Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice

Title: Assassin’s Apprentice (Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy)
Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Bantam Spectra

I couldn’t pass up reading a book with an awesome title like, “Assassin’s Apprentice.”  What I didn’t expect was a heart-wrenching, brutally honest, pulls-no-punches borderline cruel book.

And I loved every word.

Admittedly, it took me about the first 50 pages to figure out who the narrator seemed to be.  The confusion stems from the main character, Fitz.  At the beginning of each chapter, Fitz is speaking about writing down his life’s story, the result of which is the actual chapter iteself.  To further compound my confusion, Fitz doesn’t speak for the better part of those 50 pages.  There’s a good story –related reason for why he doesn’t, but that didn’t help clear my temporary confusion, nor did it help the book’s initial near glacial pace.

Once the pace picks up, however, I certainly had trouble putting Assassin’s Apprentice down.  Hobb avoids the typical tropes of fantasy novels by leaving the main character in the darkness about the world’s magical systems.  Having recently finished reading (before doing book reviews for this fine site) the first two books in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, it was nice to read a fantasy novel where the magic system was basically described as, “Concentrate and something awesome will happen.”  Surely I’m missing the finer points, but neither Skill nor Wit are explained in great detail.

Partly due to the lack of detailed explanation, Fitz feels like a normal person.  He’s not the last of a dying breed of the world’s most powerful magi.  He’s not the only person to lack magical powers.  In reality, it doesn’t even seem like he’s a fantastic assassin in most parts.  Thankfully, it feels like Fitz is a normal teenager trying to do a job he’s new at and occasionally failing.  And trying to struggle with the fact that the majority of the town he lives in hates him.

I mentioned in the beginning of the review that Hobb is cruel, but I should probably clarify that she’s realistic more than anything else.  Fitz doesn’t have an easy life so he has to work for everything that he has.  And quite often, seemingly for no reason (at least to Fitz), he’ll quickly get screwed over.  If you’re looking for a feel good book where the hero always wins, this certainly isn’t the book.

But Assassin’s Apprentice is well written, engaging, and fresh.  I enjoyed this first novel so much that I already have the next two books sitting on my Kindle.


About Michael Hannon
Podcaster, blogger, writer, geek. Host of That Video Game Podcast (TVGP) and Dynamic Soundtrack. A big fan of stuff.

4 Responses to Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice

  1. Redhead says:

    Assassin’s Apprentice turned me into a Robin Hobb fan(atic), the whole trilogy is wonderful. The story is entirely told as a flashback, and a much older Fitz is recalling his youth. as you get further