Saturday, December 5, 2015

Assassin's Quest Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Farseer Trilogy Book Three
Pages: 758

Buy on Amazon!
(Contains spoilers for Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin).

Epic fantasy conclusions tend to be bittersweet, but usually they lean towards a sweet side (Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter) or a bitter side (The First Law Trilogy). Assassin’s Quest brings the Farseer Trilogy to a bittersweet ending that manages to blend bitter and sweet into almost exact equals.

Endings aside, this is definitely the most unique of the Farseer novels as it transforms exclusively into a quest based fantasy story – Regal must die and the Elderlings must be found. The plot and objectives are now straightforward, it’s just a matter of will these goals be accomplished, and what will it cost the protagonists to accomplish them?

Fitzchivalry Farseer has been tortured to death and murdered by his treacherous uncle the now King Regal.  Unbeknownst to Regal, Fitz kept his spirit alive in his wit-bonded wolf Nighteyes.  With the help of Burrich and Chade, Fitz is returned to his body where he has to learn to be human again.

As his memories return, Fitz wishes to take revenge on Regal by killing him and he also wants to guarantee the safety of his love Molly and the Six Duchies kingdoms … which means he needs to find Verity and the Elderlings.

The “death” of FitzChivalry at the end of Royal Assassin changes everything about the Farseer Trilogy. Fitz is very different from the Fitz of old – having incorporated a lot of wolf like characteristics during the time his spirit lived in Nighteyes’ body. He can be strikingly cold, especially in conversation.  An argument between Fitz and Burrich in the second chapter of the book is brutal.  Fitz says so many unbelievably terrible things to Burrich; it becomes one of the most uncomfortable but brilliant segments in the whole trilogy.

Fitz’s undertaking of these quests has him leaving Buckkeep for the first time, and with it, a lot of the major characters from the previous two books.  Patience, Molly, Burrich, and Regal are only glimpsed at through skill dreams and with the exception of Regal these characters don’t have much of an impact on the major quests other than to drive Fitz emotionally insane.

New characters Kettle, a suspicious old lady, and Starling, an ambitious minstrel, are excellent new additions.  Kettle is keeping secrets but turns out to be especially knowledgeable about Skilling.  Starling is flirtatious and provides a number of temptations for Fitz, and the other male characters to potentially act upon, but she never resorts to being a ditz.

Royal Assassin had a major problem with it’s major characters acting stupidly loyal to their king.  In Assassin’s Quest this is not so much an issue anymore as Shrewd is dead, but a new issue emerges and that’s a lack of communication between the protagonists – or protagonists creating more conflicts with themselves by withholding important information from everyone else.  While this is an issue, it turns out that the withheld information doesn’t effect the plot too strongly, or at least not as strongly as all the protagonists loyalty to Shrewd in Royal Assassin did.  Nevertheless the withholding of information gets annoying, and even Robin Hobb has her characters expressing their discontent with it.

The straight forward nature of going on a quest really simplifies the story, and it feels unusual since the Farseer Trilogy hadn’t felt entirely straight forward before.  Going on a quest is one of epic fantasy’s biggest tropes, so seeing the novel simplify itself started to bug at me points.  I was able to adjust and enjoy the story, but I can see this being an issue for many people who were enjoying this series for its complexities.

I found myself satisfied with the resolutions to all of the major story arcs.  I would have liked to have seen some of the other characters, but the first person narration simply wouldn’t have allowed for it.  Assassin’s Quest has some nitpicking issues, but it’s an improvement when compared to the second installment, ans it never sucked me in like Assassin’s Apprentice did.

Score: 9.2

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