A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 25: Royal Assassin, Prologue

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


The second of the Farseer books, Royal Assassin, opens with a brief prologue, unlike Assassin’s Apprentice. In the prologue, titled “Dreams and Awakenings,” Fitz considers (in retrospect) various magics known to the Six Duchies. He notes both that magical knowledge tends to be transmitted orally and that it requires an inborn predilection for practice. He passes on to further consideration of the authority to treat a topic in writing, musing on it for a while before shifting topics again.

Michael Whelan’s cover art for Royal Assassin, which graces the copy of the novel I own and is hosted on the artist’s Tumblr page; it is used here for commentary.

Fitz’s narration shifts to consider his continuing admiration for Molly, and he comments at some length about his work as the apprentice assassin for the Duchies, quietly working for the betterment of the Kingdom through performance of heinous deeds. And he arrives at his status following the end of Assassin’s Apprentice: recovering slowly and shakily in Jhaampe from being poisoned and abused, to his annoyance. He is not eased when Burrich notes the difficulty in treating him, though in their conversation, he begins to reappraise the man who might as well be his foster-father. And, amid fits caused by the lingering injuries and damage from the poison, Fitz makes to order Burrich back to Buckkeep before finally falling into sleep.

The prologue serves as an interesting way to recapitulate the events of the first novel in the series for the benefit of those who might be picking up Royal Assassin before reading Assassin’s Apprentice–while not reading as a dreadfully dull repetition to those who have moved directly into the new novel from the last one. It also does admirably to lay out the beginning state of affairs for the still-young FitzChivalry, while offering in its initial retrospection an assurance that Fitz will outlast the events of the novel. That is important because of the novel’s position in its series; it is the second book in a trilogy, traditionally the member of a trilogy that positions the protagonist in the worse possible position. But Fitz will survive, readers are assured.

Of additional note is the bit of philosophical musing Fitz advances in the first few paragraphs of the prologue, those presented as being the work of his pen as he writes in times in the novel’s future and those following close after, when he muses to himself and not upon the in-milieu page about what right he has to document traditions in which he does not take part–particularly when his right to attest in writing to those of his own experiences is in question. Some irony could well be read into writers voicing, even through fictional characters, a reluctance to write about topics at some remove from themselves, or arrogance could be read into it, since such a stance implies that authors believe themselves to be experts in the areas upon which their writing touches. It is not as if Hobb does not make other comments about the craft of writing in her work, as I’ve noted before, so it does not come as a surprise to see such comments in the earlier parts of her corpus, even if how to interpret them may not be entirely clear.

Can I count on your support?

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