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58 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 1999
I read this book first, then read Assassin's Apprentice to see where it started, then finally Assassins Quest with bated breath. Glad I picked it up.
"Royal Assassin" is a lovely play on words, best understood once the story is over, as is the premise that "Chivalry ain't dead" which, while never uttered, provides the foundation for the protagonist's existence. That sense of irony is ever present throughout the series, and is beautifully complemented by Hobbs' use of adjective given names: Shrewd, Desire, Verity, Constance, Regal, etc. The measured development and revelation of each character's flaws and motivations is a beautiful example of how to write a book that startles you with plot twists, all of which ultimately make sense. The hardest character to reach is Regal, which is a shame, since he is a believable self-justified villain.
Hobb's system of magic is easy to grasp, and does not require too great a suspension of disbelief to incorporate, since so few people in the book actually practice the Skill or the Wit. Her ability to demonstrate the suspicions and superstitions of commoners is admirable. Most compelling, however, is her ability to get inside the "coming of age" problem with a stark realism that most cannot achieve. Hobb is also able to address intimate relationships, love, and marriage from a very human, and often humorous perspective, a skill that is rarely displayed in the fantasy genre. The setting is rich with vivid depictions of life in a medeival castle. You can smell the stew cooking in the kitchen, and taste the warm bread that Fitz wheedles from Cook when it is fresh out of the oven. You also appreciate the plain difficulty of getting things done, even for one endowed with the Skill. And you empathize with the archetypical ailing king, whose hold on life and his kingdom are both weakening, and who nonetheless battles to impose his will on the events shaping his kingdom.
Best of all, Fitz is an imperfect protagonist, who must rely on tenacity and his various friends to achieve his goals and survive in the deadly environment of court intrigue. The only problem with reading this book is that most contemporary fantasy pales in comparison. Robin Hobb has raised the bar.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 10, 2008
Truly after having become instantly enamored with Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin had me hooked before I even finished the first page. I will begin this review with my sincere puzzlement in the fact that there is so much overhyped fantasy in the world by highly decorated (see award winning) authors that it amazes me to no end how the Farseer trilogy tends to slip through the proverbial cracks. This series is easily on par with the efforts of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and perhaps some of the finer moments of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.

That said, this tale picks up literally where the first book ends (with no recapping) and continues in the first person narrative of Fitz Chivalry as he recounts his life in effort to document the history of the Six Dutchies.

Like before, the imagery is just stunning and Hobb once again demonstrates that her greatest strength as an author is through development of incredibly rich characters that the reader can't help but feel like they know personally.

Perhaps therein lies the greatest source of frustration mingled within the beauty of this series: Robin Hobb isn't afraid to let the bottom drop out and does so very frequently. They say that hopelessness is a powerful literary tool (and certainly a motivator to turn the pages in effort to find resolve). The trouble some have with Hobb is that resolve is painfully slow to come (and often times doesn't come at all). Readers were treated to a taste of this in the first book but it pales in comparison to the mental and physical torture they will endure through Fitz's eyes in this one!

Without giving away too much of the plot's key moments, let me just summarize by saying that nearly everything Fitz has worked for comes crashing down by the conclusion of this novel. How Robin Hobb plans to tie up all of the loose ends of the saga in the third entry (Assassin's Quest) is truly anybody's guess. Although I must confess that it will be nearly impossible for anyone (regardless of how frustrated) to finish this book without desperately seeking the third entry with ravenous passion.

Upon completing Royal Assassin last night, I concluded that:

1) Robin Hobb may just be one of the most powerful authors in our time and certainly one of the most under appreciated in the fantasy genre.

2) This series is absolutely gripping in every sense of the word but requires a reader willing to "ride out the storm" in the distant hope that resolve will come.

3) Readers who rely on fantasy to escape the drudgery of daily life/ world affairs may want to steer clear of this entire melancholy-riddled saga. This book has the ability to cast a gray cloud over the mood of even the most optimistic reader (that can follow into real life).

4) If you decide to forge through this book, have the third entry handy- it ends on such a note that you just may find yourself standing outside the bookstore at dawn waiting for them to open.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2004
Come hear a tale of characters with marvelous abilities; characters with powers of stealth and strength, the ability to kill and read minds. The powers of suggestion are available to the characters; truly this is a wonderful bunch of heroes. But they are all wimps.

