October 19, 2011

The Farseer Trilogy

As I mentioned a few days ago, I discovered Robin Hobb last week. Almost 1900 pages later, I'm done with the Farseer Trilogy: Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest.

I loved these books so much it was ridiculous. I really can't remember the last time that I got this absorbed in a series--to the point where I even forgot to eat lunch because I was so focused on my book!

The basic premise of the books is this: Fitz, the bastard grandson of King Shrewd of the Six Duchies will be tested beyond human endurance as he attempts to save the Kingdom from threats within and without. Trained as an assassin, Fitz owes his unswerving allegiance to the Farseer family.

As Fitz is growing up and learning to kill, he's also trying to learn just what and who he is. As the Bastard he is isolated from everyone, unable to fully fit in anywhere. As the trilogy progresses Fitz will be forced to confront himself in more ways than one. Whom does he truly love? Where do his loyalties lie? Will he ever be more than just an assassin? He also possesses parts of two kinds of magic: the Skill and the Wit. Can he succeed in one kind of magic without destroying the other?

As the years progress and Fitz matures as a man and as a warrior, the larger world of the Kingdom of the Six Duchies is suffering growing pangs as well. The two inland Duchies seek independence from the four coastal Duchies, who are themselves beleaguered by the mysterious Red Ship Raiders. The Red Ship Raiders practice terrible magic in addition to pillaging and raping the coastal towns. King-in-Waiting Verity is doing all he can to protect his country, but as the death toll rises and tensions within the Keep mount, he realizes that he, and Fitz, will each have to make unbelievable sacrifices.

Hobb's writing is nearly perfect -- making the world of the Six Duchies so believable that you will be quickly drawn in to the conflict amidst the royal family and Kingdom at large, as well as sympathizing with Fitz and the often untenable positions into which he is thrown. The characters are frequently conflicted, torn between their own personal happiness and the survival of their nation. Hobb makes this conflict gut-wrenching and real.

I highly recommend the whole trilogy, but the first book is easily a standalone if you only want to read one. I really liked that it had a distinct ending, instead of being an automatic cliffhanger setup for the next book. Books two and three are more intertwined, and darker in subject matter. Book three is more focused on magic and death than the first two; Hobb does a nice job of escalating the intensity of the books as the series progresses.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Absolutely, as long as she's got her glasses. The print is tiny and the books are long.

What fantasy novels do you love? When was the last time that you got sucked into something? I think it was The Hunger Games for me...


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