A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 23: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 23

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

The penultimate chapter, “The Wedding,” opens with only a brief blurb about Shrewd’s approach to diplomacy and Verity’s adherence to that approach. It moves swiftly into Fitz’s assessment of his situation and his conversation with Burrich about it. Burrich notices the earring Patience had given Fitz and is taken aback by it.

Regal, the Mountwell Prince by Mimi-Evelyn
Regal, the Mountwell Prince, by Mimi-Evelyn on DeviantArt
Image used for commentary.

They are joined suddenly by Jonqui, whom they initially resist but shortly come to follow back into Jhaampe, where they find that Fitz’s room has been ransacked; Fitz realizes his store of poisons has been taken. They gather strength while Fitz frets over Verity; August arrives to deliver messages as he is commanded to do. After the Farseer cousin departs, Burrich attempts to offer Fitz his own strength through the Skill, to no avail.

After, Fitz and Burrich answer the summons that Regal had issued them, reporting to him in the hot springs that serve Jhaampe for baths. There, Burrich is incapacitated, and Regal gloats over Fitz as he tips his bastard half-nephew into a hot tub to drown. As Fitz flounders, he reflexively reaches out for Verity with the Skill, finding Galen coming to siphon his life away; Fitz, able through the slackness that precedes final surrender, offers Verity his own strength. Verity takes it, killing Galen as Galen had thought to kill him, and working powerfully through the Skill to leave August a message for Regal and to solemnize his marriage to Kettricken before he slams Fitz back into himself.

The chapter again motions towards the homoerotic relationship between Chvalry and Burrich that has received attention in this series already (here, for example). Burrich’s reaction to the earring–noting that it was a thing with which Patience, Chivalry’s widow, should not have meddled–reads less as a servant/master thing and more a thing between people particularly close. Given Melville’s comments about queerness in the novels at large, as well as Prater’s, Sanderson’s, and others’, it should not be surprising to find other suggestions of intimate relationships that transgress the “expected” dynamics of fantasy fiction in the Realm of the Elderlings novels.

The chapter also strikes a strange point of correspondence with generic expectations in offering Regal’s gloating as he makes to subdue Fitz in the baths. I have noted some of Regal’s more “normally” evil tendencies before, and I recall a 2007 course paper I wrote treating antagonist oration of the kind Regal indulges in in the chapter; in the paper (and I cringe at some of the writing I did then, but I think the idea is reasonably good), I argue that such narrations “permit character explication, in-text tactical movement, narrative pacing, and reader catharsis and return.” That is, they help show more of the character involved, allow time to move to more advantageous positions, provide a sort of lull between bouts of more intense action, and allow readers to come back to the text refreshed. Regal’s narration serves such functions, certainly, and his actions end up facilitating the undoing of his and his half-brother’s plans–fitting the trope neatly and reminding readers that Hobb continues to work with the dominant Tolkienian tradition of fantasy literature.

The next one’s the last one–in this novel. Help me bridge the gap!

4 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 23: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 23

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