Review: Royal Assassin

Royal Assassin by Robin HobbRoyal Assassin by Robin Hobb
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My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars5 out of 5 stars 
First Published: April 1996
Read from: July 4 to 11, 2014

Love This Assassin, Though I REALLY Want to Hate Him

Book Blurb:

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.

The novel Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb is the sequel to Assassin’s Apprentice and the second book in the Farseer Trilogy. This book continues the story of it’s main character Fitz Chivalry, a bastard son to a now deceased prince of the royal family of the Six Duchies. As such he has been taken in, raised and trained, and now secretly works for the King as an assassin (hence the name). Despite this character’s seemingly “evil” occupation he is quite a likable, interesting and realistically written character. The character, the world, and the story really grabbed me, pull me in and enthrall me… But it also really frustrated me.

As with the first book, Royal Assassin is an incredibly well-written fantasy story with a realistically described world. While there is some magic it is not your typical fantasy fare. There is also some action and violence, but for a story about an assassin there is surprisingly little of this. Mostly it is a story of intrigue and characters who are often frustratingly oblivious to what is building up. You want to strangle characters for the choices they make, or more often fail to make. The fact that these failings are so realistic, failings you see in our everyday normal lives, only adds to the frustration. A part of you wants the stereotypical fantasy escape. The story keeps leading you towards those fantasy moments, then taking you somewhere else far deeper and emotionally charged. It is this frustration I think, along with the incredibly well written characters, that makes this story so incredibly engaging, and pushes it from a good fantasy story to a really good (if frustrating) one.

What finally pushes this book from “really liked it” to “loved it”, for me anyway, was the continued involvement of canine characters. I won’t go into it in-depth, but as with the first book, this books treatment of dogs and wolves as real “characters” as opposed to dumb animals really speaks to me anyway. While these aspects of course have a fantasy element, they too are treated in a realistic enough way that you can actually picture canine companions you have known in your own life, which in my case really endears me to the story and characters.

Despite being more of a “cerebral” fantasy series, there is more action in this book than the previous. And at this point in the character’s “life” he certainly has a more typical heroic fantasy role. But as before the story definitely has a more Greek tragedy arc than a fantasy one. I don’t know if Fitz’s trials and tribulations have any cathartic properties, but the depths of thought and emotion that are exposed and expressed so well by the wonderful writing make this story a well-deserved 5 out of 5 in my opinion. So much so I have immediately picked up the sequel and finale of this trilogy, Assassin’s Quest. As I have an idea now of the arc this story is taking, I suspect I will not like the final act quite as much as this middle one (tragedy’s never end well 😉 ). Either way, based on the previous two books, I’m sure it will be well worth the read.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from Royal Assassin. A few contain spoilers, so click the show button and read on at your own risk.

Spoiler: Royal Assassin Quotes Show

 
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