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Assassin's Quest

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Robin Hobb

In this conclusion to the Farseer saga, FitzChivalry's quest for revenge on the usurping Regal requires him to journey to the Elderlings (wise old mages in the classic mold) and afterwards to realize the emergence of his own magical gifts, at which point … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
1 review about Assassin's Quest

An Unfortunate End To A Grand Tale

  • Oct 25, 2008
While I like to think that my opinion of this work could be useful to others (a claim further boosted by Amazon's new reviewer ranking system), it is with great difficulty that I set out to critique this, the final installment of the Farseer trilogy. I suppose I should start by admitting that I came into this trilogy quite late (nearly fourteen years to be exact) thanks to a strange but consistent string of published compliments passing between Robin Hobb and George RR Martin. I was immediately enamored with Hobb's wonderfully rich characters, realistic world, and political dynamic. I was able to immediately dismiss fears that fantasy told through first-person perspective could not possibly work and found myself glued to the seat until both the first and second books in the series were read, often forsaking appointments, sleep, and nourishment in the process. The second to third book transition is such that I recommend having this, the third on hand to anyone who attempts to read the second. This is one story spread across three installments and Hobb wastes no time recapping. Close one; open the next as if you traversed only a standard chapter break.

But I digress; since you are reading this review, it's safe to assume you've likely already read the first or second or are considering the series as a whole. To that I have to rate the series as follows:

Book One (Assassin's Apprentice) 5 Stars
Book Two (Royal Assassin) 4 Stars
Book Three (Assassin's Quest) 3.5 Stars

The pattern here, in case you haven't noticed, is that the series begins about as strong as any fantasy work out there and with an unrivaled emotional tie to boot. The problem is that as the story progresses, two things happen that, in my opinion anyway, degrade some of the brilliance shown early on. First, Hobb is not afraid to drag her readers through the proverbial mud. Sure most authors will allow things for the lead character(s) to get ugly along the way but they usually counter the trend with a plateau of resolve. It isn't uncommon for Robin Hobb to pull her protagonist into a miserable downward spiral that takes the full three books to level out (and in some cases- to never fully recover from at all). Yes it is realistic writing and yes it mimics reality in that real life doesn't always end happily ever after, but I must confess that there is an underlying feeling of depression and frustration that accommodates such an epic torture-fest.

Secondly, the structure of the story itself takes a radical shift in this, the third installment. It is still told in first-person as the lead character recaps his trials and tribulations as a scribe documenting the history of the Six Duchies, but the once grand scheme of the world around him is reduced to a day-by-day journey of survival. Gone are the grand battles being waged on the coast, gone are the family betrayals and political intrigue, gone is the lifestyle of Buck Keep and the cozy scenes with the enigmatic assassin Chade, the stable master Burrich, or the good king Shrewd. Instead we are dragged along on what basically boils down to a hiking expedition with some of the lesser-developed cast members.

I suppose in all honesty, Hobb set herself up with a struggle so perfectly overwhelming that nothing shy of a completely unforeseen solution would suffice and in that regard she delivers. I'm not big on spoilers, so I won't get into specifics here but let's just say that the resolution to the struggles beautifully built up in the first two installments is a bit too "fantasy" in nature and not nearly as fulfilling as I had hoped. Worse still is that Hobb has managed to prove to me that we are all hopeless romantics under our hard shells- in other words deep down we all want our hero to get the girl in the end. Sure we complain about the lack of realism in it and whine that there's nothing original out there but this novel is an example of what happens when we don't get a fairy tale ending we love to complain about. It turns out that this stings too but for an entirely different set of feelings: Frustration and melancholy mostly.

I'm left feeling like this series is truly one of the finest in the entire genre and manages to accomplish the same sense of richness that rivals George RR Marin's Song of Ice and Fire saga through a single viewpoint (where Martin tells his tale by bouncing around a cast of hundreds).

I've noticed similar complaints of depressing tone in Hobb's later works and will likely revisit her world after a tour of some more lighthearted fantasy to numb a bit of the residual emotional attachment the Farseer trilogy left behind.

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