I’ve been sitting on this review for better than a week, because I just have no idea what to say. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I could easily sum up Royal Assassin in a single sentence. But that sentence would just be incredibly spoilery, and I’m not sure how else to talk about it without doing that. So here I’ve sat, not writing anything, but instead turning it over and over in my head, since Mary is still like half a book behind me so I can’t start the next one yet anyway. And I honestly might wait longer, gorging on comics all the while, except that my newest device is having touchscreen problems and I’m maybe about to have to ship it off for repairs, so, uh… yeah.
The thing about Assassin’s Apprentice is that it’s dark and grim from start to finish. The Fitz starts off as an unwanted bastard, learns of his secret royal parentage (but in the “still totally a bastard” way, not the “gonna end up the king of everything” way that usually happens in fantasy), trains to become an assassin (I mean, like you’d expect. It’s right there in the title!), and makes friends and enemies along the way. In the end, he faces a challenge and comes out beat up badly, but successful.
(There’s more to the review behind this cut, because my god the spoilers just explode everywhere.)
And that’s more or less what I expected out of years of people talking about Robin Hobb books. “She really likes to beat up her heroes!”, they’d say. And like I said, he sure enough came out beat up badly. Exactly where my baseline was. And now I’ve read the new book, in which, well, here’s that sentence I was talking about. This is a book unique in the annals of my literary memory, in which an author, after spending the first hundred or so pages recovering her hero from his previous trials, stronger and better than he had been before, proceeds to demonstrate that it is possible to deconstruct his life so thoroughly that he is left with nothing at all. Fitzchivalry Farseer ends this book as much of a nameless, countryless, hopeless, lifeless blank slate as he started out in the first book, only this time he has a sense of loss to go along with his complete lack of anything else.
I… am not especially excited to read the third book of the series. Jesus Christ.