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Group read: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb - Farseer trilogy

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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1souloftherose
Feb 27, 2:04pm Top

Welcome to our group read of Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings series. This is the thread to discuss Royal Assassin, the second book in the series, in March.

Link back to the main group read organisation thread with a full series listing and timetable.



I wasn't planning to set a timetable for reading certain chapters by a certain date but I would say to use the spoiler tags (<spoiler>spoilery comments</spoiler>) and perhaps also include the chapter in bold so people who are reading along know whether it's safe to read the spoilers.

2souloftherose
Feb 27, 2:04pm Top

So who's in?

3The_Hibernator
Feb 27, 10:08pm Top

I am in the mood, so But I will get Assassin's Apprentice from Audible first. I'm sure I'll be able to get through both in March.

4Arifel
Feb 28, 2:31am Top

I'm in! There's 33 chapters plus an epilogue, so I'm aiming to spread out the experience and read around 8 chapters per week.

5HanGerg
Feb 28, 3:59am Top

I've finished! I have comments and questions, which I will try to chime in with at appropriate points. Another great read and I can't wait to get started on the final part. I have a question for right now - how do all the other books set in the same universe tie in with these? I get that they are set in the same fictional universe, but are there deeper connections than that? Do characters overlap? Is the timeline roughly the same? I see that the Fool seems to have his/her own massive Trilogy that looks intriguing, but what of the others?

6Narilka
Feb 28, 8:47am Top

I'll be following along. Read this one a few years back.

>5 HanGerg: They all tie together. The Tawny Man is a direct sequel to The Farseer Trilogy. People from Liveships show up in it, though minor. And Liveships does touch on Farseer though you might not realize it until later. The Rain Wilds Chronicles builds upon the Liveships. And though I haven't started them yet, I think Fitz and the Fool series ties them all together. I'll let you know sometime this summer when I read them :)

7souloftherose
Feb 28, 3:13pm Top

>3 The_Hibernator: Hi Rachel. Welcome! We're leaving a one month gap between the books so even if you don't manage both books in March you'll have April to catch up :-)

>4 Arifel: Good to have you with us Adri! That sounds like a good plan but I know that once I start reading I don't think I'll be able to space it out.

>5 HanGerg: Hannah - really?! Wow! Well done! Please do comment as other people start reading.

>6 Narilka: Thanks for the background Gale. I knew the Tawny Man series was a sequel but wasn't sure about the other series.

8rretzler
Mar 1, 12:06am Top

I'm in. I'll probably start this weekend and then I'll probably read right through, as I'm like Heather and will not be able to space it out once I get started.

9archerygirl
Mar 7, 1:35pm Top

I'm a little late to the party, but as one of the instigators, I'm definitely in :-)

I just need to finish my current library read then I can dive in!

10souloftherose
Mar 8, 2:04am Top

I'm reading but keep forgetting to stop by and comment.

I'm up to Chapter Thirteen and I'm feeling quite frustrated with Fitz about Molly - I can't see that ending well. Loving Nighteyes and suspecting that Prince Regal is behind Shrewd's illness in some way.

11HanGerg
Edited: Mar 10, 6:21am Top

Ok, I'm not sure when it happens so I'll put it in spoliervision, but can anyone enlighten about this one thing I couldn't figure out about this instalment Why does Kettricken go riding with Regal? Surely she hates him, suspecting strongly, if not knowing outright, that he killed her brother?!

In general, the thing I like about both books I've read so far is how real and believable the human interactions feel, for example Verity and Kettricken really struggle at first with their marriage. They are both good people, which in some books would automatically equal a happy marriage, but this book shows how you can be a good person but still fail to gel with another person, despite good intentions. I also really like the way Kettricken's idea of being a Sacrifice for her people is totally at odds with all the court intrigue of Buckeep.

12rretzler
Edited: Mar 12, 2:13pm Top

>10 souloftherose: Hannah, I'm now on Chapter 19, and I'm not only frustrated with Fitz about Molly, but also about Nighteyes. When asked by Patience earlier in the book what he is going to do next, he replies that he will do what he has been told as he always does. My thought is that perhaps he SOMETIMES does as he is told, but more often than not, he does not - and that frustrates me.

>11 HanGerg: Hannah, I had the same question about Kettricken riding with Regal. It seems like with all the combined intelligence, they should be able to protect people from Regal.

