FitzChivalry Farseer’s life keeps getting worse. He has once again barely — and I mean just barely — survived Uncle Regal’s machinations. As Assassin’s Quest, the third book in Robin Hobb’s FARSEER trilogy, opens, Fitz’s situation seems hopeless. Only a couple of people know he still lives and Molly is not one of them. She’s gone, and it seems safest for Fitz to let her live in ignorance.
Meanwhile, Fitz’s uncle Regal has declared himself king in the Six Duchies. He demands exorbitant taxes, has abandoned Buck Town and left Buckkeep in the hands of a foreigner, and has in essence given up the area to the Red Ship Raiders. Not only has Fitz suffered at Regal’s hands, the coastal duchies suffer too.
Once Fitz is standing on his own two feet again, he decides to get revenge for what Regal has done to him personally and to the Six Duchies. But Regal is protected by a coterie of skillers and some rather nasty soldiers. As Fitz tries to hunt down Regal, Prince Verity begins skilling to Fitz and asking for help. Fitz is the only person who knows that Verity still lives, but it’s not long before Regal discovers that both of his worst two enemies, FitzChivalry and Verity Farseer, are alive. Of course, Regal wants to get them before they get him.
Assassin’s Quest takes a while to really get going, and there’s some rehearsal of old events, but I think it had to be that way — Fitz’s recovery must be slow, or it wouldn’t be believable. Hobb puts this time to good use, though. We learn about Burrich’s childhood and grow to love him even more for what he sacrificed for Fitz. Molly also becomes even more admirable as we see her trying to make the most of her unfortunate circumstances.
Once Fitz is able to travel — and there is a lot of traveling — the pace is still slow, but by now the reader is so devoted to FitzChivalry Farseer and his wolf that it feels more like we’re spending time with old friends than trying to get through a novel. Along the way we meet a few new characters, most notably the minstrel Starling and a mysterious old lady, and eventually Fitz falls back in with some characters who we already love and have been missing. Besides the slow pace, which I really didn’t mind too much, my only complaint is that I had a hard time believing that Fitz doesn’t want Molly to know he’s alive. This felt like it was contrived to break my heart, but I must say that it worked.
In the end there is some glory for Fitz and the Six Duchies, but it’s accompanied by much heartache. This isn’t one of those fantasies where everyone lives happily ever after. Readers should know that though this is the end of the FARSEER trilogy, Fitz’s story continues in Robin Hobb’s next trilogy, THE TAWNY MAN. I’ve been listening to Tantor Audio’s excellent version of FARSEER and so far they have not put TAWNY MAN on audio, but they do have LIVESHIP TRADERS, a related trilogy on audio. I hope we’ll be seeing TAWNY MAN in audio sometime soon because audio readers are not going to want to wait for it.