Tag: robin hobb

Review: Assassin’s Quest

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This is the final book of the Farseer Trilogy by Robbin Hobb. It was published in 1997, almost three years after the first book in the series.

Like the other books in the trilogy, this one is told in a narrative style, from the view point of the main character, the royal assassin Fitz. Also like the other two books, this book is very character focused. Robin Hobb is not telling the story of a crisis the kingdom had to go through, he (It’s actually a she) is telling the story of Fitz, and the crisis more or less takes a back seat to his story.

This worked great in the last two books, most likely because the scope of the books rarely left Buck Keep, but in this one where Fitz actually leaves the keep and goes into the wide world, it leaves the plot a little dry. Case in point, a large part of the book is taken up by a journey Fitz makes across the kingdom, and it’s filled with unnecessary details. Sticking exclusively to the main characters viewpoint might not have been the best idea there.

That said,the character building with Fitz was amazing. He hits his lowest point so far at the start of this book, and that’s saying something considering what happened at the end of the second one. His entire world is shattered, his mind is shattered, and he has to build himself back up almost from the ground up. He is questioning everything, even the loyalty to the royal family that was the foundation of his character. By the end of the book he is not quite fixed, but he is a slightly better person.

Robin Hobb seems to enjoy putting his characters through constant trials and tribulations. Not just the main character, but the secondary characters as well. Fitz is never happy in the trilogy except very briefly when he contemplated marriage (before he lost his love). His bastard birth is always hanging over him, he constantly suffers for the kingdom, even at the end, when he practically saved the kingdom single handedly, he got no reward or recognition. His only reward was being allowed to fade into obscurity, being finally able to rest.

The theme of thankless self sacrifice is also all over the place in this trilogy. Even the cynical, mercenary Farseer royals will gladly sacrifice their own lives for the safety and continuity of the kingdom. They genuinely believe this is the right thing to do, that this is a worthy cause. Fitz is of course, the poster boy for this theme. No matter what the kingdom and the royal family put him through, he is still willing to give up his life for them at the end.

Another rather amusing fact about this series is the title, and titular character himself. We hear touted all through the book that Fitz is an assassin. Not just an assassin, a royal assassin. And yet the entire series showed only one assassination attempt by him, and that was an epic failure. He could just as easily have been made the royal scribe from his track record. But then that wouldn’t make such an eye catching title. Still if the man is an assassin and it’s such a big deal, it should be shown in his story.

Another thing I found rather hard to like was the way Robin Hobb wrapped up the crisis in the last fifty or so pages of the book in a series of plot twists. The entire series was spent slowly making the crisis worse and worse, and it was brought to an end in a single move. And the way it was done was almost slap dash. No build up, no planning, just sudden deux ex machina. The way Fitz dealt with the usurper was the same. Fitz spent the entire series getting pummeled by him and at the very end defeated him and settled the civil unrest of the kingdom in a stroke.

This was a very lord of the rings moment, the ring is destroyed and suddenly the army of Sauron falls apart. It was too sudden. Too abrupt. At least Fitz did his ‘saving the kingdom’ in a suitably assassin like way. By the series end only a handful ever knew him for the assassin he was, or what he did to save the kingdom.

For all my complaints, I loved this book. It’s a great book, just not in the same league as the first one of the series.

I would recommend this book to any fan of the series or any fan of fantasy.

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Review: Royal Assassin

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This is the second book of the ‘Farseer Trilogy’ by Robin Hobb and was published in 1996 for the first time.

I loved this book. This book is a masterpiece.

Much like the last book, this book is very character focused. We see the story from the narrative point of view, as told by the main character himself.

This book continues the story of Fitz as he continues to serve as the royal assassin of the king of the Six Duchies. And his story is not a pleasant one.

Fitz is a royal bastard, and we see how this defines his life, much more so than in the previous book. He is not quite royal, but not quite commoner either, and he can’t find acceptance among either group. He cannot choose his career, he cannot marry the woman he loves, he must be kept close to the king and watched, all because of his bastard birth and the potential threat he poses. But what makes it sad is that Fitz is defined by his loyalty. He is loyal to the royal family and he keeps serving the king. Even when it costs him his health, his freedom, his dignity, and his love, he still retains his loyalty.

This results in a loyal man who is never quite trusted by his king. The kind of person who might be used up till he runs dry and then discarded. In fact we can see it happening during the book. Looking back at the first book, it was present there as well, just not as obvious.

This makes his character that much more complex. He is both frustrating and admirable. More than that he is engaging and we sympathize with him.

This book is very character centric, just like the last one. We see the story from the point of view of the main character, and all the other events that happen in the book (Including the near collapse of the kingdom and maybe civil war) are colored by this view point.

The magic system of the series is also further expanded upon in this book. Magic in this world is shown to be much more malicious than previously thought, and the royals have no qualms about using it to secure their kingdom. The royal characters are driven by duty, and their goals are admirable, but they approach problems in a very cold, calculating manner. The cost of magic is also shown to be quite steep, and we see both Fitz Verity start to pay it.

I highly recommend this book to any fan of fantasy. Two thumbs way up.

Review: Assassin’s Apprentice

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This is a book by Robin Hobb that came out in 1995. It is part of a series of books names the ‘Farseer Trilogy’, named after the surname of the main character.

This story is set in a fantasy land named ‘The Six Duchies’, and tells the life story of a young man named Fitz who happens to be the bastard son of a prince. The story is told in narrative style by an old man who seems to be Fitz in his final years, and thus benefits from hindsight as well as help highlight important plot points we might otherwise miss. The story follows him from the time he is six years old and continues until he is almost a grown man. We see his life change due to circumstances that are beyond his control, we see him struggle to find a place in a land where he is shunned for his bastard birth, and we see him develop as a character bit by bit and get invested in him emotionally. By the of the story Fitz is a complex young man we can sympathize with despite his career choice. Hobb did a great job with this character.

He also did a great job in presenting the story from the point of view of the people of the world. The focus of the story isn’t in the crisis the kingdom goes through, it’s how the characters deal with the crisis. It lacks the epic sweep of the usual fantasy series, but is no less interesting.

Like in any fantasy world, magic plays a role in this one, but the presence of magic in the setting is subtle and devious, the majority of the populace doesn’t even know it exists, and it’s not easy to spot it’s influence in the world. But when it does get used, the consequences are far reaching.

I give this book two thumbs up and recommend it to any reader of fantasy looking for a new book to read.