Tuesday 6 May 2008

Assassin's Quest

At last, an update from me. I've been ill for a week or so and am still not completely well so have not been spending that much time online. I have been trying to read though but, over the last couple of days, not very successfully. No matter, today I have a book to talk about that covers three challenges in one. That can't be bad! Those challenges are, Carl's Once Upon a Time, the Here Be Dragons, and the Cardathon. For details of any of those see my sidebar.

Anyway, Assassin’s Quest is actually book three in the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb. I read the first two in the series in 2006 and it’s taken me two years to get back to it, a fact which I really do regret.

The main character in these books is Fitz. A nameless boy with no memories of the time before his mother gave him up, Fitz is brought up in the stables of Buckkeep, a coastal fortress, by stablemaster, Burrich, until he’s old enough to realize that he’s a royal bastard. He’s then taken into the main castle to learn court behaviour and, later, the role of a court assassin under the mysterious Chade. Fitz, it turns out, is the illegitimate son of the king-in-waiting, Chivalry, who has abdicated his position because of this bastard son and disappeared. His successor is Verity, a prince very powerful in the ‘Skill’ - a kind of magic that he has to use to try to prevent the Red Ship raiders from decimating the country’s coastline and ‘forging’ (rendering souless) the inhabitants. There is another brother, Regal, with a lust for power and a willingness to do anything to gain it and it is Fitz’s battle to stop this happening, and to help Verity with the war, which take up the majority of the first two books, Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin.

Assassin’s Quest picks up the story at the point where Verity has been gone for about a year. He set off to find a mysterious race called The Elderlings, to gain their assistance with the Red Ships, and has not returned. Regal has proclaimed himself king and is allowing the Red Ships to wreak havoc along the coast having moved himself and his court well inland to safety. Fitz first has to rehabilitate himself after a traumatic incident and then sets off to find Verity and The Elderlings. It’s a very long journey and most of the book revolves around his travels, incidents along the way, new characters he meets - and old ones as the enigmatic ‘Fool’ re-enters the fray. And more than that I’m not going to say as it would involve serious spoilers.

To tell the truth, I don’t believe I personally can do justice to these books. I’m going to stick my neck right out though and say that this series is one the best fantasy series out there and that Robin Hobb is a writer of the first calibre. As you can tell from my ham-fisted attempt at a review, the plotlines that run through the books are complex. There are twists and turns galore, political and court intrigue, and I would add that this is not a ‘fun’ or ‘light’ read and is definitely for adults, not children. Many dreadful things happen to all of the characters and there are readers who might find it all a bit much. I myself like humour and ‘some’ lightness in my reading but there isn’t a lot to be had in this series. Truthfully, if I knew why none of this mattered one iota to me, I’d say so. I think, to be honest, that it all boils down to the quality of the story-telling.

Assassin’s Quest is 830 pages long and I read it in precisely one week. That’s fast for me, as I'm a slow reader, and the way I did it was to aim to read about 100 pages a day. Apart from on busy days, this was not diffcult or a hardship and I did it easily. Of course it does help that Robin Hobb is a ‘page turner’ kind of author and once you get started it’s hard to stop. There are two more series in this universe. After the ‘Farseer’ trilogy come the three ‘Liveship Traders’ books and then the ‘Tawny Man’ trilogy. The ‘Liveship Traders’ series is set in the same world and country but with none of the same characters. The ‘Tawny Man’ books carry on with the story of Fitz and The Fool, so you could skip the middle series but most people suggest that you really shouldn’t. And I don’t plan to. And nor do I intend to wait another two years before I get back to reading Robin Hobb.


monix said...

Sorry that you have been unwell, Cath. I hope you are feeling better.

I have been reading your review with one eye closed, in the hope that I will only be half-tempted to add to my TBR pile. So far, so .....

DesLily said...

monix is funny lol..

good review Cath!! and like Monix, I am really sorry you've been under the weather. I hope you are feeling your chipper self soon!!

I am so trying to clamp down on ordering more books lol.. I need to get, at least, a few out of the tbr pile before i begin again lol.. you can remind me I said this the next time I mention ordering more books!

Anonymous said...

Cath, so sorry that you have been ill. You take good care of yourself and enjoy more reading!

Juliet said...

Hi Cath - very sorry to hear that you haven't been well. Hope you are feeling a lot better and that you'll soon be back, warbling brightly as you flit amongst the reads.

Cath said...

Hi Maureen. Thanks for your good wishes. I'm pleased to report that today, for the first time in over a week, I'm beginning to feel as though I *am* getting better.

Let us know if the 'one eye closed' method of not buying books works or whether it just makes you fall over the furniture. Interested book add... er... 'parties' need to know.

