Assassin's Quest
Robin Hobb

Cover

In the back cover blurb there is a quote attributed to Locus magazine. It reads 'Assasin's Quest achieves a bittersweet powerful complexity rare in fantasy' To this I reply, CRAP.

When I began reading this book I thought it would end as three stars like the first two books in the trilogy; then as I progressed I thought, hmm this is getting pretty bad. It only deserves two stars; and now at the end it's not even worth that. This is a one star book. It is bad. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

Before I list the many problems I have with this book I'll tell you what happens. FitzChivalry, royal bastard and king's assassin, is dead. The book opens with his grave-birth and rehabilitation. In order to save himself at the end of the last book Fitz used his wit ability to transfer his consciousness into his bonded companion Nighteyes, the wolf. Now to resurrect himself his body is exhumed by some friends and reanimated. Fitz then transfers himself back to his body. Once there he has to be re-educated as to what it is to be a man rather than a wolf. This takes a while.

Meanwhile Prince Regal has decalred his brother dead and proclaimed himself king. He as also set about stripping Buck and moving everything inland to his home Duchies.

Once Fitz finally regains his composure the coastal duchies are in a fine mess. Red Ships rage up and down the coast and there is no organised resistance. Fitz decides to forswear his oath to the late King Shrewd on the flimsy pretext that the king is dead and so was he for a while. His one aim in life his simple revenge. He plans to kill Regal for everything he has done to him in the past.

What follows for the first half of the book is Fitz traveling across the countryside to make a bungelled attempt on Regals life. Having filed that he goes off to find the rightful king, Verity, to oust his brother and bring peace and harmony back to the Six Duchies. The second half of the book is devoted to Ftiz treking across the countrydie in a figgerent direction to accomplish this task.

Now what is wrong with this? Sounds like a standard quest fantasy? Well…

FitzChivalry is a moron. He cannot grasp the most obvious and simple concepts. Before you complain that what is know to the reader might not be known to the protagonist, I should point out the entire book is written in the first person from Fitz's point of view. The reader can only know what he knows.

Molly, his beloved and betrothed, dumps him for another man who is going to be the centre of her world. Any normal person would be able to read between the lines and realise she's pregnant, but not Fitz the stupid. He has several Skill dreams about her as seen through the eyes of someone else, but he doesn't notice she's pregnat until the night he sees her giving birth.

He also has Skill dreams of Burrich, the man who raised him, from the eyes of someone else. And he lacks the mental agility to see that the place Burrich lives and the place Molly lives are one and the same. Burrich is taking care of Molly. This is obvious from the first mention of each of them, but the half-brained main charcater can't see it.

These are two incidents related to the main character, but this aren't the only aspects of the novel which are too obvious for words. Kettle is from an old Skill cortier. This is meant to come as a shocking and surprising revelation. It doesn't. I knew it as soon as the character showed unusal and convienient knowledge of the use and properties of Skilling.

Then there are the Elderlings. Verity finds them asleep and con't rouse them. All his skill power is useless. Of course Fitz rouses them with his Wit ability, but it takes two hundred pages from when her first encounters them to when he realises how to wake them. I knew as soon as he first encountered them that it was going to be his maligned Wit that saved the day.

So that is a few of the points were the obvious is meant to come a suprising revelation later. The next flaw is a major conceptual one that was perpetrated in the first book and perpetuated until the last. The Elderlings, the mythical beings that saved the Six Duchies the last time they were threatened by the out islanders. The beings for whom no pictorial reference exists and no written description. The Elderlings are dragons, pure and simple. This in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when they find the sleeping dragons. They have an entire cultural history of them. They are instatnly recognised as dragons by their form, and have the traditionally conceptual abilities attached to them. They are a common mythical beast. Everyone knows all about them, yet noone remembers they are the Elderlings? Puh-lease. Since the Edlerlings are dragons, and are called dragons by the charaters in the book, why, oh why does Robin try to make them enigmatic and mysterious by calling them Elderlings? She may as well call the horses quewbugs.

Next is the writing. At one point there is a whole page of description of a city that is a duplication of an eraly page describing the city. This book is padded with redundant verbiage. This is book three in a trilogy. The first book is four hundred and eighty pages long, this one is eight hundred and thirty eight pages long. The additional three hundred odd pages add nothing to the story. A full third of the book could have, and should have, been edited out. This is the first book I've read where I've started to skim the page rather than read it. I lost nothing from the story. What I did do was avoid reading pages of static descriptive narrative that advanced the story not a jot.

My next gripe with this book is the convenience of everything, especially Fitz's Skill ability. His Skill ability has been intermittent throughout the trilogy, but in this book it serves a much more insidious function. Its soul purpose seems to be to keep the reader informed of what the other characters are doing in the book since none are traveling with Fitz. What had been an interesting character trait is now a hacks plot device.

Finally the finale. The last fifty pages are straight author narrative telling us how the book concludes. There is a facile attempt to excuse this as Fitz writing his memoirs of events he did not witness but heard about from Staling, the minstrel. It is infodump of the most crass kind.

It took me two months to read this book as I was loath to pick it up once I'd put it down. I am however, a stubborn person and wadded through to the end. But having done this I'm advising everyone else never to even pick it up. The cover is enticing, but the book is bad. Do yourself a favour and DON'T READ IT!