A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 94: Assassin’s Quest, Chapter 35

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

The chapter that follows, “Kettle’s Secrets,” begins by commenting briefly on the Witness Stones outside Buckkeep Castle. It moves thence into Verity’s return to work; Fitz and the Fool return to the statue of the girl on the dragon. It registers oddly to Fitz’s Wit, and the Fool touches the statue with his Skill-impressed fingertips. It goes badly for him, and Kettle rebukes them both harshly when she arrives there shortly afterwards. When Fitz rebukes her, in turn, Kettle demurs slightly.

He’s got the touch; he’s got the power…
Silver Fingers by AlexBerkley on DeviantArt, here, and used for commentary.

After Fitz tends to the Fool, he reports to Verity and Kettricken, who sits beside him while he continues to scrape at the statue he has made. As Fitz reports, Verity leaves off his work and resumes more of himself, which appears to hearten Kettricken, in turn. The rest of the group joins them as Fitz continues his account, and Verity notes, somewhat absently, that Regal listens through the Fool.

Fitz pleads with Verity for aid in the wake of the revelation; Verity denies it as irrelevant and reaffirms his need to complete the dragon alone. Kettle argues against the stance, noting that dragon-making has been collaborative in the past. She also declares her true self and circumstances, to some disbelief. Verity directs Fitz to assist Kettle, and he attempts it unsuccessfully.

The Fool joins the two, putting his Skill-stained flesh to the task. In a glorious communion that takes in Fitz, the Fool, Nighteyes, and Kettle–who has resumed her former name of Kestrel–Fitz helps her to free herself from the punishment that has been imposed upon her. In the wake of it, Kestrel aids Verity’s work, and Fitz and the Fool confer. Fitz purposes to join his king in the work.

Of particular note in the present chapter is the revelation of the titular Kettle’s secrets. While Hobb does do much to foreshadow that the old woman knows much, the specifics of the reading do threaten to come off as something of a deus ex machina, which can easily be taken as an annoyance by readers. Of course, the Elderlings novels partake heavily of the Tolkienian fantasy tradition, even if other antecedents work more strongly in them, and so they partake of the medieval European. As such, they fall under a rubric about which I have written before, one that admits of a tradition that readily invokes such a device. And while the direct comparison between a novel of some heft and episodes of a children’s cartoon may be a bit of a stretch, that does not mean the underlying idea is a bad one. Namely, although Hobb’s Elderlings novels do not operate in an analogue of medieval Europe, they emerge from and participate in a tradition that showed up abundantly during that period–as Douglas A. Anderson points out in Tales before Tolkien and that many others have pointed out at length and eloquently–so that the presence of something like a deus ex machina is not a reason to take on a particular literary atheism.

It’s May Day!
I’m not in distress;
Help me keep it that way!


4 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 94: Assassin’s Quest, Chapter 35

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