Today I finally finished the third book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. There’s an easy clue in that first sentence to let you know what I thought about the book before I even get to the review, but I’ll wait and see if you catch it afterward.
Third book in the Farseer Trilogy (sequel to Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin)
Once again this book is told from the first person view of FitzChivalry Farseer. I really think that this series being told in the first person was a large part of why it bothered me. I don’t think that Fitz was a strong enough character to carry three books by himself (total page count for those three books: 1867). Part of the problem with this is that Fitz is not a very active character on his own. Throughout the entire trilogy he is constantly being told what to do by other people, and almost never acts of his own accord. This book also introduced several side characters that were important to the plot of this book, and the most annoying among them was Kettle. Kettle is introduced a little over halfway through this book, and follows Fitz for seemingly no reason. She is constantly implying that she knows information that the other characters should know, but then not telling them. I think Hobb realized how irritating this is because she actually has Fitz get mad at Kettle in the book for that exact reason. Unfortunately, her explanation didn’t really work for me and really got into aspects of the magic that were never really discussed at any point in the series before that.
Fitz starts in the Six Duchies, but the majority of the book involves searching for Verity in the Mountain Kingdom.
This book picks up where the second left off, with Fitz being rescued from ‘death’ by Chade and Burrich. After he is nursed back to a semblance of health (and sanity) he finally makes his first major decision in the entire series; he is going to kill Regal. I was quite happy when I read that, finally he is going to actually do something! Unfortunately he fails in that quest and is only rescued from death when Verity uses his Skill to force Fitz to seek him out in the mountains. Which leads us to the last 500 pages of the book, where Fitz mindlessly follows directions just like he did in the other novels.
When I was reading another blog post I read a perfect description for this book (I don’t remember what blog it was, just a random blog I found with the Books tag on wordpress, and I believe they were referring to the book 11/22/63 by Stephen King), this is a 300 page book crammed into 757 pages. The first half of the book was probably one of the most repetitively boring stretches of a book I’ve ever read: Fitz nearly dies, he escapes, he travels for a bit (with Nighteyes’ help, because he can’t do anything by himself), then gets captured again, nearly dies, then escapes, and so on for about the first 300-350 pages. The second half of the book was similarly a travelogue with no real goal in mind. Despite this book being the ending of the trilogy, I really didn’t feel like there was any momentum building toward the ending even when I only had about 150 pages left in the book. And it turns out that it didn’t matter, because everything was summarily wrapped up in about 2 chapters at the end of the book.
A very slow buildup to a weak ending for the series.
(Here there be spoilers.)
There was a lot to like in this series, the world was realistically thought out, and the magic systems (the Skill and the Wit) were interesting and worked well for the most part. Unfortunately, the problems of the third book ruined the series for me. One of the biggest problems for me was how the third book really revolved around the idea of the White Prophet and the Catalyst (the Fool and Fitz). This really wasn’t mentioned very much in the first two books, and almost felt tacked on to make it seem like the entire world was in danger rather than just one country. I was also bothered when they come upon the forest of dragons in the Mountain Kingdom. I don’t recall there being a single mention of dragons in the books at all before that, but they all immediately say “oh look, dragons.” As it turns out the dragons are the Elderlings that they’ve been seeking for the entire third book, but it just came across as very odd to me. Kettle was also annoying as I mentioned above, and she almost broke the magic system for me. For the entirety of the series, we’re told that the Skill is a magic that can be used to communicate over distances and to subtly influence other people. So how is Kettle able to use it to live for over 200 years? I was really disappointed with the ending of the series as well. While everything was resolved, the whole thing felt rushed, and elements seemed very poorly foreshadowed to me.
It does some interesting things, but there are better books out there.
(Oh, my clue for the grade earlier was that I said I was finally finished, it’s not usually a good sign when my thoughts run along the lines of “I’m so glad I’m done reading this book.”)