Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

As part of my WWE  Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge my book for April was the first in Robin Hobb’s acclaimed Farseer Trilogy, The Assassin’s Apprentice.  I absolutely loved this book in fact I probably won’t be able to do it justice here!  For the past three days I’ve been living in this world and resenting all the natural little breaks from reading such as going to work, sleeping and other general, everyday minutiae that have come between me and the story.  The characters and the world building together with such an intriguing plot have totally captivated me.  In fact, I have no hesitation in saying that if you enjoy Rothfuss, Martin and Lynch you can’t fail to love this and as far as I’m concerned that’s some pretty damn fine praise right there.

The story brings to us, and is told by, Fitz (or boy or bastard as he is equally as often called).  No prizes here then for guessing that Fitz’s arrival at Buckeep Castle was not a cause for celebration for many of the inhabitants.  Fitz was born out of wedlock, son to a King in Waiting and the result of a brief liaison to a now long forgotten woman.  At the start of the story, and being one of the earliest recollections that Fitz can recall, he is being delivered, rather unceremoniously, to the Castle which King Shrewd reins.  His Grandfather thinks it’s time for the father of the child to have a hand in his upbringing.

Fitz is now in a very precarious position.  His father, Prince Chivalry is the darling of the country and when he discovers that his actions have resulted in a child he abdicates the throne and removes himself and his wife (who has been unable to bear a child and heir) from the scene.  To say that Fitz was unpopular after this is probably one of the greatest understatements of the century.  On top of this he could be seen as a future threat to the two remaining Princes – Verity (the second son) and Regal (half brother to a different mother).  If Chivalry chooses to recognise Fitz after all this would put him in line for the throne – not immediate line, but nonetheless in the running.

The story is told by Fitz as he recounts events from his past.  The style is linear and each successive chapter begins with the relaying of a small and relevant piece of information about the Six Realm’s history.  The writing style is simply beautiful, it’s not flowery or overly descriptive – in fact it’s just perfect.

Burrich, the stablemaster and dog keeper is Fitz’s first protector and friend but as one of Chivalry’s own men he definitely falls into the category of one of those who could carry a grudge now his former master has left taking with him his favour.  However, in spite of this, Burrich looks after Fitz as best he can.  He’s a great character and one that is very easy to become attached to.  He doesn’t suffer fools, a stern look is enough to put you in your place and basically nobody messes with him!  During the first few years Burrich does his best with Fitz instructing him in his own trade and trying to keep him below the Court’s radar.  Unfortunately this doesn’t quite work out and eventually the King spots Fitz and has other plans.

Chade is the next main character who plays a significant role.  He’s a dark character (the pocked man no less and you can’t help thinking of Death with his hood and scythe .  People don’t see him about the castle.  Secretive and quiet.  He is the King’s assassin and he’s about to take Fitz under his wing.  Again, in spite of Chade being a serious character with hardly more charm than a snake you can’t help liking him.  He’s brusque but that’s just his way.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into great detail about all the characters, we have King Shrewd – and let me tell you he is very appropriately named – he’s constantly weighing all the odds and I think he’d sell his own granny in a heartbeat if he thought it would do the Kingdom Good.  Prince Verity is one of your larger than life characters who stomps around the place with his dogs and is always on the lookout for a good battle.  Prince Regal is a total fop – but not innocent with it.  He’s very cunning.  Basically the characters are without doubt the strongest part of this novel.  They are excellently drawn with past histories and foibles.  Fitz in particular isn’t shy of making mistakes but it all just increases the feelings you have for him.  I loved the way that we see him grow up – but not in a nursery and singing riddles type of way – he leads a hard life.  He’s constantly working.  He’s basically lonely.  And really, apart from the animals that he sometimes shares feelings for he would have no companion at all.  Speaking of riddles – I forgot to mention The Fool – such an excellent character in fact one of my favourite out of almost any book.  Cryptic and sad.  And yet such a conundrum.

