The first chapter, “Siltbay,” opens with an in-milieu reflection on the position of King/Queen-in-Waiting, which serves the Six Duchies much as the role of Prince of Wales serves the UK or Dauphin served the French monarchy; attention is paid to the holders of the title under Shrewd. It moves into a Skill-vision, with Fitz occupying Shrewd and learning both of the attack on the place in the chapter’s title and what it truly feels like to be an old man. He observes as Shrewd reasserts himself and issues orders to send aid to Siltbay; when the old man turns his attention to Fitz in his mind, their connection is broken, and Fitz makes to return to Buckkeep.
There is a bit of annoyance in the chapter–not because of what it shows, because the descriptions are well written and finely balanced, and they offer a useful musing on the status of the conflict in which the Six Duchies finds itself. No, the annoyance comes at the whiplash attitude in it. At the end of the prologue, Fitz had been ready to retire from the world; what is, in effect, a nightmare, if one “real” in showing what “is” in the milieu, turns Fitz around. It reads as hurried, somehow, something of a deus ex machina, and if there is antecedent for such in the tradition from which Hobb borrows for the novels as a whole (about which there is some discussion here), that does not mean it is the most desirable thing to see in the present text.
A sense of being rushed is something I have noted in others of Hobb’s works (this and this offer some short discussions thereof; there are others). I think it attracts my attention because I like Hobb’s writing as much as I do (and it should be clear I do; I spent the time doing a master’s thesis on her work, as well as presenting any number of papers on her writing and buying copies as circumstances have permitted across decades–and such projects as the present one). I want it to be without flaw, and so when I see something that I have to regard as being less than it could be, I cannot help but mark it. But that failing is mine, not that of the author whose work I have spent most time reading and writing about. (I think; I’ve not logged hours, but I’ve certainly written on Hobb more than I have Asimov or Tolkien, who are the two most likely competitors.)
A failing that will not be mine will be an end to the rereading before I have finished it. As I’ve noted, the reading I’m doing now is slower than I’m accustomed to doing, but that it is slower does not mean I am going to be giving up on it.