Hobb, Robin. Assassin’s Quest.

NY: Bantan, 1997.

Young FitzChivalry, trained as an assassin, is now on the run from his own death, which was orchestrated by his mentor in order to save him from hanging at the hands of the self-declared King Regal, who insists his older brother, King-in-Waiting Verity, is dead on his quest to the lands beyond the Mountain Kingdom. And it’s mostly all downhill for Our Hero from that point.

Regal is determined to make his claims self-fulfilling, so Fitz — having first failed badly at an attempt to wreak personal revenge — sets out on his own quest, to do what he can to aid his true king, with whom he shares a close psychic tie through the Skill. And he’s accompanied by the now-grown Nighteyes, the wolf to whom he is Wit-bonded, and who (though he views the world and the people in it the way a wolf would) is a complex and intelligent character in his own right. Kettricken, Verity’s wife and now the rightful queen following her father-in-law’s death, takes charge of the search, and two new characters join in as well. And the Fool returns in a new guise as someone far more important to the survival of the kingdom (and the world generally) than Fitz, or the reader, would have suspected.

It would take several thousand words even to barely outline the plot in this concluding volume of the first “Elderling” trilogy, there are so many threads and complexities. Fitz won’t get what he thinks he most truly wants and will have to grow up in various psychologically painful ways. Verity is still alive, we know that much, but will he remain that way? Hobb is perfectly capable of doing terrible things to those the reader has come to care about, so you’ll approach the denouement with some trepidation. In fact, you need simply to start at the beginning of this trilogy and settle in for a long, often unsettling, sometimes terrifying ride through an epic dark fantasy adventure of very high quality indeed. Some reviewers have denigrated it for being too depressing. I would say it’s realistic, with a vengeance. And even at the last moment, the author will reveal some causes and effects that will give you pause.


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