First published in 1995, Robin Hobb’s first book in her fantasy series that will later on grow into a 16-book series is still widely loved by fantasy readers all over the world. This shows how timeless literature can be, but also specifically how well fantasy novels age. In this new century of contemporary books about relationships, police brutality, Muslim immigrants living in the West, and bisexuality, a lot of relevant and unique issues and themes can also be written between the lines in a fantasy novel.
You all have probably heard me talking about how amazing Robin Hobb is as I was reading the final book in The Farseer Trilogy, Assassin’s Quest. The first book, Assassin’s Apprentice starts off with our main character and our narrator, FitzChivalry, who barely remembers his childhood until up to the day he was brought by his mother to Buckkeep, where he later on discovers that he is the bastard of the royal king in the country, Chivalry. He later on grew up with his mentor as a stableboy, and as he grew older he was recruited to become an assassin to the king, and discovers more about himself and the people around him. This book has the interesting medieval fantasy worlds as Lord of the Rings, the wonderful naivety of a child growing into a man as Harry Potter, and a slice of political intrigue as A Song of Ice and Fire. However what was so unique about this book and this world is Hobb’s very descriptive, sometimes unnecessary writing, and her ability to craft characters and character development.
My love for this series did not grow very quickly – I finished reading the first book with a shrug and did not really feel the need to continue with the series for over a year. I thought the characters were interesting and the world unique, but didn’t think it very mind-blowing. Additionally I felt it a little too long for my liking.
After reading the second book, Royal Assassin, almost a year ago, I also did not have the urge to immediately continue with the final book. Nonetheless, in the second book I really fell in love with the characters, especially Fitz himself, the people in the royal family, and other people living in the castle. I got more into the flow of Robin Hobb’s lyrical and sometimes very droning writing, and loved the magic system in the world. Check out my full review of the book here.
In this book as well we begin to really see Fitz grow into a man. There are a lot of themes and discussions in this book that really sparked my interest, but what struck me the most is the women in it. I admired all the women characters specifically in Royal Assassin, particularly Patience and Kettricken, who really shone in the third book as well. I fell deeply in love as well with Nighteyes, and his friendship with Fitz, as well as Fitz’s journey through his discovery of the Wit.
In the third and final book, Assassin’s Quest, where Fitz is a grown man with abilities of his own yet also various weaknesses, I fell hard in love with the whole series and could not stop reading it. I loved every page of it – scenes involving Fitz and Nighteyes, his friendship with the Fool, the way Fitz explores himself, his strengths and weaknesses, his talents and his future. It’s an amazing coming-of-age story that happens to be set in an amazing world.
A main problem I had with the story is about the antagonist: I felt like Regal in the whole series felt less like a man and more of a haunting figure that the main character never really meets. I also do not really understand his motivations and what made him a good character overall, and the ending was not very satisfying regarding how Regal’s conflicts were resolved.
I’ve heard mixed review of this whole series when I first started it, with most people saying that the second trilogy in the same world written by Hobb, the Liveship Traders series, will be much better. And so I’m excited to start that book in the near future.
With all the political intrigue this series has, plus themes like the relationship of a human with animals and the many strengths women can have, especially with the loss of a child. Strong friendships between Fitz and people around him is also a premanent theme, as well as gender fluidity as expressed by The Fool, added with a hint of problems of drug addiction as we can find in King Shrewd. All these things feel both medieval and otherworldly but also relevant, and all these human and relatable issues (heartbreak, loving someone who doesn’t love you back, choosing between what you want and your duties, being forced to grow up faster than you should), all are intertwined in this beautifully written series. If you like long epic fantasies, this is totally for you. Definitely let me know in the comments down below if you’ve ever read anything by Robin Hobb, and your thoughts about it!