So, Fitz is gifted with The Wit which allows him to communicate unspoken with beasts – Burroughs also shares this ability but is greatly against it’s use and this is to be the cause of eventual strife between the two.  The wit is scorned by Royalty who believe the user will eventually become more beast than human.  The other gift we see in the story and which is pivotal to the plot is The Skill.  The Skill allows the user to converse with others, again unspoken, and over great distance.  It’s also a tool for persuasion and manipulation.

On top of this we have the Outislanders.  Raiders who, with their warlike ships, plunder the villages along the coast.  They’ve also come up with their own form of persuasion that is creepy and horrific and a great addition to the story.

Basically this story has everything.  It’s so interesting that even if there wasn’t something major afoot my attention was still totally held.  There is court intrigue, backstabbing and evil machinations that had my eyes bugging out and my mouth in a perfect ‘O’ shape.

To cut a long story short and also because I think I’ve rambled enough and yet still not managed to convey the real story, this book was excellent.  Just go away and read it right now.  You won’t regret it.  At the conclusion I had goosebumps, tears in my eyes and yet at the same time was grinning like an idiot.  And whilst that might not be a pretty sight it gives you the strength of feeling that this book provokes.

I love that WWE, in coming up with this challenge, have been instrumental in my reading this book!

Did I mention that I loved this book.

I’m also entering this book as part of Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time reading event – stop over and take a look – it’s totally brilliant!

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29 Responses to “Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb”

  1. Lisa (@EffingRainbow)

    I first read this on my Kindle, and loved it so much I immediately bought the new HarperVoyager cloth hardcover when I found it. 😀 The next two books in that trilogy are still to be read, as are the rest of Robin Hobb’s books, but they’re definite must-reads now.

    • lynnsbooks

      I bought this and No.2 at the same time so I’m really looking forward to the next. I really enjoyed it. You must let me know when you’re reading the next. I was looking at Robin Hobb’s books earlier and there are some that look that they may be based on the Fool – but I could be mistaken with that and need to go and have a proper look. I thought the Fool was such a good character, but then the rest were equally compelling.
      Lynn 😀

  2. deslily

    is this the first book that leads into the Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest.) And then: The Liveship Traders Trilogy, the Tawny Man Trilogy, and the Soldier Son trilogy. The Rain Wilds Chronicles is now complete, published as Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven.?????

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, have you read them? I absolutely loved this – it was just compelling. The fool was a great character and I think I saw some books named that make me think he reappears also?
      Lynn 😀

      • deslily

        I haven’t read any yet because of how many there actually are..generally when I am into an exceptionally long series it’s because I began when book one first came out and I just wait for each new one.. it’s daunting to know there are so many.. but between you and Cath I may have to try this!..I just hope they are not just mass paperbacks which I cannot read!

      • lynnsbooks

        Oh, that would be a shame. I never thought of that – the book I read was a paperback after all. Sometimes they are a nuisance to read – especially the Game of Thrones books – they’re virtually impossible hold open in fact I confess that I had to break the spine on that one to get the pages apart. Not good I know but I just couldn’t read it otherwise. Have you thought of a Kindle or are you against them? I prefer books for sure but I’ve started reading some things on Kindle now as well. It’s never going to replace my love of books but I must admit that reading a really large novel on there is so much easier. The last really enormous book I read was Patrick Rothfuss and I literally had to rest the book on a cushion on my lap – otherwise my wrist would start hurting.
        Lynn 😀

  3. Cath

    This Assassin trilogy is one of my favourite, if not *the* favourite, fantasy trilogy of all time. As you say, the writing is exquisite – perfect. I think the books get better and better and the 3rd. one, Assassin’s Quest, is simply amazing. I’m hoping to start on the Liveship Trader trilogy for Carl’s OUaT challenge and expecting it to be excellent too… I *think* The Fool comes into those somewhere but am not certain.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m so excited to read the next two. I really loved this – it’s difficult to believe that the books get even better as this was my idea of perfect!
      Lynn 😀

