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4.5 out of 5 stars
Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy 1)
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2008
I found Assasssins Apprentice, and the rest of the trilogy, a very refreshing read. The pace does begin a little slow and at times I felt Robin Hobbs did not have to go to the extremes she did to portray Fitz's utter loneliness, however after about chapter six I found the pace picked up and I was hooked into the book.

This is not a typical 'epic quest' based fantasy tale, Hobb does a great job of avoiding most of the cliches and stereotypes rife in the fantasy genre, although admittedly the antagonist can be a little flat at times in the typical 'bad guy' way. However, overall I think this book is worth reading just for Hobbs' skill in creating deep, dynamic characters that grow with the story. I felt a little distant from most of the characters in the book at first, I think this is a clever reflection on the state of mind of young Fitz in his loneliness, however by the second book I had grown to love them - the characters are all so rounded and realistic, with their own histories, opinions and faults.

Hobbs' use of language also impressed me, she has a lovely style of writing that is very descriptive without being over-indulgent, giving the story an overall feel of 'realness' that sucks the reader into the world of Buckkeep and the Six Duchies.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2012
I am a reasonably big fan of the fantasy genre, but finding books that hit the right fantasy spot is a hard task. Some do it for me, some don't. Oddly this book comes up trumps and also comes up short! So its middle ground for me.

It is without doubt very well written and the characters are good and well delevoped. But, for what this is worth it takes 100's of pages to get anywhere, less graphic fantasy novel and more like a fantasy soap opera. The storylines are winding and seemly endless, when you get to the end barely anything has happened that couldn't be summarised in maybe one or two paragraphs, unlike other fantasy novels where the storylines and characters can become hard to manage and follow, this novel just seems happy to trundle along developing gradually and ultimately this spoils it.

In most fantasy novels the Magic is central to the characters and plot lines - in this novel there are only a few who can preform the mystical "Skilling" or the "Wit", but neither are really exciting abilities to have. Skilling lets you read and control minds of humans, Wit the same with animals, our hero Fitz has both ablities, but still they are, for want of a better phrase, boring magics, that very much take a backseat in the development of the story.

I could write an essay on what is wrong with this novel, but in short... Easy read with a plodding storyline that lacks elements you should expect in a good fantasy read. OK, but nowhere near as great as lots of reviewers seem to want you to believe.
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220 of 238 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 9 February 2003
It's not very often that you pick up a book from an ordinary shelf, thinking nothing more than 'I'm sooo bored, maybe I'll read this,' and, within a few pages, discover that you have, in fact, stumbled upon genius in print.
Following the life of a royal bastard, known as Fitz, this trilogy takes you on a journey that spans years, miles, height and depth. Though easily qualified as a work of high fantasy, political intrigue, human personality and realistic motivation keeps the entirity incredibly grounded. You never catch yourself wondering just how realistic it all is- it IS real, that's a given. But there was one aspect of this story that especially caught me.
For me, characters are the measure of a good story. If you don't care about them, you don't care about the book itself. In the case of this trilogy, you find yourself becoming more and more deeply entangled in the thoughts, emotions and personality of the characters until it's hard to remember who YOU are.
In particular, I think Fitz is one of the most realistically human characters ever to inhabit the written word, and the Fool remains my favourite character of any I've ever read about. Such depth and delicacy of portrayal and narration is all too rare.
In other words, read this trilogy. You simply can't go wrong with a story like this one.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2003
I'm a latecomer to the Church of Hobb, but having devoured this novel in a matter of days I can firmly say that I see the appeal. This is a highly readable and at times very gripping tale, with well-rounded if slightly unremarkable characters. The early stages perhaps linger a little too long on scene-setting - things only become truly interesting once narrator Fitz is into his teens - but this is excusable when the scene being set is as engaging and well-drawn as this. Hobb's early-medieval-esque world is packed with believable detail rather than cliche, and the Chyurda people of the mountains are a genuinely original and intriguing society, adding much interest to the story.
The narrative device of telling the story through an older Fitz's reflections upon his life works well, enabling the author to overlay a child's actions with an adult's understanding and insight. Fitz is simultaneously both an insider and an outsider, a royal bastard taken in at an early age but never accepted by all. He has access to the powerful but is not truly one of them, and his learning process allows for a (mostly) smooth transmission of background information to the reader. There are one or two bumps, however: a few times, Fitz reaches conclusions which are subverted by later events - but since he is supposedly telling the story with hindsight this comes across only as a slightly forced attempt at creating suspense and surprise.
The story is largely self-contained (though it has strands that later books in the trilogy will presumably pick up), and is thankfully free of a generic 'quest' structure, instead centring mainly upon political currents within the kingdom and Fitz's early life. My only real qualm about the whole thing partly stems from this self-containment: the climax, in pulling virtually all the people who have at some times undermined/attacked Fitz into one great conspiracy, seems to impose an unnatural singularity of motive and purpose upon the book's villains. It's certainly clever, but the pattern that is revealed is just a touch too elaborate, too neat, drawing together too many elements of what has gone before; it lacks a feeling of contingency and circumstance.
Nevertheless, it's wonderful writing and compelling reading, and a cut above the average.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2013
I have been meaning to read this trilogy for some time and after reading the Assassin's Apprentice I am furious with myself for not having done so sooner. I literally could not put the book down.

