Royal Assassin: Excellent second book

Robin Hobb Farseer Saga: 1. Assassin's Apprentice 2. Royal Assassin 3. Assassin's Quest fantasy book reviewsbook review Robin Hobb Farseer SagaRoyal Assassin by Robin Hobb

FitzChivalry Farseer, who barely survived an assassination attempt by his uncle, Prince Regal, has returned to Buckkeep where the King, his grandfather, lies dying. His other uncle, Prince Verity, is exhausting himself by trying to keep the kingdom together in the face of increasing attacks by the Red Ship Raiders. The Raiders continue to capture and, through some unknown process, “Forge” citizens of the Six Duchies. When these Forged citizens, who are now more like animals than people, are released, they start moving toward Buck Keep. What are they doing? Do they have some sort of programmed mission? What is the goal?

When Prince Verity leaves the castle to look for the ancient (perhaps mythical) Elderlings, life becomes even more difficult for Fitz. He has the horrible job of tracking and killing the Forged Ones; he must avoid Prince Regal’s attempts to kill him; he suspects that King Shrewd is being poisoned; he has to keep secret his ability with the Wit; he has to make sure Kettricken, Verity’s Queen-in-Waiting, is happy and safe in her new home; he must stay away from Molly, the girl he’s in love with while keeping Celerity, the girl that King Shrewd wants him to marry, at arm’s-length.

It’s all rather grueling and the story becomes more and more intense as time goes on. Fitz has the choice to sit and sulk, or to suck it up and act like a man. Fortunately, Fitz has some allies who he knows he can trust: Burrich, the stable master who raised him; Chade, the assassin who trained him; Patience, his dead father’s seemingly scatter-brained wife; and the Fool, an enigmatic little fellow who sometimes shows up with a mysterious riddle that turns out to be exactly what Fitz needed to hear.

Royal Assassin is an excellent second book in Robin Hobb’s FARSEER SAGA. It’s full of action, great characters, intense emotion, political intrigue, and ugly treachery. It’s a little hard to believe that a teenager could be wise enough to be counseling royalty on statecraft and affairs of the heart, but it’s hard to resist FitzChivalry Farseer’s appeal as the inconvenient bastard of a much-loved dead prince. In the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, Fitz was protected from his ambitious uncle Regal by King Shrewd and Prince Verity, but Shrewd is dying and Verity is gone, leaving Fitz to fend for himself. Hobb hasn’t treated Fitz well up to this point so, even though these events are related in the first person by a future Fitz, the reader feels no assurance that Fitz is going to be okay. And, indeed, he isn’t — the ending is surprising and devastating.

I’ve read these books before, but I can’t wait to torture myself again with the third volume of the FARSEER SAGA: Assassin’s Quest. This time I’ve been reading Tantor Audio’s versions which are narrated by Paul Boehmer who does a great job portraying some of my favorite characters in all of fantasy literature.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I ought to try these. I’ve been on a court intrigue kick lately.

  2. Allan /

    While my taste in fantasy these days is more heroic fantasy. Hobb’s books and the farseer trilogy were the first i read and made me fall in love with the genre and I havent looked back since.
    All six books are still my favourite series of all time. The character growth and progression of the characters throughout the series is detailed, well paced, believable and really well done. Both tragic and beautiful. Filled with awesome and shocking moments. I cant express just how awesome I think this series is.
    These are the books I reccomend to people who have not read fantasy before (if they are dog people).

  3. Yes, this book may be the most touching and engaging of the series. It’s great buildup for the finale and does not fall victim to “middle-book” syndrome.

    I’m thoroughly impressed with your audiobooking!! (Is that a word?) Obviously your attention span is much longer than mine….

  4. Allan, Farseer is one of my very favorites, too, and I am so pleased that they’ve held up over time. They continue to rank at the pinnacle of epic fantasy.

    Jesse, I agree that this one is an excellent middle book!
    As for my “audiobooking,” I read so much in audio just because I don’t have time for much else. I do have attention span issues occasionally, but it’s easy to rewind an audiobook. In the car today, for example, I had to rewind the same part a few times because I realized my mind was drifting. Not that the book was boring (it’s not) but I had something else on my mind. I had to turn the book off for a few minutes until my head was clear. Maybe audiobooks work for me because I just don’t have a lot going on up there most of the time?

  5. Kevin /

    This book left me flat. After 580 pages, I didn’t see any character development and I am no closer to uncovering the mystery of the Red Ships and forging. I felt like Hobb was treading water until book 3. Very disappointing.

    • Hobb’s books are less about plotting, setting, mystery, and the like, and more about the characters, their interaction, emotions, thoughts, and ultimately how they are affected and react to the world. At the moment I see you enjoy the likes of Joe Abercrombie, Djanglo Wexler, and other such plot-centric authors. I understand the appeal, but someday when you’re older I think you’ll appreciate Hobb more. Her creations are a degree more subtle and humane.

      • Jesse, I don’t think that’s Kevin Wei.

      • Kevin /

        I think you have the wrong Kevin. I’ve never read Abercrombie or Wexler…and I’m 51 yrs old :)

        • Kevin /

          Oops…meant to put that under Jesse’s post!!

        • My apologies Kevin!! I thought you were the reviewer Kevin from the site.

          It’s funny how differently two people can perceive the same book. I had the same complaints about the 3rd book as you had about the 2nd. It leads to the question: what’s the point of reviewing if we’re all going to have our own point of view? (Ha!) :)

          My apologies, again. Shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion.

          • Kevin /

            No worries at all, Jesse.

            Whether I agree with them or not, I love reading the reviews and opinions on this site. I just got into the fantasy genre a few years ago so I lean on the opinions here a lot when deciding what to read next. Kat’s review of The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams introduced me to the series and I am eternally grateful!! :)

    • Kevin, I think Hobb is not for everyone. The book lingers a lot. Let us know how you like book 3.

      • Kevin /

        I need Fitz to quit moping around the Keep and take more action concerning Molly and the Red Ships. He’s too much of a victim. I’ve come to care about his character but he needs to man up!!

        I’m also dying to learn more about the Red Ships and forging. In books 1 and 2, we keep hearing that the attacks don’t make sense. I hope they are explained in book 3.

        • I first read this series when it was first published. I was in my mid twenties and was much more patient as a reader. I wonder how much of my enjoyment of it now is simply nostalgia for Fitz. I might not be as patient with it now except that I love Fitz so much.

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