Title: Assassin’s Quest (1997)
Author: Robin Hobb
Series: Farseer Trilogy #3, Realms of the Elderlings #3 (Series Tracker)
Robin Hobb writes character relationships like no one I’ve read. In Royal Assassin, the novel directly preceding this one, that skill is on full display — FitzChivalry Farseer is in a castle surrounded by his enemies, his allies, his confidants, and his lover. Fitz’s interwoven relationships with these groups made for a very satisfying level of court intrigue. In Assassin’s Quest, Fitz casts off on his own, leaving Buckkeep behind. It reminded me of the disappointment I felt toward the end of the Harry Potter series, when Harry is no longer at Hogwarts. Harry moves from place to place, spending large chunks of time camped in the woods. It never quite feels as magical as it did back within the confines of Hogwarts.
The word “Quest” in the title is apt. Fitz journeys relentlessly. There are only so many times one can make camp, hunt, and evade capture before it becomes a trifle tiresome. Things unfold so slowly that it feels like Fitz and his companions are wading through quicksand. The events that transpire along the way are interesting enough to recover some goodwill, but it was not always a satisfying journey to me as a reader. While Royal Assassin was always propelling the reader forward toward an ending, Assassin’s Quest felt meandering and stagnant.
There is magic to be found here, however. Between the Skill and the Wit, Hobb has created two unique magic systems that are intriguing in their own right, but Fitz’s possession of both makes for a dazzling combination. The issue is that Fitz is never in full command of his abilities. In fact, no character in this story is wholly themselves. Hollowed out by grief, or the Skill, or secrets, no one is operating at 100% and the wonderfully written characters cannot shine until the final pages. That being said, the conclusion here is epic and the story is capped by a beautiful and rewarding epilogue. Despite my aforementioned misgivings, Hobb’s writing remains the beacon in the dark. Rarely have I read fiction so engrossing. Her words evoke such a clear picture in my mind as a reader that even a story with flaws can still take flight off the page.
★★★★ out of 5
2 thoughts on “Review: Assassin’s Quest”
I just finished this as well. I loved the ending, particularly with Regal — an interesting twist to the usual fate of antagonists.
What I loved most about these books was the focus on the ramifications of relationships. Not just people loving or hating one another, but what can happen as a result of that love or hate (or even just friendship). Love doesn’t always mean a happy ending, and hate doesn’t always lead to murder, but the golden rule still seems to work and we’re still masters of our own fates.
She also seemed to be pointing out that these ramifications are not limited to individuals, but can affect entire societies. The bit at the end about the out-islanders and the cause of forging was heartbreaking and visceral. The words “cycle of violence” may never appear in these books, but they seem to live behind every page.
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I think your “cycle of violence” comments are spot on. You go through the entire trilogy with little understanding of the out-islanders’ motivations, but when they are revealed they make complete sense. I suspect the future stories in this world (Liveship Traders, Tawny Man, etc.) will follow these same themes with different sets of characters. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.
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