I'm starting to be very frustrated with the book. Right now, it seems to go on endlessly about how Fitz is seeing Molly and he shouldn't be. Just about everyone has given him a great reason why he should NOT be with Molly to avoid hurting her, yet he continues to see her. How selfish is that? OK, I get that he is a "good guy" and has a lot of pressure, and also that he is human and therefore flawed, but he doesn't seem to have much regret about the possibility of ruining Molly's life. Also, he just hides his relationship with Nighteyes. I'm sure that somehow in this book or future books, Nighteyes will play a big role, but is he really doing the best thing for Nighteyes? He can rationalize it, but isn't he again just being selfish? Also, in not going to see King Shrewd, to whom he owes allegience - this is totally selfish as well. I think perhaps Hobbs means for us to feel this way, but it is frustrating me to the point that I'm starting not to care about what happens to Fitz. He's started to lose my sympathy in Chapter 12.

13souloftherose
Mar 13, 5:50am Top

>11 HanGerg:, >12 rretzler: Re Kettricken riding (which is Chapter Seven), I think there are possibly two things here - first is that I don't think anyone (except Fitz at this stage) really thinks Regal would be capable of harming Kettricken as Queen-in-Waiting. To them I think that would be something of a very different magnitude to killing a foreign prince or killing Fitz (who is 'just' a bastard). Note that Verity's first response when Kettricken returns is to ask how she could be so foolish. He assumes she just got lost not that Regal took her riding intending to harm her.

I think from Kettricken's point of view she's incredibly lonely and very bored as Queen-in-Waiting. Regal can be very charming when he wants to be and I imagine that combination and the offer of some activity (riding - actually getting out of the castle) outweighed her doubts.

14souloftherose
Mar 13, 5:58am Top

>12 rretzler: Re Fitz, I understand where you're coming from with those frustrations. And I think we're supposed to roll our eyes when he says he'll do what he's told as he always does (yeah, right Fitz). I think, like with Kettricken, Fitz is incredibly lonely so although I agree that in many ways he's being very selfish with his relationships with Molly and Nighteyes - I don't know if in his situation I'd be strong enough not to take up offers of love and friendship when they were offered to me. He's also very young still (I can't remember how old at this stage but I think early 20s at the oldest).

And yes, his avoiding Shrewd is not just selfish but dangerous.

I can't promise that those frustrations with Fitz are going to go away - he is in general a very flawed character and as he is our viewpoint character for this trilogy and I think some of the others, I can understand how these books wouldn't work if you find him too annoying.

15souloftherose
Mar 13, 6:13am Top

Some notes from my reading:

Chapter Thirteen: This was quite a brutal chapter - both the descriptions of the forged ones and the little girl and the descriptions of Fitz and Nighteyes fighting them. Was the taste of blood in Fitz's mouth at the end from his shared experience from Nighteyes (because Nighteyes had bitten the men?) or had Fitz turned wolf and bitten them too? (And, ew).

Chapter Fifteen: Not quite answers on what the Fool is and where he(?) comes from but lots of tantalising hints about the Fool and the future of the Six Duchies.

Chapter Twenty: Chade is the one effectively giving Shrewd those poisons? Is Chade doing this because Regal will try something anyway and at least this way Chade has some control (and can potentially minister antidotes? Like Fitz, I'm confused.

16rretzler
Mar 14, 1:11am Top

Finished!

17EllaTim
Mar 14, 7:38am Top

>14 souloftherose: To Fitz defence Shrewd is the king, and has always told Fitz when to see hem, he had the initiative. Maybe Fitz doesn't realise that he needs to step up and Shrewd needs his protection. Though why doesn't Chase understand this?

18souloftherose
Mar 18, 12:36pm Top

>16 rretzler: Well done on finishing!

And I'm also finished. As usual with this series the last 50 pages or so was almost unputdownable.

>17 EllaTim: Good point. Yes, Chade seems to have taken a back seat in this book and I missed him

19archerygirl
Mar 20, 6:55am Top

>15 souloftherose: Chapter Thirteen: Just finished this chapter and yup, really brutal. I took it as Fitz having gone too far into the wolf again and resorted to teeth, the way he did in an earlier chapter. It seemed like he was actually spitting out blood and beard, rather than feeling it from Nighteyes, which indicates he had a good mouthful and the Forged man did have his throat ripped badly :-( I'm starting to worry a bit about where this is taking him.

