“You’re not dead, son. You’re not dead.”

Whenever I finish a Hobb book I kind of want to just yell and start a review off with something like, “UGHHHHHH. Ahhhhhhhh. WTF,” even though I’ve already read the entire Realm of the Elderlings series. Her writing is just THAT good. As was I was rereading Royal Assassin, I was like, “huh, maybe this isn’t going to be the same 5 star read that I thought originally,” because the middle of this one is a bit slow. It ended up still being pretty dang close. I’d give this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars and round up for Goodreads purposes. How can I NOT rate the book that we meet Nighteyes highly? Also, that ending was absolutely superb, one of the most memorable, emotional endings to a story I’ve ever read.

“‘Nighteyes, my brother. How do I thank you?’ ‘Stay alive.’ A pause. ‘And bring me ginger cake.’”

Speaking of Nighteyes, I absolutely love the bit of comedic relief he provides. Lets be honest, we all know Hobb could depress the happiest of souls with her writing. If there was a handbook on how to write poignantly, Robin Hobb would be the expert on it. I mean this in the best way. Nighteyes has this cheeky, intelligent way of talking while still being puppy-like. Fitz takes himself quite seriously and Nighteyes knows how to knock him down a peg, evoke silliness or emotion in him. He’s the first true friend that Fitz has ever had. Fitz has grown up without a friend and entirely too early. After learning at a young age to be an assassin, Fitz went straight into the responsibilities of a man. The people he associates with are often adults or have had major responsibilities at a young age as well. Nighteyes reaches into this part of Fitz that longs for the unconditional love that he has rarely received, love that he has always had to earn. Nighteyes is someone that he can let his guard down around, someone that expects nothing from him but the occasional ginger cake. He is the one who actually guards FITZ’S back. I could cry to think about how much Fitz gives to everyone at his own expense, but knowing that Fitz has Nighteyes makes it all worth it. Okay—I still want to cry, but happy tears. It was fun to look back and see the evolution of how Nighteyes goes from snarling and untrusting to perceptive and devoted.

“‘My brother. Are you dying?
No. But it hurts.
Rest. I will stand watch.

I cannot explain what happened next. I let go of something, something I had clutched all my life without being aware of gripping it. I sank down into soft warm darkness, into a safe place, while a wolf kept watch through my eyes.”

Though Fitz hasn’t had a true-blue friend before, he’s unconsciously building a family within people around him. Patience was meant to be Fitz’s mother, one way or another. She’s a true example of a woman finding her child that she couldn’t bear herself. It’s another testament to her name, she patiently waited for a child by Chivalry and she was content and honored to take in his bastard as her own. It’s funny to me that Fitz is the product of Chivalry, but his parents were truly Patience and Burrich. Oh, the irony. Burrich has a gruff way about him, but the love he has for Fitz is of a father. He’s tough, brutal at times, but he’ll whoop someone’s butt for mistreatment of Fitz and loses sleep at night over Fitz’s well-being. He’s got this gentleness about him that is in contrast to his bullish ways. Chade is another father figure—or grandfather figure—to Fitz. Chade mentions to him that he’s sad Fitz can’t seem to trust anyone as a product of his upbringing, and it’s true that he doesn’t even realize the extent of how much those around him love himself. He truly is Changer in ways other than the wolfy merging, because he’s taken all these people that have had allegiance to others and has worked his way into their hearts with his selflessness to the point that they are willing to risk themselves for him. They want to protect this boy-turned-man even though that is diametrically opposed to his lifestyle… which as a reader, I can relate to. We start to see the beginnings of a deeper friendship with The Fool. At this moment, The Fool is much too immersed in protecting King Shrewd to be as involved with Fitz as he is later on, but there’s a blossoming of what eventually becomes deeply rooted trust. The Fool does put the barest notion out there that Fitz is meant for more, that he sees a million different options for Fitz. He’s endlessly capable of changing his—and everyone else’s—world, and he certainly has earned their love.

He shook his head pityingly. “This, more than anything else, is what I have never understood about your people. You can roll dice, and understand that the whole game may hinge on one turn of a die. You deal out cards, and say that all a man’s fortune for the night may turn upon one hand. But a man’s whole life, you sniff at, and say, what, this naught of a human, this fisherman, this carpenter, this thief, this cook, why, what can they do in the great wide world? And so you putter and sputter your lives away, like candles burning in a draft.”
“Not all men are destined for greatness,” I reminded him.
“Are you sure, Fitz? Are you sure? What good is a life lived as if it made no difference at all to the great life of the world? A sadder thing I cannot imagine. Why should not a mother say to herself, if I raise this child aright, if I love and care for her, she shall live a life that brings joy to those about her, and thus I have changed the world? Why should not the farmer that plants a seed say to his neighbor, this seed I plant today will feed someone, and that is how I change the world today?”

I will say, Molly could frustrate me in this book. It’s painful to see the woman he loves pile onto Fitz’s life instead of offering him some emotional relief, but I do need to remember that she’s also had to grow up too quickly. She deserves someone that can reliably be there for her and right now, Fitz isn’t that person. You just want to shake both of them, but they both have understandable reasons for their actions. That doesn’t mean I always loved how rude Molly could be to Fitz when they did have disagreements, but that doesn’t mean that her feelings weren’t realistic. I think she’s just had enough of living a hard life. She’s a tough woman and wants some relief from that constant wall she’s got held up.

Another woman that I admire is Kettricken, the way that she leads and is willing to sacrifice completely for the betterment of this kingdom, even when she’s lonely and feeling unloved. Her and Verity are very alike in that way. I wish they would have come together more in this novel, though I do see that she’s almost courting HIM and he is starting to care about her.

There’s also a bit more action in this installment compared to the first. Between Kettricken trying to win some respect, Verity leaving, Red-Ships at Neatbay, Skill fights, and Regal, there’s a lot more drama and battles. Speaking of… REGAL. I think it’s safe to say that Regal is one of the best-worst villains I’ve ever read about. I’m not going to ruin what happens in this book for people that might read this and haven’t read Royal Assassin yet, but he’s a schemer. The CRAP he does will infuriate you. It all leads up to this incredibly gut-wrenching climax and ultimately, this really profound moment for Fitz and the people that surround him *takes a deep breath and tries not to let the emotion overcome me*

“But there was something there, a feeling almost of relief. I had seen that before, in a man who had had his maimed foot removed, or the family that finally finds their drowned child’s body. To finally confront the worst there is, to look it squarely in the face and say, “I know you. You have hurt me, almost to death, but still I live. And I will go on living.”

I’m pretty sure that a lot of people that have read and enjoyed this series gets a tiny bit emotional or nostalgic when they hear the phrase “we are pack” thinking about the evolution of Fitz and his little makeshift family. Hobb really made the fans of this series care about Fitz and I think we all want to claim ourselves as part of that pack. It’s part of what I love so much about this entire series. Okay, I’ll stop being a nerd and gushing on. As always, Robin Hobb is QUEEN.

“Come, hunt with me, the invitation whispers in my heart. Leave the pain behind and let your life be your own again. There is a place where all time is now, and the choices are simple and always your own. Wolves have no kings.”

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