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Author Topic: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)  (Read 6302 times)

Offline thedoctor

Before starting this review, I just wanted to mention that I would love to hear from people who have read more of Robin Hobb's work to get their opinion on whether I should read more of her books.  Even if you don't have time to read the review, it would be great if you could comment (especially if you can tell me that her endings get better!)  I think she is a great writer, but as you will see, this ending left a bitter taste in the mouth and I am now not sure whether to read more of her stuff.

I have not felt this strongly about a book in a long time.  Unfortunately it is not a good feeling this time.  This review will contain spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy and this book itself.  I figure that given the date of the books, there aren't many people who have read the first two but not the third.

Just to quickly set the scene, I will talk briefly about the first two books.  The first book worked well as a stand alone story, but also as something setting the scene for bigger events.  It was about Fitz growing up, but it also introduced the two main threats facing the Six Duchies: the Outislanders and Prince Regal.  It was always obvious that we would get no resolution on those stories in the first book, and I remember thinking that the book must have been planned as a trilogy from the beginning. 

In the second book both the threats are really developed.  Prince Verity struggles to keep the Outislanders away and Prince Regal is slowly killing the King and positioning himself to take over.  It all came to a head in a brilliant ending where Verity had to go beyond the Mountain Kingdom to get help from the mythical Elderlings and Fitz had to fake his own death to escape Regal.  So far so good.  It also managed to avoid a common problem with trilogies--the boring second book syndrome. 

At this point I will say that I had a view of what was going to happen in the third book and how it might pan out.  I always saw the Regal threat as the more minor of the two, so I thought Fitz would kill Regal in the first half of the book and then Verity would arrive with the Elderlings and the second half of the book would be about the battle of fend off the Outislanders.  Well, if I was given 100 attempts to predict the third book, I still would have failed. 

Before I start criticizing this book (and that may take a while), I will discuss the positives.  Hobb is brilliant with characters.  Fitz is certainly one of my favourite protagonists in fantasy fiction.  The whole book is told from his perspective so it is crucial to have a likable, but not boring, character.  The only comparison I can make is to Kvothe in Name of the Wind, however Fitz is actually flawed and in my opinion that makes him more interesting.  Hobb is also great with relationships.  The relationships Fitz had with Nighteyes, the Fool, and Verity, could have come across as cheesy and unrealistic, but Hobb deals with them brilliantly.  In fact, despite my displeasure with this book, I can safely say that Hobb is a great writer.  Unfortunately, she may not tell a great story.

I said this book would include spoilers and I am now going to spoil 98% of the book with one word: walking.  It is basically all that happens.  Fitz walks from one place to another.  Sometimes with company, and sometimes without.  He meets other characters who often play no part in the story and then moves on.  Imagine Lord of the Rings (spoilers coming up - although if you haven't read LOTR yet then shame on you :-)) without all the battle stuff--just Frodo and Sam.  And then imagine that they don't meet Gollum.  And they don't come across any significant dangers along the way, except maybe a mountain that is tricky to climb.  And then they throw the ring in the fire and Mordor collapses.  That is kind of this book.  It is just so boring!

Even the dragons are boring!  I mean, an old weak Verity slowing chipping away at a stone to make a dragon, is hardly exciting.  I also think it is cheating a little.  I would have preferred the ending to have been based more on the magic system set up in the first two books.  I appreciate that it leans heavily on the Skill, but I still was a little surprised to see Dragons featuring in the story (although with hindsight the huge dragon on the cover should have been a minor clue).  It just didn't feel like a world that had dragons in it.

Another problem is the lack of urgency.  We are constantly told about the threat of the raiders and Regal but it is hard to really think that is important.  In the second book there was a real sense of urgency, but in this one they spend months walking through woods and building dragons.  In fact, I have no idea how much time passed in this book, it just didn't seem to be an issue.  Occasionally we see a raid through someone else's eyes, but that just makes you wonder why there is not more of a rush.

Needless to say, the ending was a huge disappointment.  Not with regards to the characters.  I liked the endings for them, even though it was a little sad in places.  The actual story however, had one of the worst endings I have read in fantasy literature.  I may have been happier if Fitz had woken up in New York in 2012 and it had all just been a dream.  I have no idea what possessed Hobb to take what little story there was here and stretch it out over 758 pages.  It seems to be part of a common pattern though.  The first book starts off short and is a success.  The author gets carried away and writes two huge sequels, which lose the pacing that made the first book such a success (see also the Mistborn trilogy I think).

