A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 56: Royal Assassin, Chapter 31

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

This entry needs something of a content warning for torture. Consider it given.

The next chapter, “Torture,” opens with an excerpt from a Six Duchies legend. It moves to Fitz contemplating his end in the Buckkeep dungeons. He reaches out to Nighteyes through the Wit, learning what the wolf can tell him of the events on the night of his capture. Fitz sends Nighteyes to Burrich and settles in to wait.

Related image
An image of the legend in question, from Jackie Morris, here, and used for commentary

After a time, Will pays Fitz a visit, working on him with the Skill. Fitz is able to resist the psychic assault, but he is left afraid in its wake, and he considers its implications. Later, after some fitful dozing, he is roused by Regal and his torturers, who begin their grim work upon him. Fitz ends up battered and with a broken nose in the initial session, but Regal does not get what he wants from him.

In the wake of the session, Burrich visits Fitz, seemingly drunk and angry. He reviles Fitz and spits upon him. After Burrich leaves, a hurting Fitz sees what came with the sputum: a gentle poison that Fitz takes. As he considers dying, he joins Nighteyes in the body of the wolf, speeding away over the snows.

A brief note before I go on: the legend of the Piebald Prince is something that comes up more than once in the main line of the Elderlings corpus, and it is treated at length in a novella titled The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince. It will feature in the rereading series, to be sure. But not yet.

As to the present chapter, though: Hobb does well to address the issue of torture in her work, and to address it in the way she does. (Another of her works, a story in an edited collection, addresses it differently. It, too, will get a reread series entry. Later.) Indeed, the present chapter serves as a common reference point for a fair bit of Hobb’s later work; Fitz is never fully free of his experience herein. Those more up on trauma theory than I might have more to say about the matter than I, though.

More, there is something to be noted in the fact that Regal uses the torture both as a bloody entertainment and a means to assess members of his guard; Fitz comments that he “became aware of another thing. Regal’s enjoyment. […] He watched his guard, too, noting, no doubt, which ones turned their eyes away from this sport. He used me to take their measure.” Regal’s sadism has been hinted at before; he certainly takes relish in Fitz’s earlier injuries, and he seems to delight in his late father’s pain earlier in the novel. To have it laid out, and to have it used as a rubric seems particularly depraved, and, once again, I find myself put to it not to read the chapter against the circumstances prevailing during this writing.

May I suggest making a holiday gift?


3 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 56: Royal Assassin, Chapter 31

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