Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb

cover art for Assassin's Quest, featuring green heraldic dragon on what is meant to look like an illuminated manuscript page
I planned to take this Robin Hobb reread nice and slow, in deference to my too-large-for-comfort TBR stack1. No way was I gonna let these books take over my life. I’d let myself revisit one Hobb novel for every five books I cleared from my list of books to be read.

Yeah. Like that was ever gonna happen. I began ASSASSIN’S QUEST barely an hour after I closed ROYAL ASSASSIN, and I have absolutely no regrets.

Back in the day, I considered this the weakest book in the series. It’s the longest at 759 pages, and I found it somewhat more spread out than I would have liked. Hobb pays plenty of attention to Fitz’s physical journey--which basically means it’s one of those books where the characters walk a lot.

Oh, Fantastical Travel Syndrome. You can be such a bitch.

This time, though, I saw little evidence of FTS. Yes, the book takes its time. Yes, Fitz et al walk a lot. But every bit of it serves a purpose. Sometimes, the very length of it is more or less the point.

I shan’t bombard you with spoilers, but suffice it to say that the end of ROYAL ASSASSIN changed things in some pretty big ways. Fitz is the next thing to alone, with a whole new set of baggage to carry, and he’s forced to confront what that actually means. He takes a believable amount of time to figure it all out, and he faces many challenges along the way. As always, Hobb acknowledges that physical and psychological healing can’t be rushed. It takes as much time as it takes, and you’re liable to mess up as often as you get it right.

And since we’ve established that Fitz makes a great many poor decisions, you can imagine how often he messes up. Many of his mistakes are fueled by trauma, though. He behaves as someone who’s gone through terrible things does behave when they’re faced with frequent reminders of what they’ve endured. It’s easy to see why he makes the choices he does (though one does shake one's head when he makes a terrible decision mere hours after his mentor, Chade, has reamed him out for making so many bad decisions).

I loved it with a desperate intensity that threw me for one hell of a loop given my previous experience. I lost sleep to ASSASSIN’S QUEST, then cursed the exhaustion that forced me to put the book down much sooner than I would’ve liked. I wallowed in it, exalted in it, and restrained myself from tweeting gushy and incomprehensible things about it only through supreme force of will.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a book if Fitz spent all 759 pages alone. As much as I loved the first half, where he flounders around with and without Nighteyes in tow, I eagerly anticipated his reunion with the Fool and Kettricken. Like I’ve said before, I love the hell out of Kettricken, and Fitz and the Fool have my favourite friendship in all of fiction2. ASSASSIN’S QUEST marks the point where that friendship really becomes something great. The previous two books constrained them to a certain extent as they navigated court intrigues and served their respective Kings. Here, there are no longer any barriers between them. The Fool still doesn’t exactly speak plainly, because prophets don’t go in for that sort of thing, but he tells Fitz an awful lot more than he ever did before, and it leaves them free to revel in their friendship.

Which they do, in various squee-inducing ways. They just fit together so well, y’all. It’s impossible to argue with Nighteyes when he declares the Fool part of their pack. Absolutely impossible.

I fear I’ll spoil the series's ending for you if I delve into anything to do with the actual plot and its consequences, so let’s leave it that that. ASSASSIN’S QUEST blew me away. I’m shocked I didn’t love it more seven years ago.

Past Memory can be such a weirdo.

Links

While I always advocate your local library as the absolute best source for books, I recognize this may not be an option for everyone where every book is concerned. If you're in search of another way to read ASSASSIN'S QUEST, you can try:

  • Kobo (e-book; for purchase; coupons don't work)
  • The Book Depository (paperback; for purchase; free shipping worldwide)
  • Amazon (paperback & Kindle; for purchase)
  • Audible (audio; for purchase or via one-month free trial)

I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you buy the book through one of the links above.


  1. When I began my Robin Hobb reread, the list had 58 books on it. It now has 92, with compliments to the Hugo Awards (which are fun, but have totally bogged down this reread. I'm ind the middle of FOOL'S FATE right now and shall be obliged to take a Hugos break once I finish it. Shame; I've been looking forward to the Rain Wilds Chronicles, which are new-to-me and thus very exciting. Oh well. I'm oddly excited about revisiting the Wheel of Time, too. It's been eleven years). I know that ain’t nothin’ compared to what some of you labour under, but I aspire to a TBR list of no more than ten titles, at the absolute most, so it grates.

    Which is I decided to reread a series of hefty tomes instead of whittling away at the unreads. Whatever. This was necessary.

  2. Other favourite fictional friendships include Angel and Faith from the Buffyverse and Troy and Abed from COMMUNITY.

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