Title: Assassin’s Apprentice
Author: Robin Hobb
Series: Farseer Trilogy #1 Realm of the Elderlings #1
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 48
(see below for breakdown)
From Goodreads: 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.
Trigger warnings: Animal death – there are a few on page deaths of dogs in particular which might upset some animal lovers.
This was actually a re-read for me but I think I was much more invested this time around. Assassin’s apprentice is a really hard book to describe. It is essentially a detailed character driven story from the perspective of a slightly unreliable narrator. We follow the first 12/13 years of the life of our narrator Fitz who is, late in his life, writing his memoirs and is recollecting the events of his life, filling in information about the world as aspects come up. This stylistic choice can at times make the story seem rather slow, but as Hobb doesn’t give Fitz a break, his life just being one tragedy after another, so It never gets boring.
Instead, we get an interesting and well paced tale that really gives us deep insight into Fitz’ day to day life, education in the various aspects of life at court and into his relationships with those around him. The perspective gives these relationships real heart. I felt his pain, his joy and his exhaustion becoming completely engrossed in his world.
Hobb really captures the growth of Fitz as a young boy as he learns to navigate his way through the world, learns his various trades etc., but she also successfully keeps the areas of exaggeration and misremembering that comes from the older Fitz thinking about his past and what knowledge he now has that he has to impart to the reader. This makes it very easy to get absorbed into the world and learn about it. It is clear it has a vast history, political structure and its own mythology.
There is that sense with every character we encounter that there is a lot more to them outside of what Fitz knows. They themselves are complex and detailed. They don’t feel like they disappear when we are not reading about them but that they go off and have their own stories while we are reading another which just adds to the fleshed out detail to this book. The magic system is also very complex and thought out yet it is taught to the reader over time that both keeps it interesting but also keeps the story moving. It kind of had me urging Fitz on as he learnt it so I could learn more myself. The two complementary, yet conflicting due to the cultural beliefs of the people, systems are just so interesting. Even after the first book we are still only scraping the surface of what can be done with each of the powers.
It is hard to fully pinpoint the plot as we get everything from political machinations and court intrigue to Fitz’ apprenticeships (he holds many in his few years) to the larger threat to the kingdom and what that means for the people. But it is none the less entertaining.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to continuing with Fitz story and learning more about the realm of the Elderlings.