The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb – Review

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

The Farseer Trilogy  is the start of Robin Hobb's massive Elderling Realm series, which currently stands at 16 books (and is considered complete). The Farseer Trilogy consists of Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest. The Liveship Traders Trilogy (although featuring entirely different characters and a different narrative style) bridges a gap of time between this series and The Tawny Man Trilogy, which continues the adventures of the Farseer characters some years later. Likewise, The Rain Wild Chronicles touches on the lives of characters introduced in Liveship, but slots in between The Tawny Man and Fitz and the Fool.

The reading order for The Elderling Realm series is:

Assassin’s Apprentice; Royal Assassin; Assassin’s Quest (The Farseer Trilogy)
Ship of Magic; The Mad Ship; Ship of Destiny (The Liveship Traders Trilogy)
Fool’s Errand; Golden Fool; Fool’s Fate (The Tawny Man Trilogy)
Dragon Keeper; Dragon Haven; City of Dragons; Blood of Dragons (The Rain Wilds Chronicles)
Fool's Assassin; Fool's Quest; Assassin's Fate (Fitz and the Fool Trilogy)

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.


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 Royal  Assassin Assassin's  Quest

Book 1 – Assassin's Apprentice

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.

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Book 2 – Royal Assassin

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.

On the verge of defeat by the Red Ship Raiders, Prince Verity begins a quest to search for the mysterious Elderlings who came to the aid of the Six Duchies monarch centuries before.

Regal makes the first moves to take the throne from Verity’s wife Queen Kettricken and Verity’s unborn child, and sets Fitz up for regicide. 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

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

However, with hope renewed that Verity is alive, Fitz alters course to search for his king 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. The father-son-like bond between Verity and Fitz is beautifully portrayed. Although the protagonist is male, there are a vast number of female characters fully involved in the story, all with very different personalities and motivations. Unlike GRRM, there are no "on-screen" rapes, although the tragic consequences of rape are disclosed.

Review copyright © Elle Carter Neal 2006, updated 2021

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

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.


11 thoughts on “The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb – Review

  • Wednesday at 11:06 PM

    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


  • Saturday at 3:35 PM

    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.

  • Friday at 7:33 PM

    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*

  • Saturday at 9:59 PM

    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. 😉

  • Tuesday at 11:21 AM

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

  • Monday at 7:11 AM

    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!


  • Monday at 9:24 AM

    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 🙂

  • Wednesday at 9:19 PM

    Thanks Alex!

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

  • Monday at 4:46 AM

    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.

  • Tuesday at 4:38 PM

    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.

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