Royal Assassin [book review]

Robin Hobb. Royal Assassin

Two quick complaints.  Robin Hobb’s novels aren’t that easy to find. She has thoroughly engaged me with her writing style and amazing, deft characterizations in her novels, but I can’t find any of her works at the local bookstore. Grr. Barnes & Noble can go ride a zucchini, whatever that means. And secondly, Hobb has, possibly, the worst biographical blurb of any book I’ve ever read: “Robin Hobb is a writer, and lives in Washington state.” Huh?  Okay, I know Robin Hobb is a pseudonym, but really?

OK. Now on to real things. A the end of the previous novel of the Farseer Series, Assassin’s Apprentice (my review here), FitzChivalry is caught up in court intrigue, and his jealous uncle, Regal, schemes to kill the young bastard prince. He, and his caretaker, Burrich, are brutalized and nearly killed, in the capital of the Mountain Kingdom. After several months of recuperation, Fitz decides that never again will he take up the cause of the Farseer throne.

Of course, you know how this sort of thing is bound to turn out. Within 150 pages, he’s off and murdering a new threat, The zombie-like Forged Ones, whose souls have somehow been erased by the Out Island pirates. Can you kill a man, if he is no longer who he was? It’s a question for a better ethicist than I am.

FitzChivalry discovers his strong rapport with the Wit (beast magic) and, nearly against his will, bonds himself to a wolf pup called Nighteyes. If someone discovers Fitz’s Wit Magic, it may be punishable by death.

A second subtext running through the novel is Fitz’s romance with his childhood friend, Molly. The information of him, as the king’s Assassin, must be hidden from her. She knows him as an errand-boy, and he must pile secret upon secret, in order to protect her from the trouble his career would bring her. How many secrets must your bury yourself in, before you are no longer yourself? I would not be surprised if Fitz’s morose questioning reminds readers of prince Hamlet. At several points, he considers suicide to escape his fate.

Once again, Hobb excels at crafting a world and characters that are real and engaging. Her story is engaging, and not at all pedestrian. Her characters do not shy away from real emotions, although occasionally, you want to grab young FitzChivalry and slap him upside the head.

Hobb manages something that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. The characters in the novels became friends: I actually cared what happened to them. Although it’s an excellent story, it’s definitely a “middle” novel of a trilogy. The reader is left with the desire to scamper to the nearest bookstore and find the third book, and start it immediately. Of course, the novel, in all probability, won’t be on the shelves and you’ll have to Special Order the silly thing. I didn’t find it at my three local bookstores in Virginia, but managed to locate the third book in a bookshop in California, a mere 3,500 miles away. Her books are the best I’ve read in years.

5 of 5 stars.


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