Title: Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy #2)
Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Voyager, 1997
We resume with Fitz in the Mountain Kingdom, after he has foiled a plot instigated by his half-uncle Prince Regal, whom we've all come to love to hate by now. Months pass before he is well enough to travel back to Buckkeep, and in that time he suffers seizures. He really has lost much confidence.
He returns to a castle where King Shrewd is ill, and it's clear that Regal is machinating to take power (and ruin the kingdoms while he's at it). Prince Verity is tied up trying to protect the duchies from the Red Ship Raiders and, if that's not enough, the woman Fitz loves now works for Patience – his biological father's widow. Plainly put, it's a tangled mess, and Fitz's decisions don't always work out for the best.
We learn more of Fitz's Wit magic in his relationship with the wolf Nighteyes, whom he rescues from a trapper – and to me, this symbiotic relationship is one of the most beautiful friendships I've ever encountered in the written word. Hobb understands her subjects, be they people or animal.
Fitz suffers terribly, that is all I will say for fear of spoiling the story. By the end of the book, he really has gone through a crucible – especially since Prince Verity is no longer there to protect him, as he's gone haring off hunting for the fabled Elderlings to help against the raiders. Hobb offers potential twists that lulled me into expecting one outcome, only to have my expectations dashed as the story plunges ever more into yet another nadir. So far as the Fitz stories go, this one is perhaps the bleakest. And yet it is not without a glimmer of hope, and the ending is just perfect.
My thoughts on having reread are that I'd missed a lot of the nuance when I'd read this when I was younger. Hobb's staggering ability to perceive the hearts of her characters blows me out of the water. Even Regal's motivations are understandable. He's not a one-dimensional Disney-esque villain but one would almost wish that twisted creature that he is, it would be possible to redeem him.
Those who're fiending after fast-paced, action-packed adventures had best move on. As always, Hobb's writing rewards the patient reader who revels in a slowly unfolding epic masterpiece. Not a single bit of information or action is without some sort of impact later on in the story. There was no saggy middle-book syndrome with this installment.