conclusion here is epic and the story is capped by a beautiful and rewarding epilogue. Despite my aforementioned misgivings, Hobb’s writing remains the beacon in the dark. Rarely have I read fiction so engrossing. Her words evoke such a clear picture in my mind as a reader that even a story with flaws can still take flight off the page.

★★★★ out of 5

Review: Royal Assassin

68487Title: Royal Assassin (1996)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 752
Series: Farseer Trilogy #2, Realms of the Elderlings #2 (Series Tracker)

The mindless Forged ones gain in number, roaming the Six Duchies like a zombie horde. Within Buckkeep, FitzChivalry Farseer hones his skills as a covert assassin and takes on a greater role in the kingdom, while thwarting plays for the throne from Prince Regal, his scheming uncle.

I have circled back to this series after three years away, having enjoyed the first book well enough, but never having a burning passion to continue beyond that. Dipping my toe into book two quickly brought me back to the world of the Six Duchies and brought me an enjoyment level I never quite found with Assassin’s Apprentice. I am not sure if the quality has improved tremendously from the first book to the next, or if I just have a firmer grasp on what strong fantasy writing looks like.  

Robin Hobb creates such a clear picture of human nature and emotion with her writing. It may be long-winded at times, but each scene, no matter how subtle, has a purpose (building characters, setting up a mystery, or unraveling one). I appreciate the time she takes with character development, as it makes me care more about each individual character. Relationships feel more meaningful, betrayals more devastating. The focus on one royal family line makes this possible, as stories like Game of Thrones have such massive casts that you can only really know each player and family in a limited sense.

I enjoyed Royal Assassin immensely and burned through it just wanting to know what would become of our dear protagonist. I deem my re-entry into the series a great success and am going to attempt to work my way through the remaining 15 books of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. Only ~10,000 pages to go until the new book is out in May!

★★★★½ out of 5