It starts off relatively slow, but this is essential for character building and when you get part way through the book you appreciate that the slowness was there.

The characters in the book are well written and fleshed out. You really develop attachments to them, especially the animals, I find. Sometimes you forget you are reading the life of a fictional character and feel as though it has happened and is happening to you.

In most books, the end of a chapter is a suitable place to stop reading for the night. With the Assassin's Apprentice you always feel the need to carry on and rarely want to stop. I think the fact that it's written in first person perspective is the main reason for this. It always has more of an allure when written like that as opposed to third person.

In closing, I would just like to say that if you are a fantasy fan and have not read this trilogy, it really is one of those trilogies that you have to read. Essential reading for any fan of the genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's been a long time since I last enjoyed a bit of proper fantasy having been thoroughly put off the genre following a couple of ill advised forays into `epic' fantasy a few years ago. I doubted if there would ever be a fantasy series to rival Eddings' Belgariad but happily this first novel of the Farseeer trilogy shows great promise.

Fitz is the illegitimate son of the crown prince raised as a stable hand but following the death of the prince the old king takes his formal education in hand by apprenticing him to the court assassin. Fitz, being of royal blood has the potential to be able to `skill' (e.g. to communicate with & influence others over great distances) and also possesses a dangerous native ability to communicate with animals. The tale follows Fitz's early years as a stable hand through his apprenticeship to his ultimate deployment in the field for a royal assassination. Along the way there is no shortage of danger, adventure and political intrigue as Fitz struggles to master his abilities and find his place in the unfamiliar courtly world.

There are lots of parallels with the aforementioned Belgariad and the novel is populated with standard stock-in-trade fantasy characters but it really doesn't matter. Hobbs spends just the right amount of time developing character personalities and describing the land and cityscapes without getting bogged down in superfluous detail (a very common failing in `epic' fantasy). It is a perfectly written by-the-numbers genre defining work of fantasy which bowls along at a cracking pace and still manages to feel fresh and surprisingly original.

An absorbing page-turner of a novel, I'll definitely be reading the other two volumes and then move on to the Liveship trilogy. Splendid stuff and well done for restoring my faith in fantasy!

UPDATE: Having finished the other two volumes in the trilogy I, personally, found these instalments sadly did not meet the promise shown by this novel. If you're tempted to dive into the Farseeer Trilogy then perhaps check the reviews of the other two books first...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2013
Every so often, a book comes along that changes the way you think about fantasy as a genre.

Assassin's Apprentice did this for me.

FitzChivalry Farseer is the illegitimate son of the heir to the throne of the Six Duchies. He possesses the Skill, a magic which allows the wielder to read and influence others' thoughts - sometimes openly and brutally, other times delicately, so subtle the person being influenced is not even aware of it happening.

But Fitz also has the Wit - known and reviled as beast-magic - that allows him to communicate thoughts and emotions with certain animals. Possession of the Wit means a death-sentence at the hands of an angry mob.

Assassin's Apprentice, the first book in a trilogy, is very much a swords-and-sorcery feast. It's more accessible and credible than A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones), and the story exclusively follows Fitz from his point of view. He's a wonderful anti-hero, achingly believable and deeply, charmingly flawed. As he cannot be legally acknowledged as royalty, he is taken on as an assassin, working in the shadows to serve the Six Duchies and the King, taught how to kill by his enigmatic mentor, Chade. At the same time he must pose as nothing more than a stable hand under the care of Burrich the Stablemaster.

It's this duality - the Skill, a royal magic, coupled with Fitz's service to the throne, clashing with his satisfaction with and yearning for an ordinary life, that makes Fitz such a joy to read. He's not a hero, but he enables others to be heroes. He wants a simple, quiet life, free of intrigue, and yet keeps throwing himself into court politics because he cannot keep away.