The book gets 5/10 because of the character development.

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2012, 11:05:24 PM »
I loved Assassin's Quest, but you are allowed to dislike it, it does involve a lot of 'walking' and you are certainly far from alone in disliking the ending to the trilogy. 

BUT - if it had built up to a predictable epic battle as you seem to have wanted it to, we would have had a fairly conventional fantasy novel, instead we had 700 of the most emotional pages ever put to prose.  I literally bawled my eyes out at various points - the cost and sacrifice Fitz made for his kingdom and the family who treated him as little more than a tool, the sacrifice Verrity makes, the pain and loss Burrich and Molly go through, and poor Kettricken ... its just heart wrenching stuff....and there the growing bond between him and Nighteyes and the Fool, which become all so more important in the following trilogies... and remember this isn't a stand alone trilogy, its part of a far bigger tapestry...

Try the Live Ships trilogy though, you might enjoy it more, certainly its a lot faster paced with a lot more action. :)
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Offline Arry

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Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2012, 11:41:43 PM »
After reading the Farseer trilogy, i had to read the Tawny Man trilogy. I love Hobb's work, her character development is amazing.... (i can get a little impatient reading it at times because it's slower paced than some of my other favorites....but i would never complain because the stories are so good)

I will say, i was more satisified with the ending of tawny man.... I couldnt stop with the way farseer ended
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Offline thedoctor

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2012, 12:39:20 AM »
BUT - if it had built up to a predictable epic battle as you seem to have wanted it to, we would have had a fairly conventional fantasy novel, instead we had 700 of the most emotional pages ever put to prose.  I literally bawled my eyes out at various points - the cost and sacrifice Fitz made for his kingdom and the family who treated him as little more than a tool, the sacrifice Verrity makes, the pain and loss Burrich and Molly go through, and poor Kettricken ... its just heart wrenching stuff....and there the growing bond between him and Nighteyes and the Fool, which become all so more important in the following trilogies... and remember this isn't a stand alone trilogy, its part of a far bigger tapestry...

I definitely agree that there was some excellent stuff in there.  One work of genius was when we are told near the beginning of the book that Fitz never sees Molly and Burrich again and that they never find out he survived.  That affected how I read the rest of the book and really added to the emotional pull of the Molly/Burrich scenes. 

BUT that is not all I need in a fantasy novel.  Especially not one that has built up a story over two previous books.  Sometimes the first book in a series is a little slow and light on action and then it builds up, but here we seem to have lots of build up and then a complete change of pace that I found jarring.  Obviously we disagree, but for me this was just not enough. 

A book that is all emotion and nothing happening is like a book that is full of action but with no attachment to the characters i.e. not a complete waste, but a missed opportunity.  After reading the first book I was sure it was a trilogy I would re-read at some point, but I doubt I will ever pick it up again now.

After reading the Farseer trilogy, i had to read the Tawny Man trilogy. I love Hobb's work, her character development is amazing.... (i can get a little impatient reading it at times because it's slower paced than some of my other favorites....but i would never complain because the stories are so good)

I will say, i was more satisified with the ending of tawny man.... I couldnt stop with the way farseer ended

I didn't realise that Tawny Man brought back the same characters!  That is good news!  I thought her future books just used the same world, but not the same characters.  Can anyone comment on whether skipping to the Tawny Man trilogy spoils any of the books she wrote before that?  Regardless of how annoyed I was with this book, I cannot pass up the chance to spend more time with these characters.
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Offline Noirdeathe

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2012, 08:45:23 PM »
I think Robin Hobb was the last set of books to ever truly leave me wanting more. I read The Tawny Man / Assassin and Liveship series in pretty much the span of two months (thank-god work was slow). All I can say is stick them out; I got a bit tired during the fattest of the Assassin series but it does pick up, though, I suggest the Tawny man series more.

Edit: Sorry if it's a little vague, just realised it was about 10 years ago when I read them .. damn.

Offline Tym

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2012, 12:54:02 PM »
Hmmm Robbin Hobb's books are very the plot is the character. Which let me excuse the fact that Regal was a very one dimensional villian:P
But yeah, plotting, as in regards to the actualy plot, isn't Hobb's strenght. Or she's just highlighting the characters through lack of plot. And (slight spoiler) the connection between the cortier leader and the ship is such an anticlimax in the Tawny Man trilogy.
I guess it just depends on what you like. If you could excuse the story plot for the character's plot, then you should giver her liveship trilogy a go (best characters I've ever read), but if the lack of a plot conclusion bothered you that much, then I don't think you'll like the rest of her work.

