This is a review of “Royal Assassin” by Robin Hobb. This is the second book of the Farseer Trilogy. You can find the first book here.
Honesty is the bedrock for any relationship. But how can Fitz – royal bastard, trainee assassin, holder of secrets crucial to the security of the kingdom – bare his soul to his beloved Molly? Danger lies all around him – the raiders savaging the coastal towns, and from within the court. The king is mysteriously ill, and Verity leaves to search for the mythical Elderlings. Apart from his wolf and the strange Fool, Fitz is friendless and exposed to Prince Royal’s malign ambitions. What will he be forced to sacrifice for the sake of the realm?
FitzChivalry’s relationships with the people around him are perfectly well written. They are believable for a young man who has grown up as Fitz has. What’s more, the many pitfalls of teenage romance that make it trite and overly dramatic and strereotypical, are elegantly avoided. The progress is also beautifully done, and this is a rare example of a relationship that doesn’t annoy the hell out of me.
The conflict with the rest of the children that Fitz trained with in order to learn the Skill, is a small but important part of the whole. As is King Shrewd ordering Fitz to marry a nobleman’s daughter chosen for him. Even the wolf – Nighteyes – is believable. His character is clearly an animal, with the cares and concerns an animal has, or doesn’t have. He is very much different from Fitz and other humans, but still relatable enough to be likable.
Fitz’s progress from the last book to this one is obvious and believable. He is more mature, and he shows that in his actions and in his thoughts. His reactions are different, and because of this he is brought deeper and deeper into the court intrigue, treated with respect, gains ever bigger roles to play, and even becomes a trusted advisor to Kettricken.
The fact that Fitz in a few scenes completely forgets his place as the bastard, and acts above his station until someone reminds him, are perfect tiny though those scenes are. They are just examples of the many things and seemingly useless details that make this world come alive.
Finally, we have to mention the Raiders and the Red Ships and the Forged. The Forged aren’t quite zombies but different enough to send chills down the spine of people. There is so little known about them even though their numbers are growing, that it just makes them more mysterious and dangerous. And the Red Ships appearing more and more often along with the mystery of the white ship, keeps the story rolling forwards and suspenseful.
There are a few things in this book that aren’t as good. Friendless Fitz isn’t actually all that friendless no matter how much he thinks it. Verity’s new wife is his friend, as is Burrich and Patience, and even the insignificant background characters like one of the cooks in the castle kitchens. Not to mention the Fool himself.
And then we have Royal. He is dangerously close to going too far into the realm of Stereotypical Evil Princes (TM). He isn’t out of character, but he is completely transparent. The only things that saves him from truly joining the ranks of the stereotypes, is his viciousness and the fact that he exacerbates the entire situation of the raiders.
The ending itself was far too long. It was completely fine and well written and fit in with the rest, the problem was that you expect things to pick up speed after Verity leaves, but they don’t. Things still go slow, slow oh-so-slow. It kills the momentum that the build-up to Verity leaving has given the book.
All in all, this is a good book. Robin Hobb certainly knows how to write political intrigue. The pacing, however, brought it down slightly.