by Robin Hobb. ★★★★
This is the second book in the Farseer trilogy, the story of the kingdom of the Six Duchies and FitzChiverly, the bastard son of a prince who is trained as an assassin. To read Royal Assassin, you really need to have read the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice.
While the first book did wrap up nicely, it left plenty of issues unsolved. The Forged ones (people without any humanity who are tools of the vicious Raiders) and the Red-Shipped Raiders themselves continue to devastate the Six Duchies. Regal is still alive and vying for the throne. King Shrewd continues to grow weaker, and King-In-Waiting Verity continues to be unsuccessful in his attempts to drive off the raiders and preserve the kingdom.
With imminent doom on the horizon, you’d think Fitz would find something to worry about other than his Love Interest, Molly. The first half of the book (and some sections afterwards) are overwhelmed with emotional turmoil and aghast over Molly, who continues to fulfill no role whatsoever in the actual plot. She’s there simply has Fitz’s One True Love. Otherwise, we as the readers couldn’t care less. She’s also three years older than Fitz who is fifteen – yet much drama results over her complaining that he is acting “like a child” or “like a boy.” The age difference is annoying enough, but Molly really needs to employ her brain when she makes such complaints. To me, Molly and all the dramatics over her were the biggest flaws of the book.
Luckily, there was one female character who was admirable – Kettriken, the foreign wife of Verity who is adjusting to her new role as Queen-In-Waiting. Kettriken is caring and competent, and she’s devoted to doing whatever’s right for her kingdom, no matter the cost to herself. She’s able to defend the kingdom both with her words and with her sword. Unlike Molly, Kettriken is highly significant to the plot. As such, I would name her the female lead.
Unfortunately, there is no other female character who is so admirable. I’ve already spoken on my issues with Molly. The only other major female character is Lady Patience, who’s somewhat ditzy and only peripherally involved in the plotting and intrigue. If you’re looking for a series with important and admirable female characters, look else where.
For all my grumblings about Molly and the slower beginning, I did like the book.The tension and pace really pick up in the last third or so. Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The situation is desperate, and I desperately want to know how it works out.Like any second book in a trilogy, the ending doesn’t give all the answers. However, it doesn’t leave us in the middle of things either.
If you’re looking for a high fantasy novel with big stakes and political intrigue, I’d suggest this trilogy. If you’re looking for a rewarding sequel to the first book, you won’t be disappointed.