Saturday, August 1, 2009

Assassin's Quest

I finished Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb last night. My first impression.... WOW. I had reservations on the series. Where I had found it enjoyable and full of intrigue, I didn't really have a good idea of what this had to do with Fantasy. If anything, the series was a great representation of royal intrigue, but not necessarily of fantasy. I had previously expressed my concerns that although there was some hints of fantasy via the Wit and the Skill that I wasn't really sold on the idea that this really fit the genre. Ok, I humbly submit that I was wrong. Very wrong.

The book starts off where the last one ended. Fitz was dead, by Regal's hand, more or less. But Burrich and Chade had conspired to save him via the Wit. Somehow it works and Fitz is saved. Instead of being grateful, he starts his revenge on Regal and plots to kill his uncle. I'm shortening the story quite a bit, but suffice it to say that he doesn't succeed and his uncle Verity instead comes to his aid, but forces him via the Skill to "Come to me". Suddenly the entire series becomes a fantasy novel. Fitz meets up with the Fool, Kettrichen and a few other individuals. They all set off to find Verity who has been gone the bulk of a year. They follow in his footsteps and find the remains of an ancient civilzation. Only Fitz senses this and he discovers that the path they follow is somehow Skill wrought. Later he travels to the heart of the ancient civilization via a "Skill stone" which instantly transports him to the city. He discovers what direction his uncle Verity took and the group moves closer to finding him. A reminder to those who don't remember or didtn't read the second book, Verity left to find the Elderling's, a race that promised to come to the aid of the Farseer's should they ever need them.

The group continues to search for Verity. By this point we find that Veity's son was still born and that the only heir to the Farseer throne is Fitz's daughter with Molly, whom he has desperately tried to keep hidden, but both Regal and Chade know of her existence. Chade conceives to bring her to Kettrichen to be the heir and Fitz is wiling to do whatever it takes to prevent that. Ultimately the expedition finds Verity, looking much older and worn than ever, and solitarily chipping away at a large dragon statue. We find that Verity was unable to wake the Elderlings and had to create his own. Fitz is puzzled by his uncle's words and doesn't understand how and why he has spend the last months creating a life sized legend. One of the expedition, Kettle reveals that she was once a part of a coterie and can help Verity "awaken" his dragon. Events continue until Fitz realizes that the awakening means the end of Verity the man. He concedes to his uncle whatever he needs to go forward, with the desire that his own child be spared the throne. Verity does just that and in his waning moments creates an heir (you will have to read the book to discover how) and then awakens his dragon. Verity as dragon then proceeds to rid the coast of the Red Sail Raiders along with the remainder of the Elderlings whom Fitz discovers how to awaken at the last possible moment.

Fitz and Nighteyes remain behind as the rest of the expedition travels with Verity. Fitz is finally able to get revenge on Regal, but does so without having to be the King's assassin, which he vows to never be again. The Six Duchies are safe and Regal lives up to his name finally. Fitz, the changer, the catalyst, has done his duty and suddenly has his whole life in front of him.

Again, let me say that I'm now hooked and have to read the second series (actually started that today :) thanks Linda!). I did have some problems with the series overall. While in the end I was happy with how the author brought the fantasy to us, as the hero himself found out about it, I was not thrilled with the secondary narrative that she put into each chapter. It became obvious that the hero was writing this, some years after the events, although it was often hard to distinguish what was future and what wasn't, at least in the first book (although this was not really an issue later). The other issue with first person narrative is that it leads the reader to believe that the hero survives. Although not a huge issue, it is often better to not know if the hero survives as it gives the reader a better sense of suspense. Other than that I had no real problem with the series. If this was Robin Hobb's first then she is well on her way to being a force in the genre. Ok, time to read the second series.

I give this a 4 out of 5 stars.

I dream of carving my own dragon.