  4. Hilcia

    Oh Lynn, you read this book! I’ve had it in my TBR forever and was thinking of reading it for the Once Upon A Time challenge either this month or in May. I’m really encouraged about the fact that you loved, loved it. I may dust it off and read it.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, yes, dust it off, very quickly and promote it to the top of the pile. I really enjoyed it. It’s right up there with all my fantasy read favourites now and I will definitely read on.
      I hope you like it and look forward to seeing your review.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Marie

    Oooh, I have deemed myself to be someone who dislikes Fantasy for so long, but over the past month or so I’ve read about so many books that I suspect would prove me wrong. This sounds so complex with lots of layers and interesting characters. I’m looking forward to keeping track of everyone’s posts for the Once Upon A Time Challenge and adding some more to my wishlist!

    • lynnsbooks

      I actually think that this particular book would be a great introduction to anyone wanting to dip a toe into the fantasy pool. Truly, I enjoyed it so much, it just drew me in and really held my attention. If you do get a chance you should give it a shot.
      Lynn 😀

      • Redhead

        it was one of my introductions too to fantasy, and was a success! the story is very ccharacter driven, you don’t need to know anything about “traditional” fantasy tropes or anything. Hobb doesn’t follow any tropes anyways.

  6. jessicabookworm

    I haven’t read anything by Robin Hobb but after reading your thoughts I think this is something I would enjoy. And now I’ve read A Game Thrones I am not so daunted by epic fantasy! Glad you enjoyed this 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      Really, I think you’d like this – in fact I think it would be a great introduction to anyone who hasn’t read a lot of fantasy. It’s just so enjoyable – and in fairness it’s not quite as big a chunkster as Game of Thrones.
      Lynn 😀

  7. jenclair

    I’ve read The Liveship Traders,Trilogy, The Farseer Trilogy, and The Tawny Man books which are all connected. LOVED them!

    • lynnsbooks

      That’s really great to hear. I think this is a series that I’m going to really enjoy.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Redhead

    I’m so happy you read Assassin’s Apprentice, this was one of the THE books that turned me head over heels into a fantasy fan. Robin Hobb is amazing and perfect.

    What did you think of the Fool? he’s one of my favorite characters in this trilogy.

    • lynnsbooks

      I loved the fool – he’s so unusual and such a conundrum – I’m rather hoping that he’s going to keep cropping up in all her other works.
      Honestly, I can’t believe how much I loved this and now I’ve read it I can’t believe how long I waited. Still, I’ve got so much to look forward to now.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Clockwork Hat

    I can’t tell you how much I want to read this book!!!! Someone always takes it out of the library before me. I’ll return when I have read it… It sounds terrific.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s absolutely brilliant. Frankly I could read it again right now – it was that good. And, I can’t recommend it enough.
      Lynn 😀

  10. You will, you will, you will… | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb – read this as part of my Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge and adored it.  How come nobody told me about Robin Hobb before!  Plus I love this challenge and site – go them it out. […]

  11. My best reads for 2013 | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – my first book by this author and now I’ve read it I can’t believe I’ve not read more!!  Must rectify that immediately. […]

  12. Leona

    I’m a bit late to the party but I finally got around to reading this wonderful series and posted the review for Assassin’s Apprentice on my blog. I can’t wait to read Liveship Traders and the rest of them. Such a wonderful story and amazing characters. I’m a fan!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved this book – I do have quite a few of her others as well which I need to get to. A wonderful author – I went to see her at an event and she’s so lovely and interesting.
      Lynn 😀

      • Leona

        I heard’s she’s a super nice person, but I’m too remote to go to any such events. I started reading the Locke Lamora book, planning to get into Liveship Traders and all the rest of them after I finish the Gentleman Bastards series.

      • @lynnsbooks

        Oh – I absolutely love the Gentlemen Bastard series! Look forward to your review of the first one? Hope you enjoy it.
        Lynn 😀

      • Leona

        I became a huge fan of thieves in fantasy and heist stories after reading the Riftwar and the Thieves Guild stuff in the Elder Scrolls games. I think I will love this book!

      • @lynnsbooks

        I think so too tbh.
        Lynn 😀

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