Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Book Review: The Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Title: The Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Voyager
Date Published: March 1996
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blurb (taken from Goodreads): In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.


Why I read it: 

I’ve never read anything by Robin Hobb, which is pretty terrible. So I decided to change that. This book seemed like a good place to start, especially considering Fool’s Assassin is coming out later this year.


My thoughts:

In many ways, The Assassin’s Apprentice is rather conventional. It’s set in the Six Duchies, a united (and medieval) kingdom with a smidge of magic. The protagonist is young, male, and somewhat magical. He also has royal blood, at least on his father’s side. So far, so traditional, right? Still, I’d be inclined to call this book classic rather than cliché because omg it was just that good.

The main character was (the) Fitz. A talented lad, he is trained as a stablehand, scribe, and assassin. This furnishes him with all sorts of useful skills – reading, writing, riding, biology/gardening, fighting, sneaking and others – to manipulate a situation to his favour. However, Fitz is a decent lad and not a cold-hearted killer. A lot of the book shows how incredibly isolated he is at court (can’t be easy growing up a royal bastard), and the doubts he has over his profession and general place in the world. It’s compelling reading. In fact, the only thing I disliked about Fitz was his use of the Wit.  I’m sorry, but I just find magic that lets humans bond telepathically with animals boring. 

The secondary characters were also great. I was surprised how much I liked Verity, Fitz’s royal uncle and second in line for the throne. Burrich the stablehand definitely grew on me too. However, I was also disappointed by the scarcity of women in this book. It’s not to say that it was badly written – none of the ladies we met seemed like stereotypes, and some were capable and confident characters. But for the majority of this book, Fitz doesn’t interact with any of them. He knows women who are unimportant servants or self-indulgent nobles, but their lives hardly touch his. Fortunately, this tendency lessens a bit near the end. I’m hoping the second and third books won’t suffer the same problem though: this trilogy looks like it will be great fun, and I want to be swept away in it instead of nitpicking at the gender politics.

I loved the plot too. There’s a lot of court politicking, which I always enjoy. There’s also some interesting stuff going on with the raiders harrying the shores of the Six Duchies, although I don’t want to say too much about that because spoilers. Beyond the Wit (yawn) there is also a nifty form of magic called the Skill, which looks like it will be explored more in later novels. Basically, I am getting pretty invested and can’t wait to read more of it. And I’m only on Book 1!

Highly recommended. This book really deserves 5 stars, but I’m stealing one because of the regrettable lack of ladies. Still an awesome novel though.

16 comments:

  1. I enjoyed what I read in the Farseer trilogy (though really I've only read the first two books so far). I stalled out on book 3 though, because the second book didn't get me as excited. It makes me think there might be something wrong with me as everyone raved about this series! Anyway, you're right about the regrettable lack of ladies. And it's a shame because Hobb does write some remarkable females when she does, like in the Rain Wild Chronicles!

    ~Mogsy

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    1. Ah well. Lots of other books out there! You can't like everything...

      I actually just finished Book 2 (looks like I'm binge-reading this series) and there are a lot more women in it, so I'm happy. Must check out her Rain Wind Chronicles too.

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  2. You have now read as much Hobb as me. I need to read more but I read book 1 right before I started blogging and things backed up very quickly from there. Someday...book 2.

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    1. When did you start blogging anyway?

      I am now half way through Book 3, so can confirm that the second one is worthwhile! :)

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  3. This sounds fantastic, and it's excellent that you decided to read it and it worked out so well! I haven't read any Robin Hobb myself, but it does sound like a really interesting fantasy world, which I always love, and I believe I've seen the books about for quite some time. I'll be adding this to my tbr and I look forward to seeing what I think of it! Thank you for making me want to read it! ( :

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    1. I hope you do! Curious to what you'll make of it :)

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  4. I find books that describe how people are bonding with animals in any way incredibly boring. A magic skill that let's someone communicate with them, that is supposed to make that person special? Why? What's so exciting about that? What's new about it? What makes it worth my time?
    Now the Fitz's struggle with what he has to do and how he doesn't fit in is something I'd much rather be reading about it.
    I'm not totally sold on the book yet, as I already find the whole magical aspect of it quite boring. But who knows, maybe I'll change my mind at some point. :)

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    1. I was actually not excited about the whole 'bonding with animals' thing either, but absolutely loved these books. Everything in this book focuses on Fitz's struggles, so you may enjoy it.

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    2. Totally going to second the love for these books. The Wit isn't a huge part of these novels, although obviously it's a core feature of Fitz's life.

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  5. I read this one a while back and enjoyed it with some reservations (grief over a royal bastard? as a plot driver? per-leese), but I've never been tempted to read the rest. I've heard too many times that Hobb's books are relentlessly miserable - bad stuff happens and then loads more bad stuff... Don't want to be made miserable, thanks, however brilliant the book is in other respects.

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    1. But misery makes for a great story, right? :p

      I'll keep an eye out for that. I didn't find the first book too heavy though.

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  6. This book left me with mixed feelings, because I liked it well enough but in the end it did not leave any lingering impression. And like it happened for BiblioSanctum book 2 did not engage me enough to keep on reading. Hobb writes quite well and she creates engaging characters but still... still I feel there is something missing...

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    1. Hummmmm interesting. I loved this one, but I was really in the mood for a great epic fantasy.

      Have you read any other books by her? Were they better?

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  7. Glad to see you enjoyed it! Wait until you read on, it gets better :)

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  8. Great review! I have this book (I received it at Comic Con) and now I should read it! I need a change so this sounds really good. Thank you for visiting my blog and have a great week!

    Kathy
    My Nook, Books & More

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