As I settled down into the sequel to the very impressive Assassin’s Apprentice, I was delighted at how easy it was to ease right back into the series – as if no time had passed whatsoever. The Farseer trilogy, the first to an ever larger series Robin Hobb has concocted so brilliantly entitled The Realm of the Elderlings, is deceiving. Deceiving in the sense that it comes off rather unassuming, rather humbly, making you feel right at home with each passing chapter, warmed by the retelling of FitzChivalry Farseer as if you’re reading by the hearth. And only then, once you’ve fully surrendered yourself to the book, Robin Hobb will destroy your emotions again and again.
That’s not to say I cried however. Or even teared up once. Royal Assassin makes it incredibly easy to emotionally drain oneself regardless. Fitz is no longer the young boy training to become an assassin. He now lives his own life in his service to the king, and quite a few double live’s besides. The Red Ship Raiders are still reeking havoc along the coastline, “Forging” ones to become mindless beasts. King-in-Waiting Verity Farseer, tired from constant struggling against these Raiders, seeks out the aid of the long-lost Elderlings, who once (long ago) promised to return if ever they were needed. He leaves behind his Queen-in-Waiting, and his sickly, dying, father the King. Prince Regal, second in line for the throne does all he can to seize that power, and with Verity away from Buckkeep he plays every card in his deck to do so. All the while Fitz must attempt to hold it all together, along with keeping a new wolf pup from completely bonding with him. Little does Fitz know, Verity’s always a step ahead of him.
This is a stressful read. I realized that halfway through. And from that point forward, the level of stress only increases. And the ending is no consolation either. In fact, like Regal, Robin Hobb doesn’t shy away from playing all the cards in her deck. This book has no happy ending, aside from the knowledge there will be more books to follow. Even then, I’m left emotionally stunned. I’ll need a break for a bit to recuperate. But as stressful as it is to get through, it’s infuriatingly good. It’s such an unpredictable story I almost hate to love it so much. The web Hobb weaves is immense and treacherous.
Perhaps the weakest part of this web, unfortunately, is the move to make Molly such a main character. With the dangerous life Fitz already leads, and the truths he must never utter to her, the whole scenario is a recipe for a terrible relationship and a whiny side-piece. Because, let’s face it, that’s exactly what Molly is. A side-piece.
The book makes excellent strides in furthering our understanding and limits to both the Wit and the Skill. Perhaps even Forging to some extent. We even get some hybrid magics. One thing that’s particularly unique about the magic systems in this series is that they’re entirely mental. There are literal battles of the mind that take place. Some very satisfying. Some very disappointing. But all so very intriguing.
All in all, a stellar read. And there’s so many directions the rest of this series can head off in. I have absolutely no idea what to expect next. If the book weren’t so depressing it’d be an even higher rating, I reckon. And it’s written in a way that anyone can pick up the novel and not have to worry about not having read the first installment. I recommend this to all those Name of the Wind lovers out there. This is right up your alley.