This book consists of nothing but one chapter after another of attempts on the lives of the various protagonists. An attempt is made on the life of every good character in the book and all they can do is wring their hands and complain that they cannot take action against the perpetrator. It is infuriating to read.

The characters possess wonderful skills that they will not use. And why won't they use them? Who knows? The time is not right, the king didn't command it. The excuses given defy belief.

Instead, one is asked to believe that every character in the book will accept these bumbling attempts on the lives of everyone they love, including themselves, without ever taking action. Indeed, the only action that the heroes in the book ever take is after detrimental results have already been suffered.

But don't worry, they will whine and complain about what is done to them and those they serve. If fact, the bulk of the book consists of nothing more than an attempt on every good natured character in the book followed by restraint and complaint. This makes for a painfully irritating read. This irritation is only aggravated by how long the book drags on. I don't mind long books, if they are taking me somewhere. Here, the author beats the drum for hundreds of pages without advancing the story anymore that to communicate that the players are exasperated with their circumstances. Of course they are! Their circumstances completely control them.

Also, the book's title is terrible. The "assassin" does not assassinate anyone for almost six hundred pages. The book does merit a rating greater than one star because of its ending, which may free the characters up to act in a manner that is believable, but I wouldn't count on it.

This implausibility has been central to both books, and seems to be a part of the author's style. I like the world the she has created. I like the characters, in theory. But the execution is so poor; the players' reaction to the stimulus so unbelievable, that it really detracts from what could be a great book.

Hobb, you're going to have to better than this to gain a following from this reader. I have, however, already purchased the third book - I bought all three together - so I will finish the trilogy and report to you here if the series and the author improve.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2000
With the second volume of the Farseer trilogy, Robin Hobb has certainly written a compelling saga strong on characterization. The first volume saw young Fitz growing as a boy and learning the ways around the court of Buckkeep, the capital of the Six Duchies. It seems to me that once Fitz was able to grow into his teens, the author finally has more freedom in making him the center of the happenings. Whereas Fitz was mostly a spectator in Assassin's Apprentice, he now tries to direct the action in the court; whether he is cleverly manipulated by others or truly acts on his own is an interesting question. This novel is less a novel of action or of epic proportions. It is obvious that Robin Hobb has no interest in becoming another Tolkien or Jordan. This is a novel of court intrigue, machinations, moves and countermoves. And Fitz finds himself with far more to deal with than he can chew. The characters are even livelier and interesting than in the first novel. I found it remarkable how Fitz seems to grow from page to page as he becomes more observant and active with the daily activities around him. From a boy, he becomes a man, with the unfortunate resulting consequences. The only drawback I found is that the underlying moral seems to be that the more resposibilities you shoulder upon yourself, regardless of your intentions, the more ruthless your enemies will act toward you. And, goodness, are they ruthless. Perhaps i was hoping for a traditional hero, and Fitz tries his best to be one, but Hobb yanks him back again and again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2012
My expectations were somewhat high after the quality of the fist book. I was very disappointed at the lack adventure in this second book. There was a lot written on wall hangings and feelings and clothing - but just not much adventure, fantasy or plot. There was an awful lot of repetition - I mean near duplicate paragraphs about what had already happened. So I plodded through it with the excuse that it was just a bridge to the third in the trilogy.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2005
I rather enjoyed the first book in this series and was excited to get book two. But the second book was a disappoinment overall.

Conflict and problems are vital for the development of a book's plot. However, a good book will effectively mask the usage of conflicts to keep the reader's interest and this is where Royal Assassin fails. The conflicts created are nonstop, take up too many words and feel overtly manipulative. The protaganist revels in his insecurities for far too long and passes up far too many opportunities to just Do Something. To many oversights defy belief and exist only to further suspend resolution of the plot. Conflict upon conflict piles up in a manner that does not support a sympathetic and heroic character and Fitz is compromised as a protaganist that the reader can get invested in. The huge insecurities and depression indicated by the Fitz are simply incompatible with the expectation that he will, actually, do something heroic at some point and are jarring when compared to the few scenes where he actually does act heroically. Early on in the book he goes about several difficult tasks with aplomb and complete confidence only to later dwell in doubt and despair for pages upon pages, over seemingly much simpler tasks. We are given a few hints that each resolution might lead him to future confidence or a break-through in his abilities only to find him even more useless for the next task he must undertake.

