I’ve finished the Farseer Trilogy and now I feel bereft! After the cliffhanger ending of the previous book, Royal Assassin, I immediately moved on to the final instalment but now I wish I’d waited a while so that the whole experience wouldn’t have been over so quickly. This particular book wasn’t my favourite of the three – I had a few minor problems with this book that prevented me from enjoying it as much as the first two – but I can’t express how much I loved this trilogy as a whole.
It is almost impossible to discuss the final book of three without giving away things that happened in the previous two, so be aware that there will be spoilers throughout the rest of this post! If you’re new to Robin Hobb it wouldn’t be a good idea to start with this book anyway – Assassin’s Apprentice is where you need to begin.
Assassin’s Quest is slightly different from the first two Farseer novels because, while those two were centred around Buckkeep and its inhabitants, in this third book Fitz is on a mission that will take him across the Six Duchies and beyond. It feels more like a traditional fantasy adventure novel – and in fact, it does contain much stronger fantasy elements than the previous books. We learn more about the Wit and the Skill – and both of these types of magic are used in ways I hadn’t realised was possible – and we even meet some dragons (which isn’t surprising, as there’s one pictured on the book cover). While I thought the strengthening of the fantasy elements felt like a natural development as Fitz ventures further into the Realm of the Elderlings, I did prefer the more subtle fantasy atmosphere of Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin.
This novel picks up the story where Royal Assassin ended, with Fitz believed to have died at the hands of King Regal and his coterie. We, however, know that he has only left his body temporarily to join his wolf, Nighteyes, with whom he is Wit-bound. After a slow start in which Fitz returns to human form and has to come to terms with no longer being a wolf, he finally sets out on his quest. His aim is to hunt down Regal and kill him, but this proves to be more difficult than he expected and eventually he becomes aware that he has allowed himself to be distracted from what should have been his real purpose: finding Verity, his beloved uncle and rightful King of the Six Duchies.
Verity left Buckkeep halfway through the previous novel to go in search of the legendary Elderlings in the hope that they would help him to defeat the Red Ship Raiders. He has never been seen since, but Fitz is sure he’s still alive – he can sense Verity’s presence with his Skill and hear his command (“Come to me!”) in his mind. This certainty that his King is waiting for him is what keeps Fitz focused on his task, even when he wants nothing more than to return to Buck and look for Molly, the woman he loves, now only visible to him in Skill dreams.
As Fitz and Nighteyes travel across all of the Six Duchies and on into the Mountain Kingdom they are joined by some old friends, as well as making new ones such as Starling, a minstrel, and Kettle, an old woman who clearly knows a lot more about the Skill than she wants to admit to. That, by the way, was one of the little things that annoyed me about the book. It seemed that on a mission where everybody needed to pull together, every one of the party was keeping secrets from the others, making cryptic comments when a simple explanation could have saved so much trouble. Speaking of secrets and cryptic comments, we do learn quite a lot about the Fool in this book. However, the revelations that are made about the Fool just seem to raise more questions than they answer!
Unlike the first two books which I loved from the beginning, it took me a while to really get into Assassin’s Quest; the opening section with Fitz learning to be human again seemed to go on forever. After the journey got underway, I was quickly drawn into the story once again and became so absorbed in Fitz’s world I was dreading reaching the end of the book – especially as I was sure it wouldn’t end happily. This is a big, thick book (with over 800 pages in the edition I read) and there were a few points where I thought the story started to drag. I didn’t mind persevering through the slower parts, though, because there are some truly fantastic moments in this book, my favourites being the breathtaking scenes set inside Regal’s palace at Tradeford.
So, do Fitz and his friends find Verity and if so, has he succeeded in enlisting the help of the Elderlings? Will Fitz have another chance to kill Regal? Despite my spoiler warnings, I’m not going to answer those questions here. I will just say that I found the ending (the final two or three chapters, really) every bit as sad as I’d expected it to be, and yes, I cried. I’m not always a fan of happy, fairytale endings but after all the misery Fitz and the other characters had gone through in this trilogy I think I would have liked one here! As for the way everything was wrapped up in the last few pages in the style of an epilogue, I didn’t find that very satisfying either. I realise, though, that we’ll meet Fitz again later in the Tawny Man Trilogy and I’m looking forward to reading those books – but not until I’ve read the Liveship Traders first!