Fitz and Molly: I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling frustrated by this! I can also understand it, because he's very young (I was putting him in late teens, but I could be wrong) and people make bad choices at that age a lot. I agree with everyone who says he's lonely and that's playing a lot into what he's doing, both with Molly and Nighteyes. He's become isolated in so many ways from the people who had been his support and friends earlier in his life and even Chade isn't really there right now.

20Arifel
Mar 21, 2:58am Top

Well, my plans to read this slowly through the month massively fell through, but I've finally started reading a couple of days ago and am up to the start of Chapter 7, so on track to join discussions soon!

Without spoilers, one thing I'm really appreciating on this readthrough is how most of the characters swing so much between being likeable and being totally frustrating and/or unpleasant (with a couple of obvious exceptions who are constantly the worst). It drives home how isolated Fitz is and what an undertaking it is for him to reach out to anyone when he has to so carefully calculate how his partial allies will respond to anything he trusts them with.

Also, (again without spoilers, not least because I don't actually have time to look up how to do the tags right now...!) my favourite character has showed up and I'm super excited to rediscover how their integration plays out.

21Arifel
Edited: Mar 26, 10:57am Top

Just finished up with this, and can say that 17 years after my first read, this trilogy is still pressing all my buttons.

With spoilers to the end of Book 2 (the spoiler tag is literally the easiest bit of HTML, how did I not remember it):

It was very interesting to compare my memory of this book to the reality, particularly the middle sections. I had remembered the sections of the book with Verity, and particularly Fitz's summer on the Rurisk hunting down the Red Ship Raiders, as unambiguously positive sections, but on rereading its impossible to miss all the stress he is under. I had completely forgotten Molly and I tended to find her sections the slowest and most frustrating, though not through any fault of the character's - I think it's just that Fitz's behaviour to her, and his dreams about their future, are so transparently not going to work out that it's painful to read through all his floundering. Nighteyes was not in the book as much as I'd hoped, but his sections were wonderful and I'm looking forward to lots more of him in Assassin's Quest.

The ending was exactly as brutal as I remembered. Regal is such a chillingly awful antagonist, and I really appreciate how Hobb makes both his strengths and his flaws play into that role by having other characters underestimate him and ultimately allow him to succeed. I was much less patient with Verity's decision to wander off into the mountains, which felt like it wasn't super well set up - it's so obviously signposted as a terrible decision from the second it's introduced (not least because Regal jumps on it and agrees!) that it's hard to really sympathise with why Verity makes it.

I generally agree with the above discussion about Fitz being a very self-absorbed character, with an odd combination of insightfulness and short-sightedness shaping his worldview. In his defence, at this stage he has almost no experience with interpersonal relationships that aren't ostensibly transactional or instrumentalist - every part of his identity, including his name, is about his status and birth and while we as onlookers can see that other characters love and value him outside of that (Burrich and Patience being the strongest examples), it makes sense that Fitz struggles to build relationships that aren't "use or be used". I can understand why this might cause some people to bounce off, but for me the moments where I want to shake the boy vigorously and tell him to sort himself out are more than balanced out by the character moments where he realises that, yes, his family and friends do value him for more than just what he is useful for, even if many of them also have really messed up ideas of affection and are also trying to use him most of the time.


Took a bit of effort not to just read straight through to Book 3, where I await more (VAGUELY RECALLED BOOK 3 SPOILERS:) Adventures with Wolf, some broody Fitz not taking proper care of himself, meeting communities of Wit users, a hike through the mountains and I think dragons?? Or maybe I have to wait for the Ship books for those?

(Very, very mild series set-up spoilers ahead - will put behind tags anyway!) On a side note, the thing that irritated me most on this readthrough was the weird-by-2018 standards of diversity in this book. Like, in theory inheritance in the Six Duchies isn't segregated by sex, and we have many individual examples of amazing women in a variety of roles, but they are still outnumbered by the men and all the Dukes we meet seem to be male? Likewise, I feel like the way Kettricken is exoticised as a large, blonde white woman, and Six Duchies residents are regularly referred to as "dark" with black hair and brown eyes, is about as heavy a hint as it's possible to make that the Farseers aren't white without outright confirming it... and yet all the book covers have FitzChivalry as a standard white bro fantasy protagonist. I'd have to track down interviews with Robin Hobb to understand if these were deliberate choices (maybe this is as far as "gender equal fantasy world of PoC" could get in 1998?) or if it's unintentional - either way, I do wish it went further.

