“I healed. Not completely. A scar is never the same as good flesh, but it stops the bleeding.”
Author: Robin Hobb
Category: High Fantasy
Podcast Review: Episode 74
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The last book in the first series in the Realm of the Elderlings, we are at the end of the introduction to the world of the Elderlings.
Honestly, I just really did not like this last book in the Farseer Trilogy.
The first two books were definitely more on the slow-burn side. Assassin’s Apprentice was largely just world set-up and developing the main characters with most of the actual plot coming at the end. Despite this, the writing and the relationships between the characters was so strong that it was an engaging read.
Royal Assassin, the second book, still has that slower pacing but there is more going on as the plot thickens and the stakes continue to creep higher.
Now in Assassin’s Quest, that pacing hurt the book so bad. After the first hundred pages or so, Fitz is separated entirely from the cast of characters that we got to know in the first two books so those relationships that have driven so much the first two stories are also absent. There are many, many characters that Fitz meets along the way as he travels on his quest and, frankly, none of them are interesting.
On top of that, the story itself was so much taken up with just Fitz’s travels day by day and what he ate for his meals and what inns he stopped at and it just made the book feel bloated.
Some final issues that I have with the end of this series I think may be something that would be solved by continuing the read the series.
For example, I disliked how very little we ultimately learned about the Red Ships and the Outislanders. Their raiding of the coasts of the Six Duchies is a huge driving factor in the plot and it felt strange to me that we learned so little about who they are and their motives. There was a few paragraphs dedicated to this but for an antagonist of the series, I felt like much more was needed.
Again, know that this was the first of five series in this world, I have no doubt that this will continue to be explored, but I guess in a way I just felt like for the end of a series, the end of a story arc, there was just too much unknown.
There were a few comments in this book though that truly impressed me. A few times, the Fool would make a small discussion about gender and sexuality and for this being a book written in 1997 when you just did not see that kind of thing in fantasy, that impressed me so much. I originally read this series about 10 years ago and I think it was the first time I had ever seen any commentary on LGBT in fantasy and more than anything else about this book, those comments stuck with me. I forgot to bookmark it of course and I can’t find the quote anywhere online but it past-Dani so happy to see it. Now, LGBT in fantasy is much more common (not to the extent that it deserves but certainly far less rare) but 20 years ago I think it was a big deal.
When I was reading Royal Assassin, I was so ready to continue on with the Realm of the Elderlings. Reading Assassin’s Quest though kind of burned me out. I want to continue because I want more of Fitz and especially more of the Fool! I want to see more of Ketricken and Lady Patience as well. However, I think it will have to wait a little bit.
I think this is a series that is good for people that already love the genre but it probably not a good introduction for people that are not already into fantasy. With it being such a slow burn and such a focus on the relationships, it is definitely not action packed and, honestly, pretty trope-y at times. Many of the characters just don’t stand out to me from the hundreds of other fantasy characters. If you do like fantasy though and like political intrigue, I think it is worth the read.