Book Review: Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb

I still can’t put my finger on why I like Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy so much.

Sure, the magic system is fun. In Royal Assassin, the second entry in the series, we learn more about the Wit (telepathy with animals), the Skill (telepathy with people), and various other magics. And the world-building is intriguing. Hobb does an excellent job of weaving in legends of the mighty Elderlings so that, when they finally become a story focus, pursuing them doesn’t seem forced.

But there’s no clear goal throughout. And there should be—massive treachery was revealed at the end of the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice. But instead of countering it, Fitz, Hobb’s protagonist, continues juggling his many roles. He courts Molly, his childhood love. He fights the Red Ship Raiders, vicious marauders who won’t stop preying on his homeland’s coast. He kills for his king. “I was deathly tired of all the lies I lived,” he notes at one point. This identity crisis still feels real to me. I just wish he and his superiors had worked harder to expose the biggest lie.

The beginning of Royal Assassin also dragged a bit, mostly because Hobb doubles back to expand on the denouement of Assassin’s Apprentice. It’s not a retcon, but it felt unnecessary. (Although if I’d taken a longer pause between books, maybe I wouldn’t have cared.)

The characters, though … They’re probably why I’m so into this series. Fitz is a worthy hero. He ticks off some of the usual fantasy checkboxes by being a royal bastard and a wielder of special powers. But Hobb also cripples him—twice. First when his powers with the Skill are nearly burned out of him, and again when he’s forced to take two rounds of poison in rapid succession. He learns to manage the resulting weakness and seizures, but rarely overcomes them entirely.

The supporting cast is just as endearing. Burrich is honorable to the point of misery, Patience is flighty but genuine, the Fool is as quick-witted as he is loyal … It’s a good group. One worth following into the next book. Which I’ll be doing shortly.

Whether I’m sure why or not.


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