The way I read has changed since I started blogging. I can no longer seem to just read one book at a time and often find myself with four or five on the go at once. Sometimes, though, there comes a point where one book becomes so absorbing that I have to drop everything else and concentrate solely on that book right to the end. That’s what happened with Royal Assassin; other books had to be pushed aside while I became immersed in the world of the Six Duchies.
Royal Assassin is the second of The Farseer Trilogy and continues the story begun in Assassin’s Apprentice. If you haven’t read the first book yet, be aware that spoilers may follow!
At the beginning of the novel, FitzChivalry Farseer has survived his mission in the Mountain Kingdom and is ready to return home. On arriving at Buckkeep, however, Fitz is confronted with a new set of problems. King Shrewd is suffering from a mysterious illness and is losing control of his kingdom, while his son, King-in-Waiting Verity, is preoccupied with defending the coastal Duchies from the persistent attacks of the Red Ship Raiders. Currently, Verity’s only weapon against the Raiders is the Skill – a form of magic known to only a select few within the keep – but it is having little effect. When he hears tales of the mythical Elderlings who once helped a previous king tackle the threat of the Raiders, Verity sets off to find them – a journey that will take him far away from Buckkeep.
It is left to Fitz, then, to try to protect Buckkeep and its inhabitants from the plots of Prince Regal who, with his elder brother gone and his father ill, has set his sights on taking the throne for himself. Fitz is not entirely alone and can rely on the help of old friends – Burrich the Stablemaster, Chade, his instructor in the arts of assassination, and his father’s widow, Patience – as well as new ones such as Verity’s Queen-in-Waiting, Kettricken, but with Regal intent on removing anyone who gets in the way of his ambitions, it’s a difficult and dangerous time for Fitz and his allies. He is able to find comfort in his reunion with Molly, the woman he loves, and also in a special bond with a wolf called Nighteyes, but even these relationships are not without their complications…
I loved Assassin’s Apprentice when I read it a couple of months ago and I’m pleased to say that I found this book just as good as the first – possibly even better. I can only think of two things that bothered me slightly about this book. First, I couldn’t quite believe that Verity would abandon Buckkeep at such a crucial moment. I understand why his leaving was necessary for the plot; it just seemed a bit unconvincing to me. Also, I find Regal a disappointingly one-dimensional villain. Unless things are going to change in the third book, he seems to have absolutely no good qualities or nuances to his character – though maybe this is only noticeable because most of the others are so interesting and well developed. I realise that I still haven’t mentioned one of the most intriguing characters in the book: the Fool. Sometimes he seems so clever and wise, at other times so vulnerable and childlike. I think I said in my review of Assassin’s Apprentice that I wanted to know more about the Fool; well, we do learn a little bit more, but he is still a character surrounded by mystery.
I find the inhabitants of Buckkeep and the relationships between them so interesting that the Red Ship Raiders and Forging storyline becomes secondary to me. I thought the Skilling and Wit passages in this book were particularly well written; sometimes novels with plots that rely on telepathic communications can seem unrealistic, but here I had no problem believing in Fitz’s conversations with Nighteyes, to give one example. In the previous novel I didn’t fully understand the implications of The Wit and the problems it could cause, but now things are a bit clearer. The role it plays in the story is fascinating, especially towards the end!
The first two books in this trilogy have been among the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. The third one, Assassin’s Quest, is on my library pile and I’ll have to start it soon as it looks enormous!