Friday, 9 January 2015

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

The next book in the saga of Fitz, bastard son of the former heir to the throne. I don't know what I want to say about it, other than that I enjoyed it. It's hard when you hit the second book in a series, and like it, but don't find that it's substantially different from the first, or that you have new and exciting things to relate, new ideas to mull. This is very much like the first one. Since I enjoyed the first one, this was not a problem.

But it does leave me at a bit of a loss. It also points to one major point - as fun as this book is, and it is, it doesn't really advance the overall storyline that far. It does progress a bit - the kingdom is still under threat from the raiders, the king grows increasingly frail, and a group sets out on a quest, and there is a grab made for power. None of this is surprising - it's the person you would pretty much expect. There is a pleasure in the obvious. But is it enough?

Fitz is coming into his own, old enough to operate independently, even if he's incredibly weak as the book begins. Well, so is the King. King-in-Waiting Verity spends all his time holding off the raiders, but to do so, has absented himself from the kingdom, who don't realize what he does to keep them sick. Regal, the youngest son, is still a power-hungry pain in the ass who is probably behind the not-too-subtle assassination attempts on Fitz.

Fitz continues to use the Wit, the power to speak to animals, and have trouble with it Speech? The same thing, but with humans, more or less. He tries to protect the new queen-in-waiting, who seems to have different plans for what royalty means than the present leadership thinks. She rallies the kingdom, while others seem bent on disassembling it to the highest bidder.

Hobb is excellent in showing us a kingdom on the verge of flying apart, torn by people who want what's best of themselves, or want revenge, or are just unable to see behind their own noses. Others see the larger picture, but have trouble asserting themselves when it might be most necessary.

One thing that bothered me, though, was that there were several times when Fitz tried to have an honest conversation about what was going on behind the scenes with people who could be in place to do something about it, and kept getting shut down for talking disloyalty. Could we not have the fucking conversation, and then have the reaction be disloyalty? Because at least twice, we were getting perilously close to the lazy "if they just talked about it, things would get resolved, and we can't have that, so we need bullshit reasons to keep the conversation from happening" tactic.

That aside, I enjoyed this book very much. I hope the next one moves the storyline along a bit more, but this world is fascinating, and the characters strong. I enjoy spending time with them very much. Now, if we could just shake them until they talk, everything would be good.

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