Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
Posted September 9, 2010on:
If you have not yet read Assassin’s Apprentice (review here), you may want to skip this blog post. because I can’t adequately discuss the second book in the series without offering some major spoilers on the first. I’ll wait while you get the first book and read it. Seriously, I’ll wait. it’s worth it.
there’s spoilers for the first book in the series coming up!
don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Royal Assassin picks up maybe a few weeks after the first book ends. Fitz is recovering in the Mountain Kingdom, with Burrich at his side. Princess Kettricken has started her trek back to Buckkeep to meet her new husband Verity and become Queen-in-Waiting of the six duchies.
Fitz returns to Buckkeep, but as a changed man. Perhaps he has spent too much time in the Mountain Kingdom, where practicing The Wit isn’t a big deal, everyone treats him like a prince, and no one expects him to do “odd jobs” in the middle of the night. Perhaps the change is due to multiple obvious attempts on his life and that he knows whose behind them. His return to Buckkeep is hard – he needs to remember to keep his head low while people call him bastard to his face. On the bright side, he has rekindled his romantic relationship with Molly, but what can he really offer her?
In Assassin’s Apprentice, Fitz was a child. People took care of him, took him in, helped him along, told him what to do, where to go and how to present himself. In Royal Assassin, Fitz has no choice but to start acting like and adult. Chade is busy and rarely calls on him, the king is too ill and weak for amusing banter, and the threats from Prince Regal are painfully real. King-in-Waiting Verity tasks Fitz with keeping an eye on Lady Patience, helping Kettricken acclimate herself, and generally being the perfectly behaved almost-royal. Fitz spends every other available waking moment with Molly, and with Nighteyes, and wolf he adopts.
Fitz is beyond strong in The Wit, and the harder he tries to distance himself from Nighteyes, the stronger their bond becomes. When Fitz tries time and time again to sever the bond, Nighteyes simply responds with “We are pack”. And who else does Fitz have that kind of bond with? How long can someone expect to be alone? And how long can he hide what he is?
King-in-Waiting Verity knows his Skilling Coterie was tainted by the now dead Skillmaster Galen. Who can Verity trust, if not his Coterie, whose eyes he sees through while searching for Raider ships? Because yes, the Raids and Forging have continued. There seems to be no end in sight, even as Fitz poisons all the Forged he comes across. It soon becomes obvious the Forged are converging on Buckkeep. What, or who, are they looking for?
It might be in the fantasy section, but Royal Assassin is a thriller, pure and simple. I was biting my nails that last 100 pages, as one twist after another leapt off the page. Everytime Fitz thinks he’s got it all figured out, something unexpected happens. A dying King, an upstart princeling, a foreign Queen, the search for an heir, a dangerous enemy, the hope of mythology, and The Wit and The Skill, which I don’t think are what we’ve been led to believe.
Speaking of things not being what we’ve been led to believe, I have to give mention to the King’s fool. Nameless, homeless, loveless, he’s taken a liking to Fitz. In public the Fool verbally tortures Fitz, trips him and teases him. But in private, the Fool may just be Fitz’s greatest ally. Talk about keeping from people what and who you truly are. Hobb’s Fool is quickly turning into my favorite fantasy character.
In Assassin’s Apprentice, I felt Hobb gave enough foreshadowing here and there that an observant reader could figure out what was going to happen at the end. For me, foreshadowing doesn’t spoil anything, it’s just fun hints for people willing to look for them. In this second book in the series, there is foreshadowing, but no where near as much, and there are these (yes, plural) magnificent twists at the end that I never saw coming.
Final word? Get yourself some Robin Hobb. I don’t care what series you start with, so long as you start reading her.