22souloftherose
Apr 2, 9:07am Top

Sorry, everyone, I got a bit distracted with work stuff over the last couple of weeks and forgot to check this thread.

>21 Arifel: Potential spoilers for book 3: I can't remember if the meetings with wit communities happened in book 3 of this trilogy or some time in the Tawny Man trilogy. I definitely remember something about dragons in book 3 though!

On diversity agreed about the female roles (or lack of). I am struggling to think of other fantasy series from the 1990s that were much better. The only ones I can think of are Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (especially the Witches books) and some children's authors like Diana Wynne Jones. But neither of those are really epic fantasy like the Farseer trilogy. And whilst I knew Kettricken was paler and blonde I missed the possible significance of the references to the Farseers being dark. Interesting idea - let us know if you find anything in interviews!

23souloftherose
Apr 2, 9:11am Top

So, I think a few of us have finished from comments on the thread. Does anyone want to wade in with their final thoughts?

For those still reading, we're not due to start the third book, Assassin's Quest, until May so please keep reading and commenting on Royal Assassin here and I'll try to be better at checking the thread.

24archerygirl
Apr 3, 7:45am Top

As noted on the main Farseer thread, I finished! Oops, must be better at double-checking thread names.

>22 souloftherose: On diversity I'd noticed the references to Kettricken's paleness and golden hair, with the contrast of the Farseers being darker, but I couldnt' decide whether it was a hint the Farseers were supposed to be POC or simply a note that blond and pale is unusual and the Six Dutchies people were closer to Mediterranean in appearance. I'd be interested to know if Hobb has ever confirmed anything. The stereotypical white dudebro cover is what tends to happen no matter how clear authors are on their descriptions. Pretty sure even the Earthsee books have had those covers!

I did notice the lack of women and women in power, but I'd also struggle to think of epic fantasy from the 1990s that don't have the issue. Juliet E McKenna is another epic fantasy author contemporary to Hobb (her first book was published in 1999) and the numbers aren't any better in her works. It's still not an easy sell now to have epic fantasy with lots of women in strong roles - it was probably almost impossible in the 1990s.


>23 souloftherose: Final thoughts: I knew Hobb had a reputation for putting characters through the wringer, but that ending was brutal! I'm both impatient for May and glad to have a bit of a break to recover before starting Assassin's Quest. And although I can guess why Molly has left and what is happening with her, I'm disappointed because I like her character. Although I found myself frustrated with the Fitz-Molly relationship because it's very obvious that it can't work and I wanted to knock their heads together a couple of times. Regal is the worst and every time I think he can't get nastier, he does. At this point, I really can't see how anything can work out well for anyone, but that's probably what I should be feeling at this point.

25souloftherose
Apr 10, 7:53am Top

>24 archerygirl: Agreed with the impatient for the next book but also glad to give my emotions a break!

26HanGerg
Apr 11, 5:09pm Top

Yeah, I've started book three but it's really dragging because it's just hard to handle all the unrelenting negativity of Fitz's life. Apart from his stolen moments of intimacy with Molly and his night time hunts with his wolf, there's very few pleasant things in his life. Even those are tainted by being taboo or forbidden in some way, so there's no simple, uncomplicated good thing in his life. Sheesh!

If I may proceed with some thoughts about this book without spoilers (we're all done, right?)

I got a little frustrated with how, in being preoccupied with his own problems, Fitz failed to see the obvious danger and distress that King Shrewd was in. It also seemed a touch repetitive how he would go to see him, think things were bad and that something should be done, then get distracted by some other thing more important to himself and then move on without addressing it. Linked to this, Verity and Chade seemed unavailable to him a lot. It just felt like typical author manipulation, taking away the mentors so that the main character has to do some of the heavy lifting, kind of like Harry having to fight Voldemort instead of Dumbeldore, because otherwise where's our story?

>21 Arifel: I like your idea that other characters underestimate Regal. That would explain why he's allowed to get away with all the terrible stuff he does. To me, it was another point of frustration with the story, that no-one was keeping a close enough eye on him or giving him too much access to the king and other important players.

For these reasons, it only got 4.5 stars, not 5 like the first book. Yep. Hated it!

27quondame
Apr 11, 9:38pm Top

>26 HanGerg: Fitz certainly has a harsh life, but he is a flawed character with whom we can nonetheless sympathize - so many vp characters really are flawlessly observant, even tempered, generous, and well, not as self absorbed as almost every real person is. I find that difficult but refreshing and one of the reasons I enjoy Robin Hobb's books.

