Though it pains me to say this, Assassin's Quest is the weakest installment of the Farseer Trilogy. It's not necessarily a bad book but I am pretty split down the middle on things I did & didn't like about this conclusion and so a 2.5 stars felt appropriate.
While the opening scene is very strong, this book ultimately suffers from a monotonous journey with an indistinct & rushed conclusion. Unfortunately, I won't be able to explain myself further without spoilers.
So the book begins with the resurrection of Fitz's human form from Nighteyes. Burrich, Chade, & Nighteyes now accompany Fitz in a hidden cabin in the woods while he attempts to relearn what it means to be a man instead of a wolf.
This is a strong opening & is by far one of my favorite scenes in the book.
The sequence ends in an emotionally charged battle of words that scatters our heroes onto their own separate paths. The conflict is written incredibly well, with each character having a justifiable perspective. It pierced my heart to watch them allow their disagreements to fracture the group, but overall it felt like a realistic & necessary development for all involved.
So now Fitz strikes off with only Nighteyes to assassinate Regal & we come to one of my biggest qualms with this final book.
IT'S. SO. DAMN. REPETITIVE.
Events proceed as such from this point on:
1. Fitz is captured.
2. Fitz's situation looks completely inescapable.
3. Fitz escapes (usually with help from Nighteyes).
4. Fitz uses his Skill to peek in on Burrich & Molly.
5. Optional: Fitz meets a young woman who tempts him to sleep with her.
I haven't measured, but I can confidently say at least 60% of the book is made up of this cycle repeating itself.
The first time Fitz is captured, I was on the edge of my seat wondering how in the world he could escape from Will's grasp & from inside of Regal's castle. But when Fitz is captured twice more, the excitement of the moment is quite dampened by the fact that I'm certain he will find a way out of his situation.
This renders Fitz's capture/escape scenes pointless & uninteresting for the most part.
All the while, Fitz manages to meet three separate women (none of which are Molly) who all want to fuck him. Look, I know Fitz is supposed to be dashing or whatever, but this is overkill.
If this weren't enough to make me roll my eyes, all of these women turn out to be insufferable.
The first, Honey, makes Fitz the butt of all her jokes & sarcasm, only to sneak into his sleeping quarters within a couple days of knowing him. When he refuses, she goes back to being sour & self-important for the rest of the time she is in Fitz's company (even after he saves her life & her sister & father's lives).
The second, whose name isn't even important enough for me to remember, is part of a travelling caravan that Fitz briefly joins. He is momentarily tempted by her offer, but eventually declines out of loyalty to Molly. When thwarted, this girl threatens to go to the caravan leader with her suspicions that Fitz is the Farseer Bastard King Regal is searching for. So to put it plainly, she's a piece of shit.
Lastly, we meet Starling, a minstrel who Fitz also encounters in the traveling caravan. Starling begins with a lot of potential & seems at first to be one of the most realistic female characters Fitz meets in this installment. My opinion of Starling quickly goes downhill when she first reprimands Fitz over how he treats Molly, then immediately tries to sleep with him.
What the fuck?
Fitz refuses, and from this point on Starling is nothing but a headache for Fitz. She tags along with him simply because she wants to bear witness to something amazing that she can write a song about & secure her own future. Along the way, she ends up revealing the existence of Fitz's child against his will, constantly puts off angry, angsty vibes, and goes on a weird & largely unresolved tangent about The Fool being a woman who is actually in love with Fitz.
I mean what the actual fuck???
Am I supposed to like this character? Am I supposed to sympathize with her?
At one point, Fitz is in a situation where he can ambush a group of people who absolutely will torture him if they catch him. Starling is horrified by the prospect, suggesting the heroic thing to do would be to issue a challenge to his enemies instead of taking them down unawares.
Bitch what do you think this is? A fairy tale? OF COURSE I'M GONNA TAKE THEM OUT IF I HAVE THE CHANCE WHY WOULD I ISSUE A FUCKING CHALLENGE???
Near the end of the novel, she reveals her sad story to Fitz & once again tries to sleep with him. By this point, I am so done with this character that I couldn't even feel bad for her. She's completely irrelevant & a huge distraction from my enjoyment of the story.
Needless to say I'd probably strangle her if I were Fitz so kudos to my boy for maintaining his composure in the face of all that nonsense.
But please don't think Fitz is an angel here because he isn't.
Fitz constantly uses his Skill sense to check in on Molly & Burrich, even though he is repeatedly warned that doing so puts their location at risk of being discovered by enemy Skill users.
Once, perhaps I could understand. But he literally checks in on them like 10 times, each time being cautioned by Verity that doing so is incredibly dangerous.
One of the last things that really bothered me about this last installment is that I still have no idea why the magic systems function the way they do.
I understand how the Wit works. I understand how the Skill works. But I don't know know why.
This is perhaps due to the First Person nature of the story, as Fitz isn't an expert on his abilities either. But Hobb found ways to fill the reader in on the historical situation of the Six Duchies & the Mountain Kingdom through Fitz, and so I'm not sure she couldn't have done a similar thing with the magic system.
This lack of understanding becomes super apparent as the finale of the book plays out. Verity's creation of the Dragon, Kettle's release from her Skill burning, The Fool's 'betrayal', the effects of the Skill Road on Skill users, the Pillar to the past, the wakening & control of the Elderlings. All of it just floats around in a hazy sea of "it works that way because it works that way" & that's not always enough for me to feel satisfied.
Otherwise, Hobb maintains her excellent writing all the way through to the very end of this trilogy. She could probably write a detailed to-do list & I would be hanging on every word - that's how addicting her words are.
I also particularly enjoyed the glimpses of scenes we get with Burrich & Molly. I found the endgame of the two falling in love a bit... strange to say the least, but they definitely have some of the most compelling scenes that break up the intense monotony of Fitz's travels.
The Fool & Fitz have some really gratifying relationship development, as does Kettricken in her struggles to find Verity & serve the people of the Six Duchies.
Upon reading this conclusion, I'm definitely torn. I'm glad to have finished this trilogy, as it is surely a story worth reading. I've grown close to Fitz, Nighteyes, & The Fool (along with a couple other characters), and I enjoy the world Hobb has created here.
But after falling in love with Royal Assassin, I was hoping for something a bit more satisfying from Assassin's Quest. As a whole, a good trilogy with a killer middle book. I'm quite excited to move on to the Liveship Traders Trilogy!