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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 11 March 2016
In my search for great epic fantasy a few years ago, I stumbled upon Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy and was literally enthralled. This first book sets up the foundation for the primary character in the book - young FitzChivalry - bastard of the King-in-Waiting, Chivalry Farseer. Although Fitz never actually has the pleasure of meeting his natural father, he has some stand-in dads in the persons of the stablemaster, Burrich, and eventually the man who would teach Fitz how to excel in killing - Chade Farseer, bastard brother of King Shrewd.
The young Fitz struggles with the loneliness that one can only imagine in the soul of a growing child who doesn't know his mother or father. Much of the time he is left to his own devices which he greatly enjoys, especially when he takes the time to run off to the local village and run with the orphan-like children of the town. This is where Fitz meets Molly Nosebleed for the first time - a young girl who will eventually come to mean the world to Fitz. However, this part of his life and his relationship with Molly is put on hold once certain people from the Castle decide to take Fitz in hand and groom him for his future life.
This is not a book that contains explicit sexual details. But, it is a book that contains love, life and honor. In particular, Fitz and Burrich are very honorable individuals and much of their life in and around the castle are detailed in their routine tasks. As the young Fitz begins to grow up, he is taken in hand by Chade, who is the King's Assassin. As such, Chade is set to train Fitz to follow in his footsteps, although from the outset, Chade makes it very clear that Fitz will have the choice of whether or not to follow that path.
There are primarily two types of magic this series focuses upon. These are termed - "Wit" and "Skill." Those individuals who carry the "Wit" are able to bond with animals, birds and other creatures in a very special way, often bonding for life. The "Wit" is frowned upon by many people and there is also a considerable amount of shame borne by those who are found to actually be using that type of magic.
Possessing the ability to "Skill" was primarily limited to the Farseer family. Skilling gives the user the ability to communicate across vast distances and those individuals who are gifted with the "Skill' are taken in hand by the Skillmaster for training. As a Farseer, Fitz is eventually included in the Skill Coterie for training. However, he runs afoul of the cruel Skillmaster, Galen, and suffers greatly.
Since Fitz's father stepped down from his King-in-Waiting office in favor of his younger brother, Verity, Fitz and Verity eventually form a type of uncle and nephew bond. There is a third uncle who is half brother to Chivalry and Verity - Regal, who is an evil man. Some of the treatment toward Fitz by Galen and Regal are nightmarish. However, Fitz has some strengths even during his youth that arise within his soul and help him to overcome the evil plots and plans some would think to work against him.
There is another individual who will become a life-long soul mate to Fitz. That would be the little boyish/girlish King's "Fool." Although Fool is referred to as "he," there is great mystery surrounding whether or not Fool is female or male. He isn't actually human, so perhaps he is a bit of both. The bond between Fitz and Fool doesn't reach a lot of depth in this first book, but may I suggest that anyone reading this first book, pay close attention to the beginning of the bond between the two.
Robin Hobb's worlds often collide. I highly recommend this series as the place to start reading her books, especially if you're open to epic fantasy. Once you begin reading, you'll find it difficult to stop.
on 24 September 2007
I have just finished reading this book. I cannot remember the last time I was so engrossed in a story, connected so strongly with the characters and found myself half-eager half-despairing to get to the end. The world in which the story takes place in is written so convincingly by Hobb that at times it felt she was actually describing places that had once existed. She has not only created the land geographically speaking, but she also came up with the cultures, the traditions, the history and even the political backdrop for it all.
I think the portrayal of Fitz is excellent, the idea to write in first-person was an excellent one and overcomes the no-name problem that he encounters for a good portion of the novel, you really feel as though you are in his body. I enjoyed the way the story folded out, how he slowly grew without you realising it as you read, much how you don't realise the people you grow up with are doing so. I also enjoyed how certain things were never directly explained, such as the Skill. Obviously, to Fitz, this doesn't need explaining and you are left to gradually build your understanding of the world he lives in. I did cry once or twice reading it, and it also left me with a very saddening feeling of past childhood years and becoming older.
Basically... I'm going to order the next two books once I've finished writing this!
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 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!