The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb – Review

 

Jump to: ~ Assassin's Apprentice | Royal Assassin | Assassin's Quest ~

The Farseer Trilogy consists of Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest. The Liveship Traders Trilogy bridges a gap of time between this series and The Tawny Man Trilogy, which continues the adventures of Fitz and the Fool some years later.

The Farseer Trilogy is currently one of my favourite fantasy series; on par with David Eddings’ Belgariad. Now that I’ve finished reading Assassin’s Quest, I can see in hindsight why I found it so difficult to get into this story. This trilogy reads as a single very long story, rather than three different parts to the same story or even three interrelated stories. It begins slowly because there are so many plot nuances to introduce and characters to get to know. Books 2 and 3 pick up at exactly the point where the other leaves off, with a prologue to remind the reader of the story so far.

The dynamics between Robin Hobb’s characters are exquisite, especially in Book 3. Hobb’s attention to detail is brilliant, and she has created a vast world and characters with great depth.

Spoilers

There are some minor spoilers ahead for the simple reason that by writing about Book 2 and 3, I’m touching on how Books 1 and 2 end. However, since this is one long story rather than three stories with definite endings, and also due to the sheer number of plot twists in the Farseer Trilogy, I don’t feel that what follows gives much of the story away. Proceed with caution if you prefer not to know too much about the books before you read them.

Read about the next trilogy in this series: The Liveship Traders Trilogy


Assassin's Apprentice - available from Amazon.com Royal  Assassin - available from Amazon.com Assassin's  Quest - Available from Amazon.com


Book 1 – Assassin's Apprentice

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As I mentioned, it took me a long time to get into this first book, and I almost gave up on it. I’m glad I didn’t, and I would encourage anyone trying to read this to keep going. I’ll give you a tip: keep reading (skimming if you have to) until the Fool’s riddles start coming true. From then on it gets a lot more interesting, and you’ll probably go back and reread the parts you skimmed.

Assassin’s Apprentice begins with a six year old nameless boy who ends up in the care of the Farseer stablemaster, Burrich. He is the illegitimate son of Prince Chivalry, next in line to the Farseer throne after his father, King Shrewd. When Prince Chivalry learns of the boy’s existence, he abdicates his claim to the throne in favour of his brother Prince Verity, and shortly thereafter is killed in suspicious circumstances.

Burrich names the boy “Fitz”, and he will eventually earn the name “FitzChivalry”. For a time Fitz is raised by Burrich as his apprentice. His destiny falls into place the day he is caught searching for kitchen scraps by none other than King Shrewd. With the king’s Fool as a witness, Shrewd offers his grandson a pact – total loyalty to him in return for shelter, food, clothing, and security. Fitz accepts the pact, and his life is uprooted and moved to the castle where he is given his own room. This move alarms Shrewd’s youngest son, Prince Regal, who believes Fitz somehow threatens his own claims to the throne.

Fitz discovers the significance of his room when a hidden door is revealed, leading him to the quarters of the assassin, Chade. Chade is King Shrewd’s illegitimate half-brother, and so Fitz becomes the assassin’s apprentice as Shrewd commands.

With the invasion of the Red Ships threatening the security of the Six Duchies, Shrewd commands Skillmaster Galen to form and train a new coterie of telepathic “Skill” users. This coterie will act as a support to Prince Verity as he defends the Six Duchies using his mind and Skill talent. Shrewd decides that Fitz should be included in the coterie.

Under the cruel tutelage of Skillmaster Galen, Fitz’s talent for using the Skill is deliberately sabotaged, with only Fitz’s powerful “Wit-bond” to his dog saving him from Galen’s attempts to destroy him completely.

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Book 2 – Royal Assassin

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FitzChivalry returns to King Shrewd and Chade at Buckkeep, barely alive after a confrontation with Prince Regal. Despite the dangers of using his telepathic link to animals, Fitz forms yet another Wit-bond, this time with a wolf cub called Nighteyes.

Prince Verity begins a quest to search for the mysterious Elderlings who came to the aid of the Six Duchies monarch centuries before in the previous cycle of the Red Ship Raiders.

With rumours of Verity’s death, Regal makes the first moves to take the throne from Verity’s wife Queen Kettricken and Verity’s unborn child. When King Shrewd is murdered by members of the coterie, Fitz avenges his death and finds himself in Regal’s dungeon. Pregnant Queen Kettricken and the Fool flee to the mountains, and the Fool’s prophecy that Fitz is the Catalyst he dreamed of is shattered.

There is only one way for Fitz to escape being executed as a traitor, and he needs the help of Burrich, Chade, and Nighteyes.

