NOTE: THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN A TRILOGY. I REVIEWED AND ENJOYED FIRST BOOK, AND IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT, GO READ IT, AS THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR IT.
Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.
Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.
Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb is a typical second book in what is shaping up to be a very enjoyable first trilogy, and I quite enjoyed jumping into it straight after finishing the first book in the trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice.
Royal Assassin brings us back to all of our favorite characters, at least, those who survived the first book. In particular, we follow Fitz’s viewpoint for the entire story again, watching as he starts to really be an adult and have some power over those around him. He continues to grow more relatable, even though his life is far from anything I’ve ever experienced. His struggles feel real, and at times, incredibly frustrating.
We also see more of Burrich, Chade, Royal and Verity, Shrewd, and Molly, all the characters we came to know in the first book. There are hardly any new additions, however, and this book is very much a “dig deeper” instead of “spread wider” type of book, something rather uncommon in the fantasy world these days. I liked this digging, as it helped to give the feel that Hobb has complete control over her plot and characters, instead of letting them run rampant and multiply as, say, GRRM has done.
The magic continues to be semi-standard telepathic type magic, and it’s not the main focal point of the novel, though it continues to play an important role. I found myself neither excited nor disappointed by its possibilities—nothing short of Hurley or Sanderson levels of magical coolness gets me excited anymore—but it was well thought out and served its purpose well.
I found that, because I continued to be more and more engaged by the same characters, that this book didn’t have quite the same dragging feeling that the first book had, though it also wasn’t an incredibly fast book. There is no breakneck plot, which is just fine. This is the kind of book that enjoys what it is, and it feels good.
The emotional hooks here are definitely deeper too, and Hobb continues to put her characters through the wringer. While the tension only very gradually rises, the amount of pain the characters are going through is at a constant high level, both emotionally and at times physically. This, perhaps, more than anything, is what makes the book so engaging, and overall gave it a more cohesive feel.
The plot is the most “second book” part of the book, for sure. It leaves all of its threads unresolved, and I didn’t feel like it really even ended the threads that it should have. It did have an intense ending, but I have to admit that I was expecting more to be tied up, and new problems expanded for the third and final book.
In summary, Royal Assassin was a satisfying second book that dug deeper into all of the characters that we came to know in the first book, and used this digging to intensify the emotional pain that Hobb could deal to them. I did not find the plot to be as satisfying as I had hoped, and while it does leave me wanting the third book, I wish it had resolved a few more threads with its conclusion. I definitely give it four of five stars, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to what I hope is a conclusive final volume in the trilogy.