A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 20: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 20

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


A chapter titled “Jhaampe” follows. It opens with a blurb from a fragment that Fitz swiftly after reports reading later on. It proceeds to Fitz’s first impressions and description of the city itself, as well as the awkwardness of the entrance of the Six Duchies party into it. They end up being carried into the city, at which Fitz chafes.

Robin Hobb: Jhaampe by Starsong-Studio
Robin Hobb: Jhaampe by Starsong Studio on DeviantArt, used for commentary

Fitz does what he can to make the best of the situation, studying the surroundings with clear delight and practicing what he knows of the local language. It attracts the attention of Jonqui, with whom he converses, if haltingly, along the way.

He and the rest of the Six Duchies party are shown into the main hall of Jhaampe, which Fitz describes amid an inner lament for how exposed he will be as he attempts to carry out his assigned work. The ruler of the Mountain Kingdom and his children, Rurisk and Kettricken, are introduced, and Fitz realizes to his chagrin that such royal family as the Mountain Kingdom has has tended to him and those he accompanied.

Gifts are exchanged, and Fitz, to his surprise, finds himself presented to the Mountain royals. Rurisk notes his grief at Chivalry’s death, and the two talk briefly of Fitz’s father. Kettricken interrupts with questions about his training as a poisoner, which greatly unsettles Fitz, before leading him out into the gardens surrounding the royal hall. The two converse reasonably amiably, and Fitz takes the chance to speak well of Verity as he had been asked. Kettricken lays bare that Regal has been creating poor impressions of Verity and of Fitz in the lead-up to the nuptials. Fitz pleads misunderstanding her words, and she makes to re-explain when she is summoned away.

It is not long afterwards that Fitz becomes aware of having been poisoned. He takes such corrective measures as he can after the fact, with no small regret, but he survives–and looks forward with unease to what will come next.

A thought occurs as I reread the chapter and look at Starsong Studio’s art, above. One of the things that promotes bright colors in nature is the presence of poison. Monarch butterflies, for example, are noxious eating–and signal it by their bright colors. Any number of species of frogs do the same, as do no few sea creatures. Even many of the flowers Fitz compares Jhaampe’s buildings to are themselves toxic. Looking back on the beginning of the chapter after reading the end, the appearance of the town foreshadows its peril for Fitz. It is perhaps a subtle thing, but that does not detract from the quality of the writing; instead, it increases it that the foreshadowing is subtle.

Something else that calls attention to itself is the strange misunderstanding of the Six Duchies party’s entry into Jhaampe. Being carried in litters or palanquins can be seen as an indication of status; it seems the Six Duchies party, generally, regards it so. But it is also, as is noted in the chapter, a thing done for those whose mobility is limited–and the appearance of incapacity, however inaccurate, can be damaging. What other signs are interpreted in such ways as to cause confusion make for interesting investigation…

A new school year starts soon; help me buy supplies, please!

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