10 July 2016

Books: Assassin's Apprentice By Robin Hobb (1995)

“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.”

Robin Hobb’s debut novel, Assassin's Apprentice, sparkles with originality and a sense of reality. Here she fully creates a world of adventure, intrigue, and secrets. With a swift prose that gives much detail and depth, Hobb does not get bogged down in too much detail and languor in a genre known to spend twenty of thirty pages on a character crossing the road or exploring a room the size of a closet (yes, I'm thinking of you George R.R. Martin and Diana Gabaldon). And Fritz is an appealing, fully three-dimensional character. His relationship with Burrich and most importantly, the Fool, is wonderfully written.I do question the morality of turning a child into a killer, and we get some discussion of this in the book, but it is fantasy, so maybe I should just go with. I mean, after all, not one dies as horribly described in A Game of Thrones. By far, it's done subtly, and off-stage (so to speak).

While I’ve never been a huge fan of first person narratives, here the author is able show the reader the world through Fitz’s eye, which I find rare in many authors who use this creative devise. The book often reminded me of the old school style of David Eddings and even Terry Brooks (long before he let his Shannara books dominate his life). This is also but the first book in three trilogies, and it’s clear early on that Hobb knew what she was doing in crafting the story. She reveals little –the Red-Ship Raiders become the books McGuffin- but gives enough to want to continue on. I will read the much longer books two and three, but if the pace and the prose remain the same, I may continue onto the other two trilogies.  

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