Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb
Posted August 23, 2010on:
This is my first Robin Hobb, and I almost didn’t want to read it because I felt it had a really, really cheesy title, and just slightly less cheesy cover art. 20 Pages in and I knew this book was going to knock my socks off. That’ll teach me to judge a book by it’s cover.
Continuing with my weakness for stories featuring orphaned children left to their own devices, the main character of Assassin’s Apprentice, and of the entire Farseer series is Fitz. He doesn’t remember his mother, and he’s the bastard son of the crown Prince Chivalry. Fitz is a royal bastard – at best recognized by the crown and maybe given some kind of title or land, at worst ignored and left alone.
I don’t want to go too much into plot, as that would give away all the good parts, in turns serious, funny, confusing, cruel and fascinating. Suffice to say, Fitz is given the basic noble education, quite a bit of secret education, and he is exposed to the truth of royal politics and intruigue. He meets the enigmatic but oracle-like Fool, and his father’s barren wife Lady Patience, and is taken under the wing of a strange old man named Chade. Chade exposes Fitz to everything he needs to know, and waits patiently for Fitz to understand what and who he is. Although Fitz has talent with The Wit, a telepathic connection with animals, he is pushed to develop a talent with The Skill, a telepathic connection with people. As the novel progresses, the intruigue, betrayal, and danger reach explosive levels. If I told you anymore, I’d give away all the good stuff.
Another reason I’m not going to go much into plot is because I don’t want you to think Robin Hobb does plot and nothing else. Characterization? Excellent. We witness Fitz’s formative years, and Hobb captures perfectly the frustrated and scared child, the curious adolescent, the awkward preteen. Worldbuilding? again, excellent. While avoiding infodumping, Hobb provides us with a beautiful view of the Kingdom of the Six Duchies, and its histories and traditions. Damn good fantasy fiction? if you want to know how it’s done, read yourself some Hobb.
This Robin Hobb woman? Seriously, she’s incredible. I am kicking myself for not reading her the first time I came across her name on various SFFWorld forums.
You know how a lot of books have some down time, or some slow parts when you wish the author would just get to it already? Assassin’s Apprentice doesn’t have a single sentence of that. That’s not to say the book is all action, or all intruigue, or all mystery. It isn’t “all” any of those things. But Hobb makes use of every single scene, of every conversation, of every sentence. Everything Fitz sees and hears and does is important. Hobb is a master of foreshadowing, world building, and foundation building. She’s set Fitz (and the reader) up to ask all the right questions and to know where to go for the answers.
I still had plenty of questions by the time I finished. I’m dying to know more about the Fool, and the freaky scary plague from the Red Raiders. I’d like to know if Fitz will ever realize exactly what’s been done to him, and how far a certain prince will go to get what he wants. I’ve lucked out in two ways – not only is this a completed series (Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest), but Hobb has written plenty of other books in this world. So I don’t have to wait and wait and wait to find out what’s going to happen.
Six months ago my personal library contained not a single Hobb. Now it contains about a half dozen. If you looking for a new fantasy author, give Robin Hobb a try. She got a lot out there, lots of crossover trilogies, and few stand alones. So you can start just about anywhere and have a great time.