Royal Assassin
Robin Hobb

Cover 'Royal Assassin' is the second book in the Farseer Trilogy. Much less time is enveloped in this book than in the last one. Scarcely a year passes, whereas serveral years passed in the first.

Fitz is not a well person. The poisoning he suffered at the end of the first book was not fatal, but has had a lasting effect. Whenever Fitz exerts himself he succumbs to a fit of shaking and passes out.

Regal sees Fitz's lack of strength as a victory for himself. He hasn't yet managed to place himself in line to the throne, but is much closer and one of the major obstacles, Fitz, is now ill and terrified of him.

There are no new characters introduced in this book. The plot, however, thickens.

Kettricken, the mountain princess, moves into Buckkeep to be with her husband, Crown Prince Verity. She is not what the people of Buckkeep are used to in royalty. She sees herself as the servant of her people, rather than the people as her servants. This makes settling in for her a rather difficult process. She begins to win the confidence of the people when Fitz, at the urgining of Chade, becomes her advisor and confident on court protocol.

Verity would have tried to help Kettricken settle in, but he has to keep himself locked away in the tower Skilling, to keep as many of the Red Ship Raiders from the Duchies shores. It is a task that is not going very well. No matter what he tries the Red Ships always attack where the defenses are weakest. In the depth of winter he decides the only hope is for him to seek the help of the Elderlings. He embarks on the quest and leaves Regal in charge of the kingdom.

Regal loves the opportunity, and as soon as Verity is away, he begins to strip Buckkeep and the coastal duchies, moving everything inland. He says this is for safe keeping, to stop the raiders from getting it, but all those in the know, namely Fitz, know he is consolidating his position with the inland duchies. When he's able he'll sever the link to the coastal duchies and declare the inland ones as a kingdom, with him as King.

Throughout all this King Shrewd, becomes sicker and sicker. This is why Regal is left to run rampant destroying the solidarity and morale of the Six Duchies.

There are a lot more twists and subplots, not everything goes Regal's way, but much more detail would spoil the story.

There is an interesting development with the Red Ships. Fitz, when out in one of the patrol boats, sees a white ship leading the Reds. No-one else can see it and he is told to keep quiet about what he thinks he saw as an all white ship is an augur of death, destruction and desolation. Little more is said about the white ship apart from the scene in which Fitz sees it. Obviously it will have some greater significance in the final book, as I hope will the Raiders.

The Red Ship Raiders are the one new element which shifts this trilogy from totally cliche fantasy, but they are hardly used or developed at all. They are simply a constant background threat. A diversion to allow the kingdom to be in enough unrest for the politicking within the Six Duchies to foment.

As with the first book in the trilogy the writing is very good, simple, easy and enjoyable to read. Robin does still tend to get bogged down in a few places. The story becomes too reflective and grinds to a halt.

A 3 star book. It could have been a 4 star if Robin had paid more attention to the Red Ship Raiders, the only novel aspect of the trilogy.