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 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 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.
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!
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 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 July 1999
I bought this book, believe it or not, on the quality of the front cover! I was desparate for more fantasy upon finishing Eddings' 4 series, and found myself at the checkout without even reading the back-cover synopsis.
Having just finished it, I think this is the best book in my bookcase! More gritty and real than Eddings' sometimes squeaky-clean world, more focused and believable than Fiest's, the Farseer Trilogy is just superb. I've never read something so involving: joy at Fitz's accomplishments; guts churning at pivotal points; near-anger at Fitz's foul-ups! I love the fact that I couldn't just simply predict the way the story was going, but kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
on 27 July 2006
Lets be honest, some people have imagination and some people dont. The instructions on this book should read- Dont begin reading this book until at least October or when the snow starts falling!! . Start then and you will be transported into a world that has the ability to totally consume the reader and leave you unable to put it down. You will shadow Fitz in a world where all his emotions become yours ,you feel every joy and every pain. A classic fantasy novel!
on 5 September 2002
Assassin's Apprentice, the first novel within the Farseer Trilogy, is a tale of bleakness. Hobb's creation of a dark world, where little joy - or success - penetrates the plot, makes the novel a triumphant read.
Fitz is an unusual choice of hero, demonstrating Hobb's dual techniques of creating characters who grind their way under your skin, and demolishing generic fantasy cliches. Violence is part and parcel of any fantasy novel - after all, what’s a great hero without the ability to slice and dice the baddies? However, Fitz is the bastard son of a prince, and recognised as such by his royal relatives. Yet, instead of joyous cries of recognition the child is forced into the shady world of the assassin, and there is a sickly stench in the nostrils as the clinical tutoring of murder is conducted in the shadows. There is no doubt that any murder Fitz does commit will be weighed against a moral scale, with a recognition that such things are never done lightly. This is a refreshing, and sobering element of Assassin's Apprentice.
Fitz is all too human, almost uncomfortably so. His losses are staggering, and his successes too few. When he suffers, one can only stand back, helpless as a reader, and watch his pitiful efforts to cope, shrouded in a grey haze that is only amplified by the bleak landscape of the Six Duchies. There are moments within the book, such as when Fitz states 'for a very brief period, I was happy, and an even rarer gift, I knew I was happy,’ when there is an overwhelming desire to comfort Fitz, and introduce him to a world of sunlight and hope. The fact that Hobb's writing can inspire such notions demonstrates her ability to construct characters so real, it is almost possible to anticipate their wavering images in the mirror.
Once the pages of Assassin's Apprentice are opened, it's hard to close them; collectively, the hero, the world, and its events have the effect of a silent, dark dream, one that it is not easy to wake from. The other two novels in the Trilogy have the same effect - and the feeling of emptiness once the novels are finished, remains for days.
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.