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.
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.
on 14 May 2003
I picked up this book one night when I was bored. It belonged to my flatmate who is into fantasy fiction in a big way. My previous attempts to get into fantasty fiction had included reading both Eddings and Pratchett, both of whom I found boring, shallow and predictable.
I had been making fun of my friend for reading trash after I had seen her with the Farseer Trilogy. Come on now, wouldnt you? The back cover of Assasins Apprentice reads something like "Fitz is a boy, no ordinary boy, he talks to dogs" hardly confidence inspiring is it?
Well, after page one I was absolutely hooked. Since then I have ploughed my way through every single one of Robin Hobb's books to date. When I have my new fix of Hobb I don't leave the house for days. My boyfriend hates me and my dog sulks.
I cannot stress enough the excellence of this book. What is so great about Hobb is her ability to tell an fantastic story. She aint going to win the Booker Prize but if you're looking for absorbing adventure then she's your girl. Would advise anyone to take a leap of faith and buy Assasins Apprentice which is the best place to start if you are new to Hobb
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :-)
on 5 January 2005
What can I say. I read this book as GRR Martin recommends other of hers on his website. I was not disappointed.
The basic plot is that Fitz is a royal bastard and the tale told is of his growing up, experiences, special ability to commune with animals and training as an assassin.
Some Royalty have the ability to 'Skill' which involves influencing others telepathically. In addition to this special ability the book explores beautifully Fitz's ability to communicate with animals. His early mentor, Burrich, despises him for the ability which he appears to be unusually familiar with and regards as an abomination. There are a number of touching moments when Fitz's is linked with his dogs which to me was a new concept for a fantasy novel in as much as Fitz's doesn't realise initially that what he is doing is unusual or in any way wrong.
There are political/court weavings too with Regal plotting and scheming and causing trouble. The characters are fabulous and dialogue excellent. It really is terribly well written and I can't wait to read the next one.
I recommend the book to anyone who loves GRR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, fantasy generally and anyone who fancies reading a book with some refreshingly new ( at least for me ) ideas.
on 29 October 1998
When you read fantasy there is always this little voice in your head telling you that the young shy hero will do the right thing eventually and all will work out for the best. Halfway through assassin's apprentice this voice is effectively silenced! Just like in real life things do go seriously wrong and are sometimes damaged beyond repair, despite the best intentions of the main characters. The kingdom is being torn to shreds by magic, raids by foreign raiders, intrique and petty rivalries. The only member of the royal family competent enough to deal with the troubles abdicates over a scandal and vanishes. His bastard son, Fitz, is left to grow up in a mostly hostile court. He struggles to master his magical abilities, learns the secrets of assasination in an attempt to be loyal to his king and tries to survive the lethal tangles of court intrigue. Robin Hobb has created a stunning fantasy story that, while retaining all the classic elements of good fantasy (dragons, magic, wizards) nevertheless tastes of reality because of it's unpredictability and it's deep-felt tragedies. If you are still well into reading "young shy hero grows up to be the brilliant king that saves the world" stories, this book is not for you. If you are ready for something far deeper and infinitely more gripping; it's only one click away! Enjoy!