Title: Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Synopsis: The kingdom of the Six Duchies is on the brink of civil war when news breaks that the crown prince has fathered a bastard son and is shamed into abdication. The child’s name is Fitz, and he is despised. Raised in the castle stables, only the company of the king’s fool, the ragged children of the lower city and his unusual affinity with animals provide Fitz with any comfort.
To be useful to the crown, Fitz is trained as an assassin; and to use the traditional magic of the Farseer family. But his tutor, allied to another political faction, is determined to discredit, even kill him. Fitz must survive: for he may be destined to save the kingdom.
My Thoughts: Robin Hobb is a well-known name in the fantasy genre, and I’ve been meaning to try some of her works for quite a while. However, I’ve always been put off by the length of most of her books. This one spans just under 400 pages, so it seemed a good opportunity to give her a try. The story is about a boy named Fitz who grows up by the castle and is ultimately trained in the Skill: the ability to use magic which has passed down the Farseer bloodline. At the beginning of the novel we also learn that Fitz is writing a history of the Six Duchies at some point in the future and the events of the story are in his past. At the start of every chapter there is an excerpt from his writing which provides useful world-building as well as some interesting background information, which I found a nice touch that avoids characters having to plot-dump or over explain things.
I must admit that I wasn’t as blown away by this book as I’d hoped to be. Some of the prose was a little too flowery, and there were several instances where I had to backtrack after understanding a past event that wasn’t initially made clear. I’d hoped that the story would be more about Fitz’ assassinations, but a great deal of time is spent on him growing up in Buckkeep. This wasn’t exactly a bad thing, but it began to feel a bit samey after a while. Reading about his interactions with animals and sharing the thoughts of dogs was fun to read, though I did grow tired of hearing about how alone Fitz was- he veers on the side of wallowing in self-pity at times.
The Red Ship Raiders are a mysterious group of pirates that are terrorising the coastline. I found them really interesting to read about, despite the little you see of them, and what they do to the villagers they kidnap is chilling. Apart from Fitz’ interactions with animals, my second favourite parts of the story were probably the jobs that Fitz is assigned to do as the King’s assassin and political manipulator. The observations he makes about other characters feel genuine, and I also liked reading about potions and poisons. Overall though, I just didn’t seem to connect with this story. I think I will read some more of this author, but I did feel that this wasn’t an example of her best work.
In Short: Readable story that focuses on the smaller events rather than the interesting plot that is going on in the background. Magic, poisons and the Redship Raiders would have made this a better read if they’d been included more. 6/10