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Book 3 – Assassin’s Quest

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Only Burrich, Chade, and Nighteyes know that Fitz is alive. He is badly scarred and broken following Regal’s torture and he rejects Burrich and Chade to follow a life with Nighteyes and a vendetta to destroy Regal.

However, with his erratic Skill sense reawakened by Verity, Fitz alters course to search for his king. He is reunited with the Fool and Queen Kettricken in the mountains, and together with a minstrel named Starling and an enigmatic and cranky old lady named Kettle, they set out to find King Verity and aid him in seeking the legendary Elderlings.

Some of the plot threads that irritated me in the first and second books (Fitz’s infatuation with Molly and his bond with Nosy and Smithy) came together with exceptional clarity in the third book. Robin Hobb has written a series that is close to perfect.

Review copyright © Elsa Neal 2006

Read about the next trilogy in this series: The Liveship Traders Trilogy


The Full Elderling Realm (Fitz and Fool) Series by Robin Hobb:

The Farseer Trilogy
Assassin's Apprentice* | Royal Assassin* | Assassin's Quest*

The Liveship Traders Trilogy
Ship of Magic* | The Mad Ship* | Ship of Destiny*

The Tawny Man Trilogy
Fool's Errand* | Golden Fool* | Fool's Fate*

The Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb:

Dragon Keeper | Dragon Haven

*Book Depository is often a better option for non-US book buyers.

Robin Hobb's Official Website
The Plenty : the Robin Hobb (aka Megan Lindholm) fanlisting : Robin Hobb / Megan Lindholm fansite for fans of Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm and her books.

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Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job. Join Elle on her new publishing adventure.

  11 Responses to “The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb – Review”

Comments (11)
  1. What is the significance of Queen Kettricken. In other words, does it mean truth, wisdom etc. I know I read it, but I can’t find it anywhere.

    Help appreciated

    Nancy

  2. Hi Nancy

    Queen Kettricken is “Sacrifice” to her people. But it is more the Six Duchy royalty who have meanings attached to their names, eg. Verity meaning “truth”, Shrewd meaning “clever”, Chivalry meaning polite and courageous.

  3. damn robin hobb for ending assassins quest in such a fked up way! she did the fitz no justice – the way he ended up…………. *annoyed*

  4. Fitz is not as broken as he thinks he is. I suggest you read about half of Fool’s Errand to cheer yourself up. Stop when things start going downhill (because they just keep going). And don’t read Golden Fool and Fool’s Fate if you can’t handle more Fitz-pain. 😉

  5. ^ shes right. it’ll just break your heart.

  6. Okay, I just read/devoured these 3 – loved them! Totally addictive series, I hardly slept in order to get through them faster…. which I think probably enhanced the last book because I was exhausted the entire read – imaging that was what Fitz must have felt like! I found the end rewarding, after all that had happened, how could a man of honor go backward, knowing what he knew – knowing how others you love think and feel about each other? I thought the end was truely heroic. In any case, I am now debating on skipping over the middle series and just reading the last 3. Will I be sorry? Will I miss much if I skip those middle ones, for some reason they just aren’t catching my imagination like I suspect the last 3 will. Your advice is greatly appreciated!

    thanks,
    Kerri

  7. Hi Kerri

    I know exactly what you mean. In terms of the Liveship series, I think it really depends whether you love the character of the Fool as well as Fitz. Liveship includes a very interesting and important part of the Fool’s story and character development which is worth experiencing. There are also some plot points that are picked up in Tawny Man where I think readers who skip Liveship will feel a bit confused, but not so much that you wouldn’t follow the story; in fact you would experience the same confusion that Fitz does since he has no part or knowledge of the Liveship events. Liveship partially explains, and puts into perspective, what it was that Verity actually did at the end of Farseer.

    I recommend reading Liveship, even if you end up reading it after Tawny Man. It is also an exceptionally good series, though very different in style and characterisation to Farseer. It gets better as it warms up and has lots of twists.

    I hope this helps you decide 🙂

  8. Great review! Robin Hobb is my favourite authors, and reading all of her series, Farseer is the best.

    If you liked Robin Hobb, check out Lynn Flewelling. She writes in a similar style with great characterization and plots of subterfuge.

    http://alexristea.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/lynn-flewelling-the-nightrunner-series/

  9. Thanks Alex!

    I liked your review of Lynn Flewelling’s series, too. It sounds awesome; I’ll definitely look out for it.

  10. Funny Alex mentioned Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series.. I feel the same way too, especially since at some point I was reading them in parallel. Got the universes mixed up sometime! Perhaps they should do a collaboration.

  11. Argh!!! I just read the Farseer trilogy, and that ending kills me. I see it as a tragedy. His reward for going through a ton of pain and sacrificing everything in his life was … [spoiler]? GRRRRRRR! That’s awful.