Often times, I'm a little hesitant when I pick up older Fantasy. I haven't read an abundance of older Fantasy books, but I have discovered from the few I have read that I'm not always a fan of the "Classic" feel. It can be tropey & predictable & even campy, but it really just depends so I never like to let my hesitations keep me from giving things a try!
Even after a 3 star beginning to the Farseer Trilogy, I'm really glad I continued on with the series.
Royal Assassin stepped up to fill in all the places where I wanted more from Assassin's Apprentice.
Yes, the pace is still slow. But I found myself 100% invested in what was happening in each & every scene.
Yes, Fitz is still a poster boy for suffering. But the foundation provided by the first installment created an attachment to Fitz's well-being that makes his suffering meaningful for character growth.
Yes, the setting is still largely at Buckkeep. But the political situation & Regal's continual scheming have developed into a formidable creature with many facets to address & thus, Buckkeep castle is an appropriate center point of the conflict.
The character development for both minor & major characters is off the charts in this installment. Lady Patience, Burrich, Molly, Chade, Kettricken, Verity, and The Fool experience some wonderful growth that expands on the social condition of Fitz's life.
Seeing him forge his relationships while balancing his promises of loyalty, the attacks of the Red Ship Raiders, the Forging of Six Duchies folk, and figuring out how his Wit and Skill will best serve the Realm was quite a treat.
I also want to mention that the addition of a character named Nighteyes is a huge plus & provides some extraordinary complexity to Fitz in ways I can't explain without spoiling parts of the book!
Whereas before I didn't feel myself fully connecting to the story, this time around I was totally engaged & on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. Each scene felt immediately important to the overarching conflict or to developing a critical piece of characterization. This with the addition of a couple new characters makes for a narrative that feels complete & satisfying.
I've said it before, but I must say again just how excellent Hobb's writing is. Dialogue, description, action, you name it, she can write it masterfully. It flows like honey without being superfluous & I can say without a doubt it's one of my all time favorite writing styles among the many authors I've read.
And this may sound strange, but this book in particular has some of the most beautifully & tastefully written scenes of intimacy that I have ever read in my entire life. If all such scenes were written with this degree of skill I'd probably never find them intrusive (as I often do).
I knocked off half a star because I feel like by this point in the story I should be more familiar with the magic systems of The Skill and The Wit. There's plenty of experience with both forms of mental magic through Fitz, but I feel like they remain ill-defined as far as magic systems go. It doesn't feel detrimental to the story largely because of the First Person POV, we experience the magic in the same way Fitz does (without much of a clue). But I still wish I understood the fundamentals a bit better than I do after spending so much time in this world.
Altogether a splendid upgrade from the first novel. My investment in the characters & story has grown exponentially & I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this story pans out!