So, yeah, I could've just said: "Meh, depends on yourself"  ;D

Offline Langolin

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2012, 01:57:01 PM »
I didn't realise that Tawny Man brought back the same characters!  That is good news!  I thought her future books just used the same world, but not the same characters.  Can anyone comment on whether skipping to the Tawny Man trilogy spoils any of the books she wrote before that?  Regardless of how annoyed I was with this book, I cannot pass up the chance to spend more time with these characters

Yes, the Tawny Man trilogy follows right on from the Farseer trilogy (about 10 or so years later, I think). I enjoyed it more than the Farseer trilogy, it is packs a pretty hefty emotional punch, though not much more action.

Offline Chris Northern

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2012, 04:07:13 PM »
I'm a big fan of Rob Hobbs and have read everything in the Farseer world in the order published. Some are better than others and I'd like some things to have been handled differently, but all in all, they are great reads. The Liveship trilogy are by far the best imho (though I will always have a soft spot for Fitz despite the absurdity of the end of his story in Fool's fate).

Despite the flaws (as I see them) I absolutely recommend them all.

Offline Perloo

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2015, 07:21:47 PM »
I've just finished the Farseer Trilogy and have the same mixed feelings about the ending of book 3 (Assassin's Quest). Although I didn't observe the book having flaws, or being disappointing throughout, I was highly disappointed in the ending. It wasn't tragic,  or happy, it was just boring. I was expecting something like a final battle and satisfying ending (be it happy or tragic) that would wrap up all of the struggles and fears that we had read about all along. Instead, the solution seemed to come so easily and left Fitz with no motivation at all to move on in life. He didn't seem to be passionate about anything.

I grew so close to Fitz throughout all 3 books and to observe him have such an unremarkable ending after such a crazy life was really upsetting.

Does anyone having a deeper interpretation of that particular ending? There might be something that I missed or didn't pick up on. Or, is it that you have to read more books in the series before coming across some real closure? If so, it may be worth it to read on, but I'm not looking forward to anymore endings like this. 

I agree that the timeline was somehow unimportant in this 3rd book. I also have to admit that in retrospect it looks as though Robin Hobb just wanted to end this trilogy and get on with something else. The amount of effort and detail put into the first 2 books is not consistent with the ending of this final book.

I'm hesitant to begin reading anymore of her books even though I loved these characters and amount of detail put into the first 2 Farseer trilogy books.   :(

Offline Raptori

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Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2015, 08:13:16 PM »
I've just finished the Farseer Trilogy and have the same mixed feelings about the ending of book 3 (Assassin's Quest). Although I didn't observe the book having flaws, or being disappointing throughout, I was highly disappointed in the ending. It wasn't tragic,  or happy, it was just boring. I was expecting something like a final battle and satisfying ending (be it happy or tragic) that would wrap up all of the struggles and fears that we had read about all along. Instead, the solution seemed to come so easily and left Fitz with no motivation at all to move on in life. He didn't seem to be passionate about anything.

I grew so close to Fitz throughout all 3 books and to observe him have such an unremarkable ending after such a crazy life was really upsetting.

Does anyone having a deeper interpretation of that particular ending? There might be something that I missed or didn't pick up on. Or, is it that you have to read more books in the series before coming across some real closure? If so, it may be worth it to read on, but I'm not looking forward to anymore endings like this. 

I agree that the timeline was somehow unimportant in this 3rd book. I also have to admit that in retrospect it looks as though Robin Hobb just wanted to end this trilogy and get on with something else. The amount of effort and detail put into the first 2 books is not consistent with the ending of this final book.

I'm hesitant to begin reading anymore of her books even though I loved these characters and amount of detail put into the first 2 Farseer trilogy books.   :(
Assassin's Quest was definitely my least favourite out of the first trilogy. I felt the Tawny Man books were better than any of the first trilogy so it's definitely worth carrying on imo, you'll be missing out on a lot if you don't! Liveships is very different, but if you can get over the multiple third-person viewpoints (which can be jarring when all you want is more Fitz) it's brilliant - definitely my favourite of the lot.

