Hobb, Robin. Royal Assassin.

NY: Bantam, 1996.

When last we saw young FitzChivalry, the King’s designated assassin, he was prostrate in the Mountain Kingdom, having barely survived an attack by Prince Regal, the youngest of the three royal brothers, who also feels most entitled to run the kingdom himself.

But the Redship Raiders are harrowing the coast yet again, so Fitz finally begins the trek back to Buckkeep — only to find himself relegated to a much more minor role at court and surrounded by dynastic intrigues. He also ignores the best advice of his closest friends and mentors and advances his courtship of Molly to a dangerous level — dangerous to him personally and dangerous to the girl, because Regal won’t pass up any opportunity to serve him badly. Prince Verity, meanwhile, the King-in-Waiting who holds Fitz’s unswerving personal loyalty, goes off on what seems an ill-advised quest to seek the help of the Elderlings of the ancient folktales against the raiders. And that leaves Regal more or less in charge, with their father, King Shrewd, gradually wasting away.

But an overarching theme this time is the bonding between Fitz and a young wolf he rescues, via the “Wit.” If he’s caught, the revelation of his close animal relationship will get him hanged, drawn, and quartered, but he can’t help it. The Wit is part of his basic personality. But Nighteyes, the wolf, is also a much stronger personality than any mental contact Fitz has made in the past, and the two become so close as to constitute almost a single being.

Hobb has established a reputation for doing horrible things to her heroes and she continues that practice here. Fitz suffers, the King suffers, Prince Verity suffers. And Regal makes sure the entire kingdom suffers, to his own benefit. There’s not much humor to lighten things along the way, either. What there is, is tight, complex plotting, bloody battles, beautifully rendered character portraits of people you will either loathe or come to care about deeply, and a richly painted background against which everything happens. This is very, very high-quality fantasy.

Published in: on 14 November 2013 at 2:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I concur entirely. I think out of all the fantasy I have read, these books are the best. Actually the best. I will read and re-read them all my life

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