Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb
FitzChivalry Farseer’s life keeps getting worse. He has once again barely — and I mean just barely — survived Uncle Regal’s machinations. As Assassin’s Quest, the third book in Robin Hobb’s FARSEER trilogy, opens, Fitz’s situation seems hopeless. Only a couple of people know he still lives and Molly is not one of them. She’s gone, and it seems safest for Fitz to let her live in ignorance.
Meanwhile, Fitz’s uncle Regal has declared himself king in the Six Duchies. He demands exorbitant taxes, has abandoned Buck Town and left Buckkeep in the hands of a foreigner, and has in essence given up the area to the Red Ship Raiders. Not only has Fitz suffered at Regal’s hands, the coastal duchies suffer too.
Once Fitz is standing on his own two feet again, he decides to get revenge for what Regal has done to him personally and to the Six Duchies. But Regal is protected by a coterie of skillers and some rather nasty soldiers. As Fitz tries to hunt down Regal, Prince Verity begins skilling to Fitz and asking for help. Fitz is the only person who knows that Verity still lives, but it’s not long before Regal discovers that both of his worst two enemies, FitzChivalry and Verity Farseer, are alive. Of course, Regal wants to get them before they get him.
Assassin’s Quest takes a while to really get going, and there’s some rehearsal of old events, but I think it had to be that way — Fitz’s recovery must be slow, or it wouldn’t be believable. Hobb puts this time to good use, though. We learn about Burrich’s childhood and grow to love him even more for what he sacrificed for Fitz. Molly also becomes even more admirable as we see her trying to make the most of her unfortunate circumstances.
Once Fitz is able to travel — and there is a lot of traveling — the pace is still slow, but by now the reader is so devoted to FitzChivalry Farseer and his wolf that it feels more like we’re spending time with old friends than trying to get through a novel. Along the way we meet a few new characters, most notably the minstrel Starling and a mysterious old lady, and eventually Fitz falls back in with some characters who we already love and have been missing. Besides the slow pace, which I really didn’t mind too much, my only complaint is that I had a hard time believing that Fitz doesn’t want Molly to know he’s alive. This felt like it was contrived to break my heart, but I must say that it worked.
In the end there is some glory for Fitz and the Six Duchies, but it’s accompanied by much heartache. This isn’t one of those fantasies where everyone lives happily ever after. Readers should know that though this is the end of the FARSEER trilogy, Fitz’s story continues in Robin Hobb’s next trilogy, THE TAWNY MAN. I’ve been listening to Tantor Audio’s excellent version of FARSEER and so far they have not put TAWNY MAN on audio, but they do have LIVESHIP TRADERS, a related trilogy on audio. I hope we’ll be seeing TAWNY MAN in audio sometime soon because audio readers are not going to want to wait for it.
THE FARSEER SAGA — (1995-2013) Words Like Coins is a short e-story published in 2012. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a related prequel novella published in 2013. Publisher: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill — and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
LIVESHIP TRADERS –(1998-2000) Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships — rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her — a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea’s young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the Vestrit family — and the ship — may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles… and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will…
TAWNY MAN — (2001-2003) For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But that is about to change when destiny seeks him once again. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished and FitzChivalry, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony — thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment… or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him or how his loyalties to his Queen, his partner, and those who share his magic will be tested to The breaking point.
THE RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES — (2010-2012) Publisher: Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive. People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life’s work to study all there is to know of dragons. But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done. The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them. To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils on the journey to a city which may not even exist…
FITZ AND THE FOOL — (2014- ) Publisher: FitzChivalry — royal bastard and former king’s assassin — has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire. Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past… and his future. Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one….