Book Review: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
I’ve been pretty committed to Robin Hobb. I first read Assassin’s Apprentice a few years ago and have since read virtually everything she’s written, aside from the Liveship Trader series (and there’s a reason I haven’t tackled that particular series yet).
Assassin’s Apprentice is possibly one of my favourite books. It’s very well written and I generally always enjoy medieval-style fantasy novels like it. I equally enjoyed Royal Assassin but I got a little less enthusiastic by the time I read Assassin’s Quest. Nevertheless, I carried on with The Tawny Man trilogy and also got stuck into the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which ended with the publication of Assassin’s Fate this year.
Before I get too stuck into this review, I should probably warn you that there are going to be some spoilers in this. If you haven’t read the book yet, I’ll try my best not to go too wild with plot ruiners. If you haven’t read ~any~ Robin Hobb yet, this might reveal some plot secrets (but probs nothing too life ruining).
Right, so, I’ll also start with saying that I did enjoy the book. One of the narrators is Bee Farseer, who I’ve always liked as a character. She’s great. Her storyline, in my opinion, was strongest. Hobb seems to write children very well and I think part of why I enjoyed her storyline best was because it’s reminiscent of Fitz as a child in Assassin’s Apprentice. In general, Hobb writes really well and Assassin’s Fate was a good final instalment of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy.
I think my main problem with the book was that there was just too much going on. This is something that started to develop in Assassin’s Quest and continued throughout the books centred on Fitz and the Fool. Robin Hobb does deal with the complex Six Duchies world well and her writing is strong enough to explain everything, but it’s just unecessary in my opinion. Let’s just take a moment to actually take stock of what the world consists of:
- Two types of magic
- An ancient, lost people who were even better at magic
- A way to teleport
- A magic river
- Dragons (both real and made from stone – and the stone ones can fly if someone carves it and puts their memories in it)
- Ships made from dragon cocoons, which can talk and do other stuff
- People who are half dragon and half human
- People who can see into the future
- Zombies (…the Forged Ones are pretty much zombies, lbh)
- Assassins and poisoners
- Kings, queens and other political shenanigans
- A Viking-type people who raid and do other bad egg things
- Very bad eggs that breed children and torture their enemies
- A wolf that is basically a human
- People who can change their personalities/appearance at will
- …and probably other stuff that I have forgotten
I mean, it is exhausting. Each of those could be a book in itself. I kind of lost as much enthusiasm in the Six Duchies world because of the complexity – but it was mostly the introduction of the dragons that killed it for me (both stone and real). I just don’t really get it – the world was good enough already, and it felt a bit like the dragons were tagged onto the story. This was probably my biggest problem with Assassin’s Fate as a whole – only a few dragons turn up at the end once most of the bad guys have been dealt with anyway. I found myself reading Fitz’s story as quickly as possible to get back to Bee’s because of all the dragon hassle.
With all the complexity and plotlines that have been developed over the previous 8 books, it could be forgiven that Assassin’s Fate felt a bit meandering at times. I guess Hobb needed to tie up all those loose ends in this book, but because of the complexity, it got a bit much. There are just ~so many~ characters and ~so many~ different storylines/plot devices, it felt like some of the book was a bit random in each character’s journey. Things that seemed to be important in other books (e.g. Chade and his obsession with the Skill), are just tagged onto this story as an afterthought. Nettle appears in it too, it seems for no other reason but to let the readers know she’s alright. It’s all a bit mishmashed and part of me wishes it was just about Bee’s journey and Fitz’s attempt to reach her – with no dragon, Skill-river, Elderling pillar nonsense.
So, while I did enjoy Assassin’s Fate and was glad to find out what happened in the final book, it probably wasn’t one of my favourite books read this year. It’s a shame really, because I do love Robin Hobb’s writing style and she creates such brilliant and realistic worlds. There’s just a bit too much magic and too much complexity for my liking. Funnily enough, I have the same opinion of Game of Thrones – amazing story, but do we have to have dragons and zombies?