As if that weren't enough, the plot is also incredible, mixing court intrigue with love and loss, involves spiteful princes, epic quests, and dragons, which everybody can acknowledge are AWESOME. It's also got one of the best supporting characters in literary history: the Fool. I won't say any more about him, because Hobb has written 9 books (3 standalone trilogies) set in this world, and some characters weave their way through the whole tapestry Hobb has woven.

This is fantasy writing at its best, and I thoroughly recommend all 9 volumes.
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95 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2007
Friendly fellow fantasy fan warning: buy this book and you'll be committing yourself to purchasing not only the further two books in this trilogy, but very likely every other book in all four trilogies that have thus far been written by Robin Hobb. The characterisation, prose and plots in all of her novels are of such a high standard that it's impossible to describe how engrossing they can be until you've sampled them for yourself. Here's a list of those trilogies, just so you know what you'll be letting yourself in for...

The Farseer trilogy- Assassin's Apprentice / Royal Assassin / Assassin's Quest

The Liveship Traders trilogy- Ship of Magic / Mad Ship / Ship of Destiny

The Tawny Man trilogy- Fool's Errand / The Golden Fool / Fool's Fate

The Soldier Son trilogy- Shaman's Crossing / Forest Mage / Renegade's Magic

The first three trilogies are set in the same world, while the fourth is a stand-alone series set in a different world. Although the Liveship Traders trilogy can be read independently, as it concentrates on a different set of characters, I would still recommend reading the trilogies in order, as they each subtly tie-in with one another and build a larger story-arc in the saga of this world as events transpire. The most recently published fourth trilogy is set in a completely different world, but is perhaps best accessible to die-hard Hobb fans, as it isn't quite in the same league as her previous trilogies.

For me Assassin's Apprentice was easily the best debut from any author I'd ever read in any genre at the time and remains one of my all-time favourites. The world Hobb has crafted here is so detailed and authentic, the characters so vivid and the story so mesmerising that you'll realise you're hooked after only the first two chapters. It tells the story of a nameless boy who comes to live in Buckeep Castle under the watchful eye of stable master Burrich, who in turn bestows upon him the enigmatic name of Fitz. Very soon Fitz finds himself in the service of ageing King Shrewd and embroiled within court intrigue and various plays for power that are rife among the royal family. The backdrop to this domestic plotting is the invasion of the Six Duchies by a race known as the Outislanders whose method of conquest is as horrific as it is persuasive.

If it sounds in the least bit derivative so far then rest assured it's absolutely anything but! The outline may even sound like standard fantasy fare, but Hobb's storytelling abilities elevate Assassin's Apprentice far above any similar fantasy tale with familiar themes. By the end of this first story in the Farseer trilogy you'll be completely immersed in Fitz's bittersweet story and the conflicted kingdom of the Six Duchies, so much so that the impulse to read the whole of this trilogy in one sitting will be extremely difficult to resist. Magical is a term that's very often over-used to describe fantasy stories, but for Assassin's Apprentice there's no more accurate description. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2008
The words in the subject seem to be Hobb's forte. She is unrivalled in the fantasy genre for both. She creates a completely believable quasi mediaeval world without resorting to mind numbing realism or conceited grittiness, and also manages to include enough beauty and magic for it to be intriguing to jaded Fantasy readers. The magic system could have been cliched - it is not. There are real costs and dilemmas attached to the two magics in the book. You will not find fireballs or lightning bolts here.

It is a dark tale with troughs of despair and strife warring against the brief peaks of happiness that the protagonist is allowed.

The events and situations we find in the book are both logical and poignant due to the expertly painted characters - if Fitz, the Assassin's Apprentice of the title, is in a dangerous situation, it really matters because Hobb has made the character matter to us. The same goes for secondary characters: even minor characters are written with a style and care that most novelists would not consider. This is not to say that one will find lengthy passages about the workday of a cook that Fitz happens to see occasionally, no, Hobb can delineate and sculpt an impression of a character with a few well chosen lines, lines that can linger long in the memory.

I have not mentioned the plot. This is not a summary, but an explanation of the 5 stars at the top of this review.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2001
So why only 4 stars? Assassin's Apprentice is not as gripping in the first 1/2 of the book as are the early books in Robin Hobb's other trilogy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the story gently unfolds to a depth with would otherwise be unreachable, if she had moved too quickly.
Enjoy her writing like you would enjoy any beautiful thing, just for it _being_. As you move past the half way stage, however, be prepared for long nights of reading and a desperate rush home after work/school just to pick this book up again to find out more.
I'm just going to order the next two books, and I'm thinking if taking a few days off work to read them :-)
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