There is a specific reason for Fitz feeling demotivated and dispassionate about everything, and it's a plot point early on in the Tawny Man trilogy (well done for actually identifying the exact feelings). He does snap out of it, and by the end of Tawny Man there's a bit more of a satisfying conclusion - though it's very bittersweet in some ways and some people felt it should have ended differently. Thankfully the loose ends left there have been picked up in the beginning of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy though.

I don't think Fitz's story will ever have true closure unless he dies, but that's part of what makes his story feel so real. They're the kind of endings that grow on you as time goes by, I disliked the endings on the first read through but like them more every time I re-read the books.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2015, 08:46:42 PM »
The part I most enjoyed in Assassin's Quest was the 'discovery' of the dragons, the spilling of life into them. It just touched me in a way that was bigger than my connection to Fitz (who isn't actually the be-all and end-all of the books for me, unlike for others).
I felt the end reflected that, almost a soft fading than a proper ending, and I really liked it. Like those music videos where the music just grows softer and softer without ever actually stopping, and suddenly you're seeing something else.

I've then only read the Liveship Traders trilogy, which like Raptori said is very different from the Farseer. It's wider in scope, rather than almost the introspection that Fitz's books are (in my very limited experience). I much preferred it, but I also look forward to reading the next trilogy soon, and discover more about Fitz's life.

I like Raptori's idea that Fitz's story will never have true closure until he dies. It seems... fitting, somehow. Like he'll always be there :)
« Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 08:48:37 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2015, 05:35:12 PM »
I'm struggling with this book it nearly become a DNF a few times now.Just seems to be a lot of walking for what feels for a long time then it gets exciting for a bit then it's back to having a walk in the country or a mountain. I think I  miss the court intrigue in the first two books, just not working for me. I don't think I will carry on with Fitz after this.

Plus points are Kettle and Nighteyes
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2015, 05:48:28 PM »
I'm struggling with this book it nearly become a DNF a few times now.Just seems to be a lot of walking for what feels for a long time then it gets exciting for a bit then it's back to having a walk in the country or a mountain. I think I  miss the court intrigue in the first two books, just not working for me. I don't think I will carry on with Fitz after this.

Plus points are Kettle and Nighteyes
That one's definitely the low point, the first book and the sequel trilogies are better than books 2&3 imo.  ;)
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Offline ClintACK

Re: Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb (Book #3 in the Farseer Trilogy)
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2015, 08:05:05 PM »
I loved Assassin's Quest...

I think we knew that just from your screen name.  :)

Quote
Try the Live Ships trilogy though, you might enjoy it more, certainly its a lot faster paced with a lot more action. :)

This is what I was going to say, at first.

But then I thought:  @thedoctor , if you really want to read more conventional fantasy, there are lots of authors writing more conventional fantasy.  Robin Hobb is doing something different, and it's OKAY for that not to be your cup of tea.  You have permission to dislike her and go read someone else.  It doesn't make you a bad person.  Her other series aren't identical, but they're still recognizably her -- which is a big selling point for me.

Example: If you haven't read Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, it sounds like you'd like that a lot more.  He does characters and relationships, but there's well-plotted action going on at the same time.  And there are no long slogs through anything.

I hear you on LOTR, though -- when I was younger, I used to entirely skip the whole book with Frodo and Sam and Gollum walking through the stupid swamp.  It was *soooo* boring.  Because it's all character and relationship and no action.

I loved the Farseer books, but they are absolutely nothing like what I would write if you spun me: royal bastard with secret magic, raised to be an assassin in a palace with lots of secret passages and a mysterious master assassin and intrigue between the royal siblings and danger of a magic-viking invasion.  Heck, give me that and I'd be writing Assassin's Creed meets Game of Thrones.  (Can you imagine the story of one of Varys's little birds, except he actually gets to do things like poison Joffrey and free Tyrion?)

Anyway, it's up to you what you want to read, but if you had this strong a negative reaction to the end of the Farseer Trilogy, you're not suddenly going to love Robin Hobb in her other stories.  My advice is to find more authors writing the kind of stories you'll love to read.

Quote from: thedoctor
The only comparison I can make is to Kvothe in Name of the Wind, however Fitz is actually flawed and in my opinion that makes him more interesting.

I'd say Kvothe is extremely flawed -- it's just that most of the story is narrated from his own 'look how great I am' point of view.  You have to look through that to see the flaws, but he's got them by the truckload.  If the whole story were being told from Denna's or Sim's PoV, I'm not sure I'd even *like* Kvothe.  Find him interesting, yes, but not likable.