Well this is a seriously stunning series! I have to say right off the bat that if you like fantasy even a smidgen then *this is the trilogy for you*! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to Hobb… Actually I can a little- I mean, she’s got a huge body of work and it’s pretty intimidating. But I was able to line up the whole first series to read recently… so that’s what I did. And let’s just say I was transported to fantasy heaven.
Rather than swamping you with loads of little reviews, I decided to tackle the whole Farseer trilogy at once- so buckle in, this is gonna be quite the trip!
Please note spoilers will be marked, but the further you get down the page, where I discuss the later books, the more likely you are to encounter them.
I will say that this started out a little slow for me. I did like the introduction of all the characters, but it took me until the magic got introduced, at about 10%, for me to get fully invested- which would be fine, but in a 500 pages book, that’s a little longer than I would like.
Speaking of the characters, that’s what this book is all about. I *loved* how realistic, how complex and how vivid they all were. This isn’t one of those books where characters come second to the plot- no, they were the ones that breathed life into this trilogy. At the epicentre of these books is Fitz- who, as the Prince’s oft-mistreated bastard, is sympathetic from the start and often on the outside looking in. Thrust into the heart of all the political intrigue, he pulls us by the heartstrings into his world, and becomes the unlikely-yet-likeable force that drives the action and makes it impossible to resist falling in love with Hobb’s work.
Because there was also a great cast of side characters. From villains to heroes, they all felt alive to me. I don’t think I could juggle as many people in my review as starred in this book- which is testament to how terrific Hobb was at balancing them in her work! One of the highlights for me was actually Patience- who added a nice touch of comic relief whilst also being amazingly compassionate. The Fool was certainly a draw for me- though I hardly got anything pinned down on him in this early book. I also quickly admired Verity, but my first impressions were actually quite spoilery, so if you’ve read the whole series, highlight the next bit: I actually wrote in my notes that he was an interesting character but I didn’t see him surviving- LOL got a bit ahead of the game there 😉 I did appreciate Burrich- but he could be a bit of a foil to Fitz, which I thought was an interesting exploration of the parent role. As for the others: Chade was Shady, Shrewd was Shrewd and Regal was anything but.
Overall the writing was very absorbing. I especially appreciated the little snippets at the beginning of each chapter which added to the world building. However, while the descriptions were on the most part beautiful, there were points when the writing became burdensome and slow.
By the end, though, I was well and truly invested in the plot and didn’t care. Cos *man* that was a good ending, with revelation after revelation, events coming thick and fast, and culminating in some *fist pumping* moments. By the end of book 1, there was no doubt that I was going to be hooked on Hobb for life and that I may have just found a new favourite author. So it can be no surprise my rating for book one was:
So this book really built on some of the subplots from the first and I was mostly happy about that. For instance, the role of Fitz’ Beast magic took more of a centre stage, with the introduction of the wolf cub Nighteyes. And prepare for some gush, because I love-love-loved him! It can’t be a surprise that I adore non-human characters in books, given my blog name, and Nighteyes pretty much stole the show for me. I mean who wouldn’t love a ginger cake eating wolf? There were so many great details to him to make him pounce off the page and Hobb got his wolfish voice *just right*, with hilarious lines like asking Fitz to scratch him with “your so clever hands”. Honestly, for him alone, I would have wanted to give this book a squidgy hug!
Still, considering how strongly I felt about all the characters in this series, I was pretty meh about Molly. Don’t get me wrong, the romance here was sweet and it allowed for some gorgeous descriptions, but I wasn’t totally feeling it. To be honest, I didn’t find this relationship as important to me as his relationship with Nighteyes for instance- which was not great, cos, you know, as cool as their bond is, I should care more about the protagonist’s feelings for his love interest.
But, speaking of writing, this was an exquisite piece of work. I mean all you can say to this is *wow*:
“My body jangled like badly-tuned harp strings”
I wrote down so many incredible quotes from this because, like I said, *wow*. Every touch built on the world and the characters. I couldn’t help but admire the Queen’s poem for instance, or Fitz getting compared to a wolf, or the tradition of hanging a Pocked Man marionette before a tragedy tradition in puppet shows. The precision of the world building was an absolute delight.
Plot-wise, this began where book 1 left off and it was nice, dramatic starting point. However, once they got on the road and returned to Buckkeep, I did personally find it slowed down a little. Don’t get me wrong, I do like scheming and machinations- and this had that by the fortress load- but I couldn’t help but feel like things took a breather in the middle of the book. HOWEVER, that was just the calm before the storm because WOWEE this has transformative, bold ending. Honestly, that lifted this book several notches for me and completely blew me away.
Well, if I thought Royal Assassin began and ended well, it was nothing compared to this book. *Spoilers abound* from here on out– but I honestly cannot keep things to myself at this point. As readers, we were taken on Fitz’s savage journey back to being human and truly got to experience his wolfish side. If the writing was well done before, this was bloody marvellous- take a peak:
“You’d pick at this quarrel like a scab until you got it bleeding and fresh”
The plot was a total rollercoaster- speeding exhilaratingly fast and then breaking to a halt. Because of this, I did find the ride a little jarring at times- for instance, there was a detour in the middle where Fitz attempted to kill Regal, where it sped up, but then immediately slowed again with another journey. There was a lot more meandering about in this book, which was a shame, because this slowed it down for me- but I guess I’ve also come to expect that from books that can double up as a weapon. In the end, though, it was like trekking up a mountain- there were some difficult peaks, some moments of concentration, but in the end the breathless beauty of the view from the summit made it all worth it.
What I liked most was the way this story was told. While told from Fitz’s perspective, he is not, I would argue, the most instrumental character in the book. In fact, we are given a vision of Verity’s heroism through Fitz’s eyes, who sacrifices everything for the good of all. This coupled with Fitz’s own sacrifices gives us a multi-faceted view of sacrifice. Here Hobb embraces, transforms and goes beyond typical fantasy tropes, for we are given a symbolically flawless hero, through the would-be king, whilst also preserving the need for a flawed, human protagonist. With extraordinary deftness, Hobb explores the costs of magic, consequently showing the responsibilities of power, in a complex and striking way.
As you can tell from this, I thought that as a character study this was exceptional. However, I did have a few nitpicky issues. I may get in trouble for this, but I honestly didn’t connect to a lot of the side characters in this one. There were a lot of new people crowded into the book, like the minstrels, and although they were all prancing about for my attention, I just couldn’t bring myself to care for them. Annnd if that didn’t annoy you, I’m sorry to say I also hated Molly a little by the end of this book. At the risk of being a Fitz-fangirl, I think she often misunderstood him, didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt and I don’t think she had any justification for shacking up with his (practically) adoptive father in the end. Like I said, I was never that invested in Fitz’s relationship with her, but man, that’s harsh. The conclusion to that story arc was a bit gross to me and the elements of miscommunication (like Burrich not telling her he’d come back from the dead once already) left me a tad unsatisfied. Honestly, it felt like there was a bit of a cliffhanger in his personal life… it’s no wonder I immediately went on to read the next series!
Ultimately- I couldn’t resist *immediately* launching into Hobb’s second series on Fitz. So I hope you liked those reviews… cos I’m gonna bring out the next one soonish…
That’s all for now! Have you read this series? Are you planning on picking it up? Let me know in the comments!