Thursday, April 6, 2023

Assassin's Apprentice: Robin Hobb


Introductory description 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.

Fitz is initially cared for and trained to work in the stables by Burrich, who is strict and standoffish. Burrich worked for Prince Chivalry before he abdicated, and he blames Fitz for his "demotion." Eventually the King offers Fitz the opportunity to have a role in the family as the King's assassin. He begins very intense training with Chade, in secret. Fitz is still not accepted by many members of the family.

My thoughts:

I am not an experienced fantasy reader. I have read other fantasy series but not a lot and not this type (I guess it is called High Fantasy). I would have been shocked by the corruption and evil among the members of the court, but the same behavior occurred in actual courts I have read about. With so much corruption at all levels, the reader never knows who to trust. 

The only other fantasy series that I liked almost as much as this one is the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. And that series is a cross-genre blend with detectives, policemen, and crime investigation of a sort so it fits into my standard reading. I have read other fantasy series that I liked, but this is the first one I really got invested in.

Some reviews said that this book is slow and not a page turner. Maybe it is slow, in that it doesn't have a lot of action, but I found it to be a page turner from the beginning. I read the first few chapters just to see if I wanted to get involved in a long book (435 pages). After about 50 pages, maybe less, I knew I was going to continue and hoped it would stay just as compelling throughout. And it did.

I gather that this book uses tropes that are common in fantasy series: the bastard child of royalty; apprenticeships; an unhappy and confusing childhood. But it was all new to me so not a problem at all. 

I thought the characters were very well done. There were many characters that I cared about and a few others that I despised. I got very caught up in the story. I want to read more of the series to see what happens to the characters, the good ones and the bad ones. 

I discovered this book and author via Cath at Read-Warbler. She recently reviewed The Mad Ship, the second book in the second trilogy by Robin Hobb about this world, The Realm of the Elderlings. My son had a copy of the first book in the first trilogy, so I started reading it just a few days later. 

The cover of this paperback edition is an illustration by Michael Whelan.

Publisher:   Bantam Books, 1996 (orig. pub. 1995)
Length:      435 pages 
Format:      Paperback
Series:       The Farseer Trilogy, #1
Genre:       Fantasy
Source:      Borrowed from my son


Cath said...

So glad you enjoyed this one. I think this first trilogy is quite strong, lot of interesting things going on especially in book 3. And the Mad Ship books are wonderful, planning to read the 3rd of those in May and then it's back to Fitz in the next trilogy. What I can't decide is whether I need to reread the first trilogy to remind my self what happened!

pattinase (abbott) said...

You are quite an adventurous reader. I just put down TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW because i didn't want to bother learning more about computer games. I think you would have made the effort.

TracyK said...

Cath, I was very impressed with this book. I liked the story and the writing. I realized after publishing the review that I have left some things out of my review, but I will cover those when I read the next books, assuming they apply. One thing I enjoyed here that I don't usually like was the young protagonist. He was about 6 when it started and somewhere in his teens by the end, and I think all that was handled very well.

I have read that the Mad Ship trilogy is the best or the favorite of many readers. I have already checked out copies available at my local independent bookstore but I wasn't impressed with the print size in the copies there, so I am considering my options. I may wait until the book sale to check for hardcover copies.

TracyK said...

Patti, It does some like I am branching out more in my reading. I have read some of my son's fantasy books, most between 2000 and 2010; he reads more more fantasy than science fiction. And I like some of it but I often have problems getting immersed in it. This book really worked for me.

I want to read TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW, but I am not attracted to reading about the world of gaming so still am not sure. On the other hand, I have been playing board games with my husband and son for about a year now and I never thought I would do that. (Rick Robinson introduced me to a game about birds, Wingspan, and that got us started.)

Margot Kinberg said...

This sounds intriguing, Tracy. I admit, fantasy is not usually my genre, but I can see how this story would draw you in and I'm glad it did. It sounds as though the author really built up the tension, too, although the pace might have seemed slower.

TracyK said...

Margot, Fantasy is not usually my preferred genre, but I will definitely be continuing reading this series. And you are right about the tension, very well done. I am glad Cath reviewed the later book in this series at this time, because I had been looking for a fantasy book to try. The most recent fantasy Cath reviewed, The Wizard's Butler, also sounds very good, although it is very different.

CLM said...

Glad you were able to find a copy exactly when you were in the mood to read it!

I like YA fantasy better than adult fantasy for some reason but I agree that sometimes a series can grab you unexpectedly. That was my reaction to a series called Deryni by Katherine Kurtz, which I think are all still in my attic in a box. I had to own them all but I am not sure I ever actually reread them.

TracyK said...

Constance, I looked up the Deryni series on Goodreads and it sounds interesting. It is amazing how many current YA fantasy series there are now and how well they are doing. I am really more into science fiction, I guess because I like technology science and it seems more realistic to me.

George said...

"Robin Hobb" is a pen name of Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (who also writes as Megan Lindholm). Some readers find her books too long, but I think she's a born storyteller.

TracyK said...

Thanks for that information, George. I did know that she had published books under another name but not her full name. Her books are too long, but if all of them read as well as this one, I don't care.

Fantasy readers don't seem to mind long books. My son's preferred reading is fantasy and he is fine with very long books. A retired librarian friend has long been a fan of fantasy, and she rereads long books in series before reading the new one. (She also does some kind of speedreading.)

Todd Mason said...

Some of the older masters of fantasy didn't choose to (or weren't encouraged to) write as such lengths, including Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance (though some of his late work was very extended, indeed), Leigh Brackett, Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Kotzwinkle, Peter Beagle, Janet Fox et al. I do think that those who have found the largest audiences have tended to write megabooks because a lot of readers, having made the effort to understand what the author is stage-setting for them, want a nice long story, up to and including multi-novel series, to reward them for their efforts...and the sales of those who do indulge in "bugcrushers", from Tolkien to Stephen King (most of whose best work is at shorter lengths) to Robert Adams have been persuasive to publishers.

TracyK said...

Todd, Thanks for this additional information on fantasy novels, and especially early authors in that field. Most of those I haven't read, although I am familiar with the names. I have read Le Guin, but only the first Earthsea book. I have a Peter S. Beagle book to read. I did not know Leigh Brackett wrote fantasy. I will have to look for some books by the others, especially at the book sale. I am trying to put off buying more books for a while, but it is so hard.

I sometimes have problems sustaining interest in a very long book, but that did not happen with Assassin's Apprentice (although 435 pages isn't so bad). A worse problem I have noted with really long books is the print size, to cut down on the physical size I assume.

Todd Mason said...

Publishers can be cheap, have no doubts about that!

People do seem to have oddly restrictive notions about fantasy, as has to be vaguely medieval, or have sword-fighters taking on wizards, etc. Kafka wrote fantasy, JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL was trite fantasy, most horror fiction (all "true" horror, by me) is fantasy...

And the folks I cited all began publishing from about the 1930s through the '60s...plenty of people well at it before them (such as Kipling, E. R. Eddison, "Lewis Carroll" and Kenneth Grahame of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, among so many others...and, clearly, Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, quite aside from sf from both, et al.).

TracyK said...

Todd, when I wrote those words in my reply to you ... "early authors in that field" I thought that you might point to even earlier authors. And I am glad you did. I am interested in reading The Wind in the Willows again. I did read it several years back but felt I needed to read it a second time to appreciate it, so I now have an annotated edition to read, this year I hope.

Can you point me toward which of H.G. Wells books are fantasy? The only book of his that I have read is The Invisible Man and it did not work that well for me.