Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy #2)" by Robin Hobb

This review is of a book that is the 2nd in the Farseer Trilogy. There may be spoilers for those of you who haven't read Assassin's Apprentice. My review for the first book in the series, Assassin's Apprentice, is here.

With sequels I tend to brace myself for a let-down. I've had so many sequels fail me in the past that when I read one like Words of Radiance I celebrate by reading it in a week (despite its lengthiness). Although one always hopes for the best, I had this feeling Royal Assassin would let me down. As a human with limited prediction capabilities, naturally I was wrong.

During most of Assassin's Apprentice, Fitz spends his time doing what other people want him to do. With this book, Fitz goes a bit rogue- he's more of his own person, even though he does things mostly for people (again) he does it in his own way. By anticipating needs and strategies, he does get himself into trouble, which is part of what makes this book so good- Fitz makes his own choices, with his own consequences. Normally in a book, that wouldn't be a cause for cheer, but with Fitz having his unusual upbringing and unseemly doses of loyalty running through his veins... it was about time.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.
'Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.'

Beyond Fitz being his own person in this book, Fitz also endures more struggles than before when he was an apprentice. The events of the past book have left their mark on him, causing seizures and moments of weakness that make him less of a fearsome assassin. I didn't find Fitz very relatable in the first book, but the illness he endures in this one mimics some of what I have to contend with daily. Sure, I've never had a seizure (that I know of) but I do have days where I hide in my house for fear of fainting in public (on that vein, I'd like to applaud authors who have the dreaded "fainting heroines" because dammit, that's my life some days). Fitz also adopts a wolf puppy (not a Wolf puppy, an actual wolf puppy) to save him from the trapper who kept him in a cage. Cub, who is later known as Nighteyes, becomes a key part of the book- and naturally, I loved him.

Another feature this book won me over with was the more prominent presence of female characters. There's Patience, queen-in-waiting Kettricken, and Molly (who is undoubtedly the smartest). Kettricken comes into her own in this book as well- at first, it seems like an ill-fated match between her and Verity, but as the book progresses, it becomes clear she was destined to be queen. Molly is as cautious as ever, though with Patience's help, she also grows stronger.

A favorite of mine from the first book, the Fool, is also a prominent character in this book. Something about him just speaks to the obscenely pale side of me that wishes I were a court jester/prophet as well. Although he is a wise one, he is without the profound knowledge of Burrich, as evidenced below:
"Many people have to live with worse. Most of the time you're fine. You're not blind. You're not paralyzed. You've your wits, still. Stop defining yourself by what you can't do. Why don't you consider what you didn't lose?"
              ~Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb, page 10

Royal Assassin was much, much better than I had anticipated. Although I had a slight ambivalence toward Fitz during the first book, I loved how he progressed as a character during the course of this one- he's still single-minded and serves others before himself, but he gains an independent streak. With Nighteyes at his side, he endures despite terrible odds, making this book a "white-knuckle" read. If you've read Assassin's Apprentice, this book is really a must read- I hadn't anticipated the series improving, and yet here I am, rating a sequel five stars.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars for an extraordinary epic fantasy sequel that kept me reading until morning light!

Content: Ages 18+ for torturous scenes, gore, and unusual courage.

Page Count: 675 pages in my mass market paperback edition

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