Author: Robin Hobb
Series: The Farseer Trilogy - Book 2
Review by: CL6 Talythia Starseeker
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This second book in the Trilogy starts with a more detailed recount of Fitz's return to Buckkeep after the time spent in the Mountain Kingdom recovering from the various and sundry attempts to kill him.
Upon his return, he finds a very different situation from when he left - not only is there now a Queen in Buckkeep, but King Shrewd is being slowing wasted away by a mysterious illness. With Verity busy overseeing the construction of a fleet of ships to help protect the coast, Fitz is left with trying to prevent the large numbers of Forged ones who seem to be attracted to Buckkeep, as well as educating Queen-In-Waiting Kettricken on how to survive at court.
Fitz soon encounters Molly, a girl he had once played with as a child in Buckkeep town. Before his departure to the Mountain Kingdom he had been getting closer to her but was too shy to make more of his attentions. It then becomes clear that she felt the same way about him, but because of his difficult position at court, it was dangerous for their relationship to go further. To complicate matters, Fitz becomes Bonded, despite his best efforts, to a wolf pup who he had rescued and looked after.
As spring comes and the Red Ship Raiders resume their onslaught of the coasts, Verity once more spends most of him time in his tower, attempting to befuddle the minds of the Raiders' navigators and pilots with his Skill. Prince Regal takes this opportunity to increase his hold on the castle, with his spies and lackeys preventing much access to King Shrewd. Fitz finds his life becoming much more complicated as he tried to hide both his relationship with Molly and his Bond to Nighteyes from those he knows in the Keep. The Fool continues to drop strange hints of the future to Fitz, and calls him a catalyst. Indeed, it seems no matter what Fitz does, he causes thing to happen around him.
Soon Verity and Kettricken hatch a plan for Verity to depart for the Mountain Kingdom, to seek out the fabled Elderlings and to plead for their help to defeat the Red Ship Raiders. With Verity gone and King Shrewd's health failing further, Fitz's already precarious position becomes more delicate still as his secrets are discovered by the members of Galen's Coterie, who appear to be working with Regal in discrediting Verity's efforts against the Raiders and declaring Verity as dead. As Regal's ambitions become more obvious, Fitz must help get Kettricken, the unborn heir and the King away from the castle, before it's too late...
Review: The plot thickens in this book, filled with court intrigue, which Fitz attempts to navigate through. The old fantasy chestnut of being bonded to a wolf pops up, but Robin Hobb's way of presenting this Bond and how Nighteyes thinks prevents the relationship from seeming just a cliché.
It becomes clear to the reader just how much The Fool and Fitz are linked - Fitz, the Catalyst, who manages to change the course of history even when he tries to do nothing, and The Fool, who can see that various pathways and cross roads that Fitz's existence creates for the future, some good, and some terrible and to be avoided at all costs. Once again the first person point of view draws the reader into Fitz's predicament, which gradually worsens by the moment. It must be impossible for anyone not to read this and feel some sympathy for Fitz, as his every action embroils him deeper and deeper into danger. Also, his many faults make it easier to sympathise with him - he's basically a normal person, we can understand why he reacts the way he does to things - he makes bad decisions, some of which the reader can see are going wrong - I often found myself thinking 'Oh Fitz, *why* did you do/say that?'
The ending is quite unique, and since I read the books in the wrong order, I knew what was coming and spent the last couple of chapters dreading what would be happening next. All in all a fantastic book, easily 5 stars, and in my opinion the best book of the Trilogy.
Title: Royal Assassin