Assassin’s Apprentice – by Robin Hobb

 Posted by Andrew:



Robin Hobb doesn’t attempt to reinvent the fantasy wheel – she simply crafts it beautifully.

Assassin’s Apprentice is the story of Fitz, a royal bastard, cast out by his impoverished family and forced into the hands of the unsuspecting royal household. As the illegitimate child of Chivalry Farseer, Fitz finds himself in a world he knows nothing about. Only his rare link with animals, the old art known as the Wit, gives him comfort; surrounded as he is by people who see him as an inconvenient truth. As he learns weaponry, scribing, courtly manners, and how to kill a man secretly, he becomes a catalyst for great change in the Six Duchies.

While the repercussions of Fitz’s actions are often far reaching, it is how they affect his relationships with those around him that interests the reader most. Hobb is at her best when utilising the genre to explore the universal human experiences of love, power, hope, friendship and fear.

Fitz is an ordinary boy at the bottom of the social ladder, a relatable and overtly human character, with all the weaknesses that entails. Yet, because of the blood he shares, he is a perceived danger to those who vie for power. The uniquely fascinating social contradiction of the royal bastard may well be standard fantasy fare but it remains a gateway into complexly woven plot lines and provides a protagonist who starts with nothing but his fears, and all those other vices to which the reader can relate, and has the capacity to influence the politics and shape of an entire kingdom.

While Assassin’s Apprentice, and The Farseer Trilogy as a whole, lacks the sheer scale and political intricacy of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it more than makes up for it with the depth to be found in its characters, who, far from being clichés of the genre, are all believable products of their environments and unpredictable, varying moral shades of gray. The result is an uncharacteristically intimate tale that is more about friendship than it is the troubles facing a kingdom.

In turn the characters shine new lights on each other’s lives; illuminating and assisting one another against their mutual enemies, within and without. “My perception of my life crashed from high tragedy to juvenile self-pity in a matter of moments,” Fitz reflects as Chade sets him to rights. Rather than writing a story about so many individuals, Hobb has created characters that are heavily shaped by and dependent upon those around them. With each conversation they learn something new about themselves or another. They bounce off of each other and are led in different directions. It is hard to convey just how dynamic and organic a story this creates but it leaves the reader looking back at a plot that feels like the natural outcome of putting those characters together in that environment.

It’s strange then, when the characters are generally so well fleshed out, that they are named after their dominant trait: Shrewd, Patience, Regal and so on. It is somehow dehumanising and stands in stark contrast to the otherwise multifaceted characters and narrative branches. It’s a minor quibble though.

In the end, the first person voice leaves us closest to Fitz. One cannot help but empathise with him as he takes us through his turbulent life. At each stage both his personal relationships and those holding the kingdom together seem perched on a knife edge and he becomes as much of a juggler as the Fool himself. It makes for a compulsive and tense journey. It’s not long before the reader finds their own peace of mind inextricably linked to Fitz’s.

We left. Walking uphill and into the wind. That suddenly seemed a metaphor for my whole life.” –Fitz

 

Read This Book…
With a mug of mead (once you’re sure it’s not poisoned).

 

This book is a … Epic Read / Grizzly Reads / Young Minds

 

Details:
Genre: Fantasy
Paperback ISBN: 9780006480099
ebook ISBN: 9780007374038

 

Buy The Book:

*Also available as an audiobook.

 

If you liked this, then you’ll love…
Robin Hobb – Royal Assassin
George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
Raymond E. Feist – Magician