Assassin’s Apprentice


As a royal bastard in the household of King Shrewd, a boy called Fitz spends his early years in the king’s stables.

When the magic in his blood marks him for destiny, he begins receiving secret instruction, by order of the king, in the art of assassination, a calling that places him in the midst of a nest of intrigue and arcane maneuverings.

Firmly grounded in the trappings of high fantasy, Hobb’s first novel features a protagonist whose coming of age revolves around the discovery of the meaning of loyalty and trust. This gracefully written fantasy belongs in most libraries.

~ Synopsis from Amazon

Assassin’s Apprentice is the first of three books that form the Farseer trilogy. The other two books are Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest. Hobb has written other books as well that deal with this world.

At first Assassin’s Apprentice seems like your typical fantasy book. Yep, the unwanted orphan, seaside fortress, clandestine politics, a good dash of magic and adventure are all present. But as I kept reading, I realized there are a couple of things that set this book (and possibly the series?) apart from others.

  • It’s a conventional Fantasy novel written by a woman, which I realized is a bit of a rarity. And maybe because it’s written by a woman, there is not as much violence and misogyny as there tends to be within this genre.
  • Unlike other regular Fantasy, this book is comparatively light-weight at within 400 pages.
  • There is a lot of focus on relationships between people. A lot of time is spent on bringing out the loyalties between some people and distrust between others. I found myself really liking the main character Fitz and empathizing with his problems.

It’s odd that I’ve recently read two so very similar Fantasy novels – The Name of the Wind and Assassin’s Apprentice almost back to back. This book actually predates The Name of the Wind and I guess Robin Hobb has been an inspiration to Patrick Rothfuss as well because the style of story-telling is so very similar.

That said, the timelines in Assassin’s Apprentice are very slow and I found it very slow going even compared to The Name of the Wind. While the book is not bloated, there is still a lot of detail and world building, and I can say that this book is much more of a setting the stage sort of book than an actual independent story of its own (though the ending is not a cliff-hanger), you obviously do not get a resolution to the larger plot of the series.

We follow Fitz’ life from birth to his teens, and for much of it nothing happens. He takes training, he takes care of dogs and horses, and he suffers a lot. So, very little happens in the first half of the book. Two-thirds of the way in, the plot suddenly comes to life and things happen.

I did like that the plot started to take shape, but I found some of the plot points convoluted in the extreme. A writer like George R.R.Martin can make ludicrous plot lines seem sensible, but Hobb doesn’t have quite the same knack.

In spite of that though, I liked the book very, very much. It’s slow-moving and a little unbelievable, but Hobb’s investment in the characters and the world-building pays off and makes me want to read more. Other reviews of the trilogy seem to indicate that the books only get better, so definitely I am going to keep a look out for the other books in the series.

Have you read these books? What do you think of them?

You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon

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