Assassin’s Quest left me staring into the abyss with an empty feeling. The conclusion of the Farseer trilogy was a wild ride of emotions, with a bittersweet ending. Just how I like it. I think Assassin’s Quest was both the book with the strongest beginning, with the most action, as it had the slowest ending, with minimal action. But the trilogy has always been more about Fitz’s development than fast-paced action. And on that account, Assassin’s Quest did a beautiful job in pushing Fitz even further in his understanding of the world and the people around him. It’s a character-driven, coming-of-age fantasy story, more suited for adult readers (because of the language).
If you haven’t read the review of the previous two books in this series, be sure to read Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin. Also, if you haven’t read these books yet, reading on will give you spoilers about the endings of Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin.
King Shrewd died, and Fitz is believed to be dead as well. However, Fitz survived with the help of his Wit and his wolf Nighteyes. He emerges from the grave, but still more wolf in spirit than man. The Kingdom of the Six Duchies once again suffers: Regal plundered and abandoned Buckkeep, leaving the coasts to fend for themselves against the Red Ship Raiders. He anointed himself as King, and his reign is one of violence. The true King, Verity, is lost somewhere in the mountains, on his quest to find the Elderlings and save the Six Duchies. As Fitz slowly recovers, he is filled with one desire. Not to track down his King and aid him, but to kill Regal.
“Not being able to think of a reply is not the same thing as accepting another’s words.“
A lot happened in this story, both exciting and gripping, and sometimes admittedly slightly redundant. Or so it felt. By now, I was used to the slow pace of Robin Hobb’s books, but I think some of the parts didn’t serve a purpose. Most of all, this was the case for a group of characters Fitz meets on his way to Regal. I’m still not sure why he had to meet them, or why they were in any way significant. Other than that, I think some of the journey passages could have been shorter, as it felt somewhat repetitive at times. Nonetheless, I believe Hobb delivered a gripping story that builds momentum until that final ending conclusion. The ending was both inevitable and surprising, and I almost went ahead to get the Tawny Man trilogy to read more about Fitz’s story.
As goes for all Hobb’s books, the characters are the most important of the story, and Assassin’s Quest was no exception. Fitz continues to grow as a man, separated now from the closest things he has as paternal and maternal figures (meaning Burrich, Chade, and Patience). Fitz has to go through a lot, pushed from all sides by the expectations other people have for him, and he has to sacrifice a lot as well (as if dying, sharing a wolf’s mind, and then going back to his own body wasn’t enough already). In the end, he has to learn to make his own choices. It’s all part of growing up.
“I healed. Not completely. A scar is never the same as good flesh, but it stops the bleeding.“
I still love his relationship with Nighteyes. Nighteyes often seems the most intelligent character to me; he’s one wise wolf. I like how they make each other better, moving toward each other in understanding. They’re one, yet separate.
Many of the other characters seem to have ulterior motives and want something of Fitz. Chade is kinda like that parent that wants their child to become a doctor and pushes them in that direction. Only in Chade’s case it’s, you know, being an assassin. Both he and Kettricken try to do what’s best for the Kingdom, and not what’s best for Fitz. And while I love Verity, he’s also not above using Fitz to aid in his plans and to allow Fitz to sacrifice things for him. At least he does have the decency to feel bad about that, and he has sacrificed many things himself as well. I think the Fool is, besides Nighteyes, the only true friend he has.
“Someday is someday, and maybe it will be or maybe it won’t. This is a human thing, to worry about things that may or may not come to be. You can’t eat meat until you’ve killed it.”
There are also some new characters, notably Starling and Kettle. I’ve noticed many people don’t like Starling, but I did. She’s merely trying to survive the best she can with the tools she has. She does use Fitz for this purpose, but she’s hardly the only one. Kettle’s story is an interesting one, and I’ve enjoyed the slow revelations of her past.
Different from the other two books, Assassin’s Quest does not take place in Buckkeep. We do get glimpses of Buck and the people close to Fitz sometimes, through his Skilling to them, but other than that, we see very little of Buckkeep. I loved to visit the other places in the Six Duchies and see the differences in landscape and people. The attitudes of the inlanders are in such stark contrast to the coastal Duchies, and it gave new insights into the political difficulties King Shrewd and Verity must have faced in the war against the Red Ship Raiders.
“But a living is not a life.“
We again learn more about the two magic systems: the Skill and the Wit. The possibilities with the Skill seem endless and knowing how to Skill certainly gives someone an incredible deal of power. I’m still more a fan of the Wit; I’d love to be able to communicate with animals and bond with them in such a unique way.
When it comes to writing, Hobb’s prose is undefeated. The story flows with many poetic sentences, and life lessons are ingrained throughout. Her voice is compelling and draws you into Fitz’s perspective until you no longer can see things differently from him and are just as surprised when new revelations come to light.
“There is a dead spot in the night, that coldest, blackest time when the world has forgotten evening and dawn is not yet a promise. A time when it is far too early to arise, but so late that going to bed makes small sense.”
I think when it comes to reading this trilogy, it’s all about having the right expectations. Don’t start them, thinking you’ll get a kick-ass story about a cold-blooded assassin. To be honest, Fitz never was much of an assassin. Read this and the previous to books of the Farseer trilogy to read a story about a boy who grows up to be a man and all the difficulties that come along with it. Heartbreak, other’s expectations, understanding different viewpoints, and standing up for yourself and the ones you love. That is just a small bit of things that these books can teach you.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Do you agree with my point, or do you have a different opinion of the story? Let me know in the comments!