Part of the problem is that the set of powers chosen for this world, the Skill in particular, is simply far too powerful and could easily solve massive plot problems in a very quick and easy manner -- if allowed to do so. Obviously such a Deus Ex Machina plot would not satisfy. Thus excuse after excuse is thrown at us to describe how, yet again, the protaganists fail to do much of use with the all-powerful Skill. Similarly the first book ended with a fairly decent resolution that was immediately contradicted in the beginning of the second book. It's easy to see how this might have happened (after getting published on the first book there was a need to drum up new drama to start the second) but the result is a let-down and seemed to ruin the feeling of fulfillment from the first book.

Heroic fiction is a genre about wish-fulfillment. We love to see our favorite characters relish in their hard-earned victories and we love to see them develop and gain in confidence and strength. This book however kills the satisfaction at prior accomplishments and has a protaganist that fails to develop much more satisfaction in terms of development or further accomplishments. At the end I was left annoyed and unfulfilled and liking the characters far less than I had after the first book, thus missing what I see as the necessity of Heroic Fantasy Fiction. As Fantasy readers, we don't just want conflict/resolution we also want a relatively monotonic growth of the characters towards being heros.

I also agree that the series, thus far, lacks any exploration of grayer morality and fails to break the mold of idealized, Good/Bad characterization. That is a bit of a disappointment but is something I tend to expect from the genre. So I won't hark too much on that point.

Because of my enjoyment of the first book I will read reviews and maybe scan through book 3. I still have some lingering interest in seeing how things end up for Fitz and so maybe I'll stick it out. I think Hobb has it in her to write very good stories but I think this one, ultimately, failed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2014
This book is great! It hooks you with an awesome setting, engaging conflict and a whole new twist on magic. On the flip side the author proceeds to destroy all the good aspects of the book by endlessly frustrating you throught the main characters failure to take any decisive action to solve ANY conflic! This novel is a painful read and I strongly suggest against it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2012
The first book in the series was decent. Not good, but not bad enough that I stopped there. This book is something else. It really is one of the few worst books I've ever read.

***Vague spoilers follow***

Everyone in it is unbelievably and unfathomably stupid at all points of the story. They allow friends and family to be killed and the kingdom basically ruined because, well, what, they're supposed to do something about the villain they know to be evil and bent on killing them and who lives in their power?

The plotting was so bad and the characters so stupid (as a necessity for the terrible plot to work), I was angry with the book by the time I was a third or so of the way though. Probably less.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2014
When it was all said and done this was actually not a bad read. I have read worse.
I read through most of the book, skimmed through some, and just plain skip the rest.
There were many parts of the book I found redundant, illogical and there was parts
that I just couldn't wrap my head around. I wouldn't read this book again. It went into the
donate pile and not on my book shelf. I won't be continuing this series. But for the lack
of better was an interesting read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2015
Emotionally powerful yet ultimately unsastisfying. This work reminds me of an old saying, "When a woman wants to complain, she just wants the man to listen. She doesn't want him to fix it.' This is that premise as a 600 page novel. Every character except the villains are completely ineffectual. Hobb attempts to bind the characters with various artifices on why that wouldn't remove the obvious villian as he launches attack after attack on the Six Duchies, attempting to murder several of the main characters, destroying the financial stability of the kindgom, aiding merciless raiders that are attempting to sever people from their very souls, become King, and along the way try to murder the unborn child of his brother. The King refuses to order action, and the people who claim to love him watch as he is poisoned and eventually murdered instead of making any attempt to save him. The ending, when action finally comes, is obviously too late.

The writing is well done, the protagonist has several interesting coming of age stories and we see more of the tapestry of the major players in the kingdom.

But ultimately its hard to understand how anyone could let such obvious tragedies transpire, and the plotting suffers immensely because of this.

I'm off to the 3rd book to see if she can recover anything from this debacle. From a story standpoint there's hints that could lead to understanding as to why all the characters are so completely ineffectual, and I'm hoping that's a plot element in the 3rd novel.

But I can understand why many don't finish this book, and more might drop the series after the endless cowardice of its characters.
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Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1) by Robin Hobb (Mass Market Paperback - March 1, 1996)

Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3)
Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3) by Robin Hobb (Mass Market Paperback - January 5, 1998)

Fool's Quest: Book II of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy
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