when a prince’s bastard son becomes a royal assassin | series review

the farseer trilogy by robin hobb

Series Rating: ★★★★☆

Within the series: Assassin’s Apprentice (#1), Royal Assassin (#2), and Assassin’s Quest (#3)

A six-year-old boy is dropped off at a keep, returned by his family to the prince who fathered him. This boy comes to be known as FitzChivalry, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, next in line to the throne. Fitz becomes a catalyst to a series of events that occur in the land of the Six Duchies throughout his growing years. Invaders from the sea, tension within the royal family, and mysteries of magic and Elderlings create the chaos in which Fitz tries to find his place, and eventually realizes that while here is a mere boy, he’s also a piece of a larger puzzle.

Recommended if you like:

  • coming of age stories
  • dynamic characters and relationships
  • subtle yet complex fantasy
  • long, winding plots and descriptive writing

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My Spoiler-Free Review

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This series is our hero’s backstory, and a tragic backstory it is. Fitz’s childhood is tough, heartbreaking, and challenging.  The story begins when the only family he’s ever known basically abandoning him, and continues as he tries to find his place as the bastard son of a prince in a world that doesn’t care about him. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy boyhood story, this series isn’t it.

That said, Fitz’s story will tug at your heartstrings in the very best way. Hobb accomplishes this by writing a cast of complex, developed, interesting characters, including Fitz himself. He grows from an innocent young boy to a slightly exasperating teen, and finally a matured young man. Other characters, though not protagonists or evolving in such a dramatic way as coming of age, still shift and complete their own character arcs and development in satisfying ways. More than anything, Hobb excels at character development, dynamics, and relationships.

Throughout the series, Fitz brings together a found family of sorts, and his relationships with these people are deep yet complicated. He clashes with these people and he doesn’t like them all the time, but they are his people. These characters and their relationships not only make you fall in love with this trilogy, but want to continue reading the entire Realm of the Elderlings series.

The plot, though slow and perhaps meandering at times, has many shades to it as well. There are two major conflicts within the series: the first and foremost, a war with invaders from across the sea. The second and more subtle: tension within the royal family itself. When Fitz begins training as an assassin, a King’s Man for his grandfather King Shrewd, he is inexplicably drawn into this tension, and as he grows older, he plays his own part in it. As a bastard, he inevitably creates unique situations and tension himself, and it’s all deliciously suspenseful and dramatic.

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Hobb’s writing is a delight. Though she tends to be overly descriptive, you can’t say she doesn’t write a vivid world. The details and pictures she gives makes the world of the Six Duchies come alive, and as you read through the series, each new location featured is just as vibrant as the rest.

The magic in this fantasy world is subtle yet interesting. There are two types of magical abilities. First is the Skill. This ability allows someone to read another’s mind, see through their eyes, and also speak to them in their mind, sway their thoughts, or cause them to see an illusion. This Skill is found mainly in the royal bloodline, so Fitz, although he’s a bastard, could develop it. The second type of ability is called the Wit; in many ways, it’s the opposite of the Skill. This ability allows one to bond and communicate with animals. However, it is seen as a perversion and not encouraged or fostered by any civilized person. Both abilities are featured in this series, and you can imagine how they could create some conflicts.

In sum, pick up this series for a magical, political, suspenseful story. You will fall in love with the characters, delight in Hobb’s descriptive writing, and wonder at the magic of it all.

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Have you read The Farseer Trilogy? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

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