Assassin’s Quest was probably my most anticipated read this year, and only after I cruised through the first two books in the Farseer Trilogy. The first two had such an impact, and the third installment did not disappoint. It occupies a unique place within Robin Hobb’s works, bringing a conclusion to this series, but also serving as the introduction to an expanded world that reaches beyond a single book series. With all that the author developed in the previous books, Assassin’s Quest felt like the greater story that was always intended to be told. It is simultaneously Fitz’s journey to reconcile himself with his fate, who he is while tied to Verity, his grasp of the Skill and the Wit, and perhaps a greater destiny; and a sweeping introduction to a great and diverse world that was only hinted at in the first two books. As both a climax and conclusion to the Farseer Trilogy, Assassin’s Quest brings brilliant storytelling with expansive worldbuilding to this masterpiece of fantasy that was both satisfying and uniquely distinct from the previous books.
In the brilliantly written introductory portion of Assassin’s Quest, readers find Fitz immediately after the events of Royal Assassin. He died, murdered by his uncle, Prince Regal. It is a visceral and raw section where Fitz learns what it is to be human again after being brought back from having his soul so closely bound to Nighteyes’. He struggles with his resentment that he was brought back, that he was forced to endure being human again. Fitz rails that he has never been able to make his own decisions, that they are always made for him. In all his life, he has never felt free. His anger and exposed emotional vulnerability are so clearly evident in Hobb’s writing, and makes for a remarkable opening to the story. Reading through Fitz’s perspective allows for empathy with his compulsion and the inability for him to escape his seeming destiny. Both his Skill-powered drive to seek out Verity and his own significance as an individual, described as the Catalyst which has only been barely hinted at so far in the books.
Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin were the stories of Buckkeep and the Coastal Duchies. They were FitzChivalry’s journey through his home and its neighboring lands, understanding and participating in the politics and structures of that world. In Assassin’s Quest, Fitz not only journeys to the Inland Duchies in pursuit of Regal, but he goes even further to other lands in his quests of vengeance and loyalty. He sees a much wider world than he had when he lived at Buck, and meets many people on his travels, only offering tastes of the rich and diverse world Hobb has created for her stories. There are cities and cultures, pieces of the story that are only mentioned in passing in the first two books, but their purpose is better served when they are brought to life in some tangible way in Assassin’s Quest.
After the largely familiar and contained feel of the story up to Assassin’s Quest, it was exciting to have it told through the lens of the vast journey into a wider world that Hobb has created, but previously was largely unfamiliar. It felt like a natural growth, not stuck in the same slower pace of storytelling the first two books did so well, but found its own storytelling pacing instead. A third book in a series, especially the end of a trilogy might have suffered from settling into the same slow burn.
Assassin’s Quest is a much more different book than the previous two, and because it is the climax and conclusion of this series, it doesn’t have the luxury of holding the same slow burn, but fortunately it doesn’t need to. Fitz’s journey is engaging as both the character development and a far-reaching introduction for the audience to Hobb’s world. The rise and fall of action doesn’t follow the same steady ebb and flow of the first two books, which was a surprise to me and made it almost feel like a different story altogether. There is more going on throughout the whole story, with more threads interwoven, and hints at both the grand story and more than I am sure reach beyond the Farseer Trilogy. It was a strong divergence, but once again it was Hobb’s control over her craft that allowed it to still feel “right” for the narrative. The characters experience honest emotion and hardship, and even the new characters that only exist within this book felt as authentic and engaging as the ones we met in Assassin’s Apprentice.
Assassin’s Quest brought the Farseer Trilogy to its perfect conclusion, but I knew there was more to the stories of those characters as I turned the last page. All I know is that Robin Hobb’s other series exist in the same Realm of the Elderlings, and that at least some of them center around Fitz and the Fool. It is a hard thing to end a series well while also introducing a larger world with extended novels. Hobb does it masterfully. I felt that the Farseer Trilogy was given its necessary conclusion, and the characters each received the ending they needed. And while things could be left where they fall, there is certainly more there to explore. So I cannot wait to expand my horizons and return to Hobb’s world to see what further adventures await.
Assassin’s Quest is written by Robin Hobb, and is published by Del Rey.
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