by Robin Hobb
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.
Check out my review of Assassin’s Apprentice!
I mentioned in my review of the first book in this series that I felt as though it took me a long time to read it, so I was a little nervous when I first opened this second book considering it’s almost twice the length at close to 650 pages. I needn’t have worried! As I suspected, so much of Assassin’s Apprentice really is devoted to laying the groundwork for the rest of this epic series because I loved every moment of reading this book.
King Shrewd’s health is failing and ships continue to attack the shores of the Six Duchies. Following the events right at the end of the last book Fitz is trying to regain his health while serving Shrewd and King-in-Waiting, Verity, against the scheming of the youngest prince, Regal. His life is complicated further when he returns to Buckkeep to find his beloved Molly working there—and now she knows who he really is.
I found this book so difficult to put down and, whenever I did, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again and, now that I’ve finished it, all I want to do is pick up Assassin’s Quest. Despite this novel being chunkier the plot does move along much quicker, but it’s the characters, rather than the plot, that made this book such a joy to read for me.
I do love Fitz, but we got to learn so much more about Patience, Burrich, Verity, Kettricken and so many other characters in this book; I loved seeing more of Patience and Kettricken, in particular, considering Assassin’s Apprentice is something of a sausagefest. Patience’s relationship with Fitz is just plain lovely – that he calls her his mother when she finds him drunk warmed my cold, black heart – and I love Kettricken a great deal, and I’m so glad Verity came to appreciate her as much as she deserved.
To be honest I just want Fitz, Patience and Burrich to be a happy family together, is that too much to ask? I love that it’s in his father’s wife and his most-trusted soldier that Fitz finds a mother and father. I can’t help wondering if they’re the best of Chivalry, when there’s so little we really know about the kind of man Chivalry was other than when he’s idealised by those who knew him.
We also have a new character in Nighteyes who, shockingly, I also loved. That should be no real surprise, though, as wolves are one of my favourite animals. As animal companions go Nighteyes is up there with the best of them, and I hope to see even more of him in Assassin’s Quest.
The biggest change to Fitz’s personal life is his relationship with Molly, when the two of them finally declare their feelings for each other. Naturally, because it’s Fitz, even this part of his life doesn’t occur without several bumps in the road. You can’t help but get the feeling that these two just aren’t meant for each other – that this is a relationship built on a nostalgic, safe fondness between two lonely people who were carefree children together – but there are times when their relationship is wonderful. When the two of them act like nothing more than good friends and don’t spout flowery sweet nothings to each other I love their chemistry, but there’s too much teenage angst involved for the two of them not to despair over how much they love each other.
I do feel like I need to take a moment to defend Molly, though, as she’s a character I think quite a few readers don’t like and I don’t think that dislike is justified. I don’t love Molly, I wouldn’t say she’s one of my favourite characters in the series and sometimes she does shitty things, but I do think her feelings throughout this book are valid. It’s hard for us not to fall in love with Fitz when we’re in his head all the time, but we have to remember that, while we know all his deepest and darkest secrets, Molly doesn’t.
Fitz knows pretty much everything about Molly but this isn’t a closeness that the two of them share with each other, and frankly he does only seek Molly out when he has the time for her. He fits her into his life without considering how she might be feeling about being left out of so much; Molly puts it perfectly herself when she points out that it’s not Fitz’s job to decide for her what she wants to know. It’s understandable that Fitz has to keep certain things secret from her, but he uses her as his escape from the rest of his life and that’s simply not fair on Molly. I wouldn’t feel valued by the man I loved if he was only free to love me when he could fit me into his schedule.
We know Fitz is only trying to do the right thing, but somewhere along the line he’s forgotten that Molly is capable of looking after herself if he’d only open up to her. It’s funny that he spends so much of this novel thinking Verity should put more effort into his marriage when it’s advice he should be taking himself.
My only real issue with the novel itself though, and the main reason it’s getting 4.5 stars instead of 5, is Regal. He’s an irritating man and I love how Hobb writes him because I so want to punch him in the mouth—but why does anyone like him? Seriously, he’s so moustache-twirly and spoiled that I don’t understand why anyone follows him rather than Verity or why he’s Shrewd’s favourite son. What on earth has he done to earn that love when he literally almost murdered Verity in the previous book?
Again, we are seeing Regal through Fitz’s eyes so his incompetence and pettiness is bound to shine brighter than anything else, but I still don’t understand why anyone would want him on the throne over his father or brother or why they believe the obvious lies he tells about Verity. Hobb’s writing is excellent and she writes people so well, but I do think there’s something rather lacklustre about her villain which is a shame in a series that’s so good in every other way.
All in all I did love this book and I’m so excited to continue the series and see what Fitz is going to get up to next. With any luck Hobb might even be a little kinder to him… but somehow, I doubt it.