This is one of my all-time favorite fantasy series but unlike with most trilogies, it was the middle book that I liked best. I figure this must be a Robin Hobb thing because it also happened with the second trilogy, The Liveship Traders. Or maybe I’m just weird and have a thing for volume two.
published: Voyager 1997 (1996)
series: The Farseer Trilogy #2
my rating: 10/10
first sentence: Why is it forbidden to write down specific knowledge of the magics?
Young Fitz, the illegitimate son of the noble Prince Chivalry, is ignored by all royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has had him tutored in the dark arts of the assassin. He has barely survived his first, soul-shattering mission, and returns to the court where he is thrown headfirst into the tumult of royal life. With the King near death, and Fitz’s only ally off on a seemingly hopeless quest, the throne itself is threatened. Meanwhile, the treacherous Red Ship Raiders have renewed their attacks on the Six Duchies, slaughtering the inhabitants of entire seaside towns. In this time of great peril, it soon becomes clear that the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands – and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.
The ending of Assassin’s Apprentice left me surprised, shocked, shaken, and wanting more. Robin Hobb did not spend all those pages in book one setting up characters for nothing. In this volume, we dive straight into action, not needing to find out who is who anymore. We know everybody and have formed some sort of opinion on their character. The author can thusly use every single one of these 752 pages to drive the plot forward, to have these characters develop and grow and to offer us, her readers, moments of heart-wrenching agony, of suspense and pleasure, of fear and horror.
You can say what you want about Hobb’s slow beginnings, she is a superb writer. What she does with language is outstanding and has never failed to draw me in – even in the really boring books. Fitz grows up a lot in this novel, not only because he hits a certain age but also because his duties – suddenly multiplied – demand it of him. There is a war going on and nobody in the entire kingdom is sure why. The Red Ship Raiders continue to “forge” people, kidnapping them, taking away their souls, and sending them back as lifeless husks who behave like zombies. Even without this threat from the outside, prince Regal and his ambition for the crown offer enough intrigue to fill an entire book. Fitz stays loyal to Verity and does what he can to help him stay alive so he can follow King Shrewd to the throne.
But Fitz is also a little preoccupied. A romance of his own has just started to bud and there is another creature in his life that demands attention and love. The cover of the new paperback edition may tip you off about the identity of said creature.
It is hard to put into words what I felt while reading this book. I had grown to love the characters (and hate some of them, too) in the first novel, so emotionally I wasn’t prepared to see them go through hell again. Fitz does get some precious moments of happiness but Robin Hobb wouldn’t be Robin Hobb if she didn’t end up putting her protagonist thorugh the worst kind of torture she could think of. And, masochist as that must sound, I really enjoy reading this. As Fitz is a first person narrator, I was never truly worried for his life but, trust me, there are enough other things you can worry about. And I got incredibly invested in the fae of this fictional cast of characters.
The Fool, Kettricken, Verity, Burrich, and even King Shrewd revealed new facets of their personalities and made the story just that much more interesting. It was like I grew with Fitz, learning to see the bigger picture and getting hints and ideas about what is really going on. This being the middle novel of a trilogy, hints is all we get and the book ends in quite a cliffhanger.
A ten out of ten rating is rare and this is the first book I am reviewing on this blog to deserve it. If you can write 752 pages of pure enjoyment and make me dream about the characters and hope that they’ll end up safe and sound, all while making me rave about how beautiful the language and writing style is, then you’ve truly deserved your ten points. Re-reads have not diminished my opinion of this book, merely strenghtened it. Even if you didn’t love Assassin’s Apprentice, give this one a try. If it doesn’t pull you into the Six Duchies, then Robin Hobb may just not be for you.
THE GOOD: Incredible characters, beautiful language, a kick-ass suspenseful plot and way more action than book one. Also, bonding with animals.
THE BAD: Uhm… you have to make it through book one first?
THE VERDICT: One of my favorite books of all genres with a great protagonist and an even more memorable and mysterious side character, the Fool.
RATING: 10/10 Perfection!
- Assassin’s Apprentice
- Royal Assassin
- Assassin’s Quest