28rretzler
Apr 12, 11:22pm Top

>26 HanGerg: >21 Arifel: Hannah and Adri, I agree that the characters underestimate Regal, but what confuses (or frustrates) me is why. I think everyone seems to know that he was behind all of the awful stuff that happened in the Mountain Kingdom - at least Verity and Kettricken certainly do, and I have to believe that Chade does as well, and even perhaps Burrich. (Too many books between now and Assassin's Apprentice.) Yet I agree that no one seems to be keeping an eye on him. I would honestly think that Chade would do so to protect Shrewd, without letting Shrewd being aware.

And yes, it is all just manipulation - Hobb seems to be another author that throws everything at the main character. Just when you think that there couldn't possibly be anything worse than what has already happened...

It reminds me somewhat of Lois McMaster Bujold's treatment of Miles Vorkosigan - he has gone through everything (and I guess what he hasn't gone through Fitz has.) Although it certainly adds to the suspense and makes one want to keep reading, I think it can sometimes backfire and become frustrating and perhaps a little forced. So far, I'm not there with Hobb...yet.

29quondame
Apr 13, 10:39pm Top

>28 rretzler: Along with Miles Vorkosigan, Lymond & Nicholas are both much abused main characters, and Sheri Tepper has done a harsh number on no few of her women.

30humouress
Apr 14, 11:43am Top

Finished! I've been avoiding this thread until I had; and I'm glad I've got May for the next book because I thought I was falling behind already.

>12 rretzler: >14 souloftherose: You have to add through the first book, but I think I worked out that Fitz was about 15 or 16 at the end of that one. I lost track of how long this book took - was it one year or two? It begins and ends in winter, anyway. I don't think he can be more than 18 by now, at the most.

31humouress
Apr 15, 7:35am Top

Going back to the question of Wit vs Skill, I had assumed that one was an extension of the other but when I read the scenes were Fitz used both at the same time, he said that they were very different.

It does seem as though folks are superstitious about the Wit and believe that if a person uses it too long, they will forget their human-ness (I'm not sure you can use the word 'humanity' with respect to some of the characters) and turn into a beast, or at least have the mind and manners of a beast in a human body.

32archerygirl
Apr 17, 11:17am Top

>30 humouress: I'd come to a similar age for Fitz, so I'm glad I'm not the only one! It does make me boggle a little at some of the things he says and does--he's old for his age--but also makes sense of his feelings about Molly and what he does: it's very much a teenager first love sense that I got, which makes more sense for someone that age than it would for someone closer to mid-twenties.

33Narilka
Apr 17, 7:53pm Top

>31 humouress: The Wit is featured more heavily in the Tawny Man trilogy.

34humouress
Apr 17, 11:14pm Top

>33 Narilka: Thanks. I haven't read that yet; I stopped at the Rain Wilds the first time around.

35humouress
Edited: Apr 18, 12:04am Top

>32 archerygirl: Yes, he does behave like a teenager in a lot of ways. I've put it in my review, but haven't posted it yet - will get around to that soon.

ETA: posted!

36souloftherose
Apr 24, 5:24am Top

>28 rretzler:, >29 quondame: Yes, definitely reminds me of Bujold and Miles Vorkosigan. I haven't read anything by Dorothy Dunnett (I think that's the reference to Lymond and Nicholas?) but her books are somewhere on the long list.

>30 humouress: That's about what I'd guessed too.

37archerygirl
Apr 24, 6:47am Top

>35 humouress: When Fitz is being particularly teenager-ish, I have to remind myself that he's really is a teenager even though the adults are putting huge adult responsibilities on him, and he's not going to have the emotional maturity that I want him to have. Keeping that in mind does make it easier to forgive some of the bad choices he makes, though.

38quondame
Apr 24, 11:30am Top

>36 souloftherose: Although, and for good reason, humor is not the first quality of Dorothy Dunnett's writing that people mention, it was her completely new to me dangerous and dark humor that captivated me in The Game of Kings. My reaction to her books was - why didn't anybody tell me how funny she was! Of course, my absolute favorite paragraph is one almost every one else passed over with hardly any notice at all.

>37 archerygirl: Fitz does make some good choices latter in life, but not invariably. He is a more human protagonist than most fantasies present.

39souloftherose
May 2, 6:17am Top

Thread for Assassin's Quest is up here:

http://www.librarything.com/topic/290825

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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