Continuing in the tradition of her first book (Assassin’s Apprentice) Hobb propels the Farseer saga into its second installment with irresistible plotting and memorable characters. Fitz is a trained assassin in the service of King Shrewd and also the king’s illegitimate grandson. He is sworn to protect heir to the throne Prince Verity and Verity’s new bride, but his task is complicated by an invasion of vicious barbarians who turn helpless captives into zombie-like Forged Ones. The home front is no safer, with an ailing King and usurpers to the throne waiting in the wings. Romance, sibling rivalry, battlefield exploits, betrayal, political intrigue and telepathic magic insure that there’s never a dull moment in the Kingdom of the Six Duchies. Through deft description and characterizations, Hobb manages to create a kingdom that looks like a fairy tale but feels like the real world?which makes it almost impossible not to become immersed in Hobb’s fantasy epic. The ending clamors for a sequel-and hopefully sooner, than later.