Feeling a bit better today, Pat, which is nice as it's a gorgeous day here in Devon.

Well, at least we are reading stuff off the tbr mountain with the challenges we're doing. The trouble is, I'm also certain the challenges make you buy more! I'm currently eyeing up three new ones and wondering if I really *should*...

Kay, thank you for your well wishes, much appreciated, and I am, at long last, starting to feel better.

Juliet, thank you for giving me a good giggle and for your good wishes too.

Susan said...

I'm glad you're feeling at least a little bit better, Cath.

I've never heard of this series, but it sounds great. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

Cath said...

Thanks, Susan. I'm feeling even better today, which I'm so pleased about as I was able to celebrate my birthday properly.

This series by Robin Hobb is well worth checking out. Your local library maybe?

Juliet said...

Hey, Happy Birthday!!

Cath said...

Gosh, that was quick, Juliet! But thank you. I'm just glad not be ill on my birthday. Not that we make a huge song and dance but it was nice to go over to the Chinese restaurant in Taunton and eat a nice lunch with my husband and not feel like death warmed up.

Juliet said...

Well I hope you enjoy the rest of it to the full. Maybe you can have that singing and dancing session later tonight?!

Robin said...

I'm sorry you've been ill, but am glad you are feeling better and are back to blogging. This book sounds like like a great summer read. I don't know if I'd dare start an 830 page book during the school year, but it sounds like a fun read during my summer break!

Jill said...

Happy birthday, and I hope you continue to improve! My 9yo has been out of school all week long with a fever that just loves to stay and make itself at home, sigh.

I really enjoyed Hobb's trilogy, and I'm glad you did, too!

BooksPlease said...

Happy Birthday for yesterday! glad you're feeling better now.

Robin Hobb is new to me, but his books certainly sound good. He'll just have to go on my list of authors to look out for. I like it when I can read a series in order, so it could be a while before I get round to "Assassin's Quest", especially if they're all so long.

Cath said...

Juliet... no the singing and dancing will be tomorrow when my grandaughter will be here for giggles with grandma. ;-)

Robin: you're quite right, Robin Hobb's books require some committment and they're best started when you have some free time ahead of you.

Hi Darla! Thank you. I do hope your 9 yo is much better now? Our illnesses really seem to be hanging around and a lot of people seem to have these bugs even though it's May.

Nice to meet someone else who has read Robin Hobb. I've been surprised that so few people on Blogger seem to know of her, plenty of other authors seem popular, but not her. It's a shame as I feel she's one of the best fantasy authors around at the moment. Have you read the two follow-on series?

Booksplease: Thank you, I'm still coughing well but otherwise feeling much better.

The first Hobb book, Assassin's Apprentice, is not as long, only 480 as opposed to over 800 pages. Long enough though! And yes, this series is much better read in order of writing.

StuckInABook said...

Glad you're feeling better!

Eloise said...

Sorry you've been ill, glad you're feeling a bit better now.

Jill said...

Thanks, Cath - she's much better now, except for the cough that keeps her up at night, poor kid. I suppose I should count myself lucky, though, that it's the first time she's been out sick all year!

I have not read the other series, although I do mean to. I'm trying to wait till a trilogy is fully out before starting it. Kind of sad, but when too much time goes by I end up having to reread the previous book so I can get the most out of the new one! I need to go back now that they are all published and do a Hobb marathon. Maybe this summer! :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that you've been ill, but glad to hear that you are better!

I love these books as well. Robin Hobb is definitely one of my favourite writers and her characters are some of my all-time favourite fictional people. Personally, I didn't enjoy The Liveship Traders as much as I did The Farseers and The Tawny Man, but some events in the middle trilogy do matter for the last one, so it's a good idea to have read them. And it's not quite true that it has none of the same characters, it just takes you a while to figure this out because it's not really too obvious.

It's been ages since I re-read all of these, I should do it soon. I've had as a project of mine for the past couple of years to get my brother to read them all, and now he's about to start on Fool's Errand. He's enjoying them all a lot, I might add.

Cath said...

Thank you to Stuckinabook and Eloise. I'm feeling much better now thanks.

Hi Darla. The cough that goes with that illness is horrendous. My husband and myself still have it even after ten days or so.

I left it two years to read the third in the Assassin series and thought I would never remember anything about the previous two. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case so you might find it easier to pick up the next series than you think.

Love: thanks for your good wishes.

How nice to find another Robin Hobb fan! Thanks for the tip-off about the characters in The LiveShip Trader series. I wasn't aware of that and am quite pleased to hear it. Very keen to read those now. I'm glad your brother is enjoying them. I'm the last in my family to read them as my husband and daughter already have and loved them. Though they both skipped the LiveShip Traders and have never read them.