by Robin Hobb
King Shrewd is dead at the hands of his son Regal. As is Fitz—or so his enemies and friends believe. But with the help of his allies and his beast magic, he emerges from the grave, deeply scarred in body and soul. The kingdom also teeters toward ruin: Regal has plundered and abandoned the capital, while the rightful heir, Prince Verity, is lost to his mad quest—perhaps to death. Only Verity’s return—or the heir his princess carries—can save the Six Duchies.
But Fitz will not wait. Driven by loss and bitter memories, he undertakes a quest: to kill Regal. The journey casts him into deep waters, as he discovers wild currents of magic within him—currents that will either drown him or make him something more than he was.
It’s been a while since I’ve been this disappointed by a book, and in fairness I think the fault is as much mine as it is the book’s; I started reading Assassin’s Quest in June and finished it in August, and I don’t think reading it in spurts helped my enjoyment of it. Then again I didn’t actually enjoy reading this novel; it was far longer than it needed to be and, frankly, it was a chore to get through. I’m so sad to be saying this about a Robin Hobb book, but I can only be honest.
Assassin’s Quest picks up almost immediately after Royal Assassin‘s heart-rending ending, where we find poor Fitz having to process exactly what he suffered in the previous book, and this beginning of the book I really enjoyed. Considering all of the events in Royal Assassin there’s no way this book could simply jump straight into another adventure and I really appreciated the time Hobb took to let Fitz learn to be Fitz again.
The issue I had is that, once Fitz sets out on his revenge quest to kill Regal, Hobb takes an awful lot of time with everything else, too. In my opinion there’s a big chunk in the middle of this book that could have been cut—I’ve seen some readers say everything that happened in this book is important for later books in the series, but it should still be interesting to read—and so many events were told in ‘flashback’-style scenes because Fitz witnessed them through the Skill instead of being there for them.
One of the things I loved most about Royal Assassin was how much more we got to know about the secondary characters, and Fitz’s interactions with them, but Fitz spends so much of this book alone and I got bored of following him feeling sorry for himself. That sounds awful, because the poor man has every right to feel sorry for himself, but he moped through so much of this book that it didn’t make me particularly excited about turning the page. In fact a lot of the glimpses he saw of other characters made me wish I was following them instead, which is a real shame and something Royal Assassin managed to avoid because Fitz was there to talk to them.
The biggest saving grace of Assassin’s Quest is Nighteyes, whom I adore, and if he hadn’t been there I don’t know if I’d’ve been able to push my way through this book. I wish we’d got to know more about the Wit, but this is very much a book about the Skill; I find the Skill far less interesting as a magic system, so that didn’t particularly help my enjoyment of it either.
I also wish we’d finally found out who Fitz’s mother was in this book, all I’ll say is that I’m incredibly disappointed by how this was handled. Considering how many times I’ve had Chivalry and how great he was (although not great enough to spot his youngest brother was the worst and do something about it, apparently) shoved down my throat, I was hoping for a lot more information about Fitz’s mother. Hopefully we’ll learn more about her in a later series, but I have a horrible feeling we won’t.
Speaking of the women in this book, I didn’t see enough of Patience at all and I will continue to defend Molly. A lot of fans don’t like her because they love Fitz, but one of the things I did really like about this book was how Molly’s story wrapped up. However much you might love Fitz as a character, he was a rubbish partner for Molly—she was also a rubbish partner for him, but it seems to be that she gets all the blame for that while Fitz is blameless and that’s not right at all.
My ultimate issue with this book, though, was the pacing and the ending. This book is 838 pages long, a conclusion to a trilogy in which so much has plagued the people of the Six Duchies, and everything important was wrapped up in an epilogue told in hindsight. The reason this book was so frustrating for me was that I pushed my way through all those pages only to get a conclusion that wasn’t actually that satisfying. I didn’t dislike what happened, but if Hobb’s going to spend hundreds of pages letting Fitz make the same mistakes over and over again then why couldn’t I have a decent ending that didn’t feel rushed?
There’s more I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil anything and, to be honest, the more I think about how disappointing this book was the more bummed out I feel. Is this really a 2 star book? No, it’s still very well written, but it is a 2 star book for me. I’ll be taking a break from this series before I move on to the next book—here’s hoping I enjoy the next trilogy a lot more!