At the close of Robin Hobb’s first trilogy within her Realm of the Elderlings, FitzChivalry Farseer has become, in my eyes, as beloved a character as Frodo Baggins, Tyrion Lannister, or even Kvothe. The amount of love she bestows upon the characters and then takes away, particularly him, is terrifying. And beautiful. And tragic. Robin Hobb is on a plane all her own in terms of storytelling, and getting you to truly feel for her characters.
Assassin’s Quest is just that. A huge, long, unending quest. And throughout it all its pure torture for our protagonist, as he tries to silently protect all whom he loves, despite the fact that they all think him dead. It’s perhaps the best quest novel I’ve ever read. Yes, I’ll go ahead and say that. When you think of quests, you generally get the sense that someone sends him off in search of a and b to help with c. This was none of that. This was adventure at its most perilous, its most primal, a doomed mission at wit’s end. I will say that on more than one occasion the book took an unnecessary detour, or lingered in one place for far too many chapters. I’d say it could have shed ten percent of its word count.
Much of this quest involved the true bonding with his wolf Nighteyes, and how that shaped his character. And how that shaped his wolf. At the onset of the book Fitz showed more characteristics to a wolf than he does a man. But subtly Hobb presents you with the opposite happening with Nighteyes. He slowly begins to think and act upon situations like a human would. It’s brilliant writing. Again, Hobb astounds with her ability to write. “This is pack.”
Hobb also makes one of the best villains in the genre. She creates the perfect foe in his power-crazed uncle Regal. And the level of treachery and wholehearted cruelty he’s capable of. Makes me shudder to think about. I will say that his ending was a little lackluster. I’d have liked that to be a more resolute conclusion to his threat.
And I cried. I cannot tell you when a book last made me cry. Fitz. You poor poor man! This book isn’t one to read while stressed. It’s its own kind of stress altogether. I’ll hold off on starting the next trilogy until after my wedding in March.