A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 81: Assassin’s Quest, Chapter 22

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

The next chapter, “Departure,” opens with a description of Chade that paints him as something of a folk-hero emerging from the Red-Ship Wars. It moves to a particularly embarrassing episode for Fitz, one in which he learns more about why he had been considered dead by those who had known him best. Fitz is also warned about Kettricken, whom he is set to face the next day.

No, she doesn’t seem happy…
Kettricken by GerdElise on DeviantArt, here, used for commentary.

In the night, Fitz dreams strange dreams, in which he joins Verity. Fitz is taken aback by the appearance of his king, and he watches in horror as Verity plunges his arms into a flow of magic power. Verity uses Fitz to pull himself back from the power, and he pleads once again for Fitz to come to him, to aid him against those who oppose him. The dream sends him into a seizure, for which he is treated by those around him with elfbark.

Fitz rises the next morning and bathes. In the wake of the dream, his anger is gone, and he struggles to comprehend what transpired. When he returns to the Fool’s hut to dress for his audience with Kettricken, the Fool informs him that his identity is not widely known in Jhaampe, and he voices curiosity about Kettle. The two proceed to call upon Kettricken, and the Fool finds a place quickly; FItz is made to wait, growing markedly uncomfortable.

When, at length, Fitz is asked to speak, it is sharply and without affection. He reports events from before his imprisonment, moving forward, describing his deeds and misdeeds along the way. Kettricken informs him of her purpose to summon Molly and his child to Jhaampe to preserve the Farseer lineage; Fitz objects, noting Verity’s life and the possibility of another child coming from them, but Kettricken is not satisfied with the report. Fitz notes, too, that he will seek Verity, regardless; he is compelled to that end.

In the description of the Skill-river Fitz sees through Verity, Hobb makes a compelling case for the utter incomprehensibility of magic. I know that one of the things Hobb takes pains to do in her fiction is to make the fantastical elements emerge organically from a solidly realized milieu, so it makes sense that the utter strangeness of a source of magical power, something that has no real analogue in the readers’ world, would need some attention and focus. There is a strong thread of such attention in fantastic fiction; Lovecraftian works, with their impossible geometries, are perhaps the most prominent examples, but they are not the only ones. Hobb does better than Lovecraft, however, acknowledging the incomprehensibility of it while not relying overmuch on less accessible vocabulary; “otherness” generally seems more at home in literary theory than in fantasy fiction, but it is at least not the repeated squamous eldritch. So there is that.

Help me take my daughter on her first Spring Break trip?


5 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 81: Assassin’s Quest, Chapter 22

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