Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Royal Assassin

Robin Hobb's Royal Assassin is the second book in her Farseer Trilogy, and--according to many a professional--the best in the series.  I haven't listened to the third one yet, and probably won't for a while.  But I can say that this second book was quite a bit better than the first.

This trilogy is about a bastard son of a prince, who is raised from a young age to be the king's assassin.  In the first book (Assassin's Apprentice) Fitz is just learning how to kill for his king/grandfather, and in Royal Assassin is becoming much more comfortable and capable in his role.  He has to struggle with the morality of killing for his king, and learn how to honor his oaths to the man.  Also, he has to learn the two forms of magic available in this world: Wit, and Skill.  Wit is the ability to communicate with animals, a la Perrin style from The Wheel of Time, and it so happens to be forbidden on pain of burning; Skill is the ability to communicate with another person mind to mind, which comes in handy over large distances.  Kind of interesting that both forms of magic in the world are communications specific.  

I don't know why so many people say this is the best book in the series (having yet to read the third), but like I said, it is better than the first.  AA moved way too slow for me, and seemed a bit padded with unnecessary descriptions, situations, etc.  While RA suffers from similar problems at times, they are much less frequent, and maybe it's a better book simply because the character is older, and more interesting to read about.

The villain of the series is quite ridiculous.  The schemes he gets away with are very hard to believe at times.  However, when the story isn't focusing on the bad guy (which is most of the time), it is very enjoyable to listen to.  It's a lot like Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles--the plot is almost non-existant, forcing the reader to care about the character to enjoy the tale.  If you have a hard time with heavy character-driven novels, you'll probably be bored with this one.  If you love being immersed in a fully realized fantasy world, with one first-person pov, you'll definitely want to check this out.

I blogged a while back about how I don't care for assassins in fiction.  This is still true, even though I liked RA.  So little time is actually spent on Fitz assassinating anyone, that I find it a bit silly to include the word assassin in each of the three books' titles.  There's a lot less assassinating, and a lot more political intrigue.  I never felt uncomfortable with Fitz's dirty job (though he frequently feels this way about it).  It's nothing like your usual assassin-for-hire story that I hate so much.  

So give Royal Assassin a read or listen.  The narrator is superb, the writing is top-notch, and Fitz is an interesting character whose head is worth getting inside of.  The Farseer world isn't all that original as far as setting goes, but I didn't find anything about it to dislike.  I give the book 4 stars out of 5.

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