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.