Title: Assassin’s Apprentice
Author: Robin Hobb
Series: The Farseer Trilogy #1, Realm of the Elderlings #1
Published: Harper Voyager (First published May 1995)
Pages: 392 (Paperback)
I know a common criticism of Robin Hobb, and this trilogy specifically, is that her narrative tends to meander, and there is a lot of unnecessary exposition. But, I didn’t find that to be the case at all – I was never bored or wished she’d speed things up. I adored this first installment of Fitz’s story, and I can’t wait to see where the world goes from here.
“All events, no matter how earthshaking or bizarre, are diluted within moments of their occurrence by the continuance of the necessary routines of day-to-day living.”
Our story centers on Fitz, the bastard son of King-in-Waiting Chivalry Farseer, who is, at age 6, unceremoniously dumped on his Uncle Verity when his maternal grandfather decides he no longer wants to be responsible for feeding or clothing him. Understandably, the sudden appearance of a royal bastard upsets the careful balance of the royal family. Fitz’s father relinquishes his right to the throne and goes into a self imposed exile, and Verity suddenly finds himself next in line to be King, a position he never wanted.
“If all I had ever done was to be born and discovered, I would have left a mark across all the land for all time. I grew up fatherless and motherless in a court where all recognized me as a catalyst. And a catalyst I become.”
Given over to stable-master Burrich to raise, Fitz becomes a part of life at Buckkeep. But, because of his status as a bastard, he is scorned by most of the nobility, especially his Uncle Regal who goes out of his way to make life miserable for Fitz. As a reaction to this, Fitz finds comfort with his relationship with the animals which is where we first learn of The Wit which is the telepathic connection with animals which can result in a true bond/sharing of minds. However, this magic is reviled as low beast magic, so Fitz must keep it hidden.
As the story progresses Fitz becomes an apprentice to the spymaster Chade who trains him to kill for the King. He learns about Skilling (telepathic communication between humans), poisons, and combat. Fitz eventually gets to put his skills to use as the Six Duchies is attacked by Red-Ship Raiders and find their people being forged which basically means that their souls/memories/identities are wiped away and they are only left with their base instincts.
“When you cut pieces out of the truth to avoid looking like a fool you end up looking like a moron instead.”
I won’t pretend that this isn’t a slower pace story. It is. Hobb takes her time to introduce us to these characters and this world; you truly feel immersed in this story. She spare’s no detail, but she also has a masterful command of language and somehow it all feels like necessary information. This also doesn’t mean that there is no plot – there is. Balancing out the slower placed, slice of life sections are some rather intense plot driven sequences. But, those sequences have more impact because you’ve already connected to these characters so deeply.
When reading this story, you can’t help but to connect with Fitz – you watch him grow, you see his relationships with people and animals, and you watch him struggle with the strands of his life that he has to keep separate. This is a story about love and loyalty and figuring out who is worthy of the trust you place in them.
“It doesn’t have to be that bad,’ Chade said quietly. ‘Most prisons are of our own making. A man makes his own freedom, too.”
This won’t be a book for everyone. But, it was definitely the book for me. I have no doubt that Robin Hobb is going to end up right next to Brandon Sanderson on my favorite Fantasy authors list.
Trigger Warnings: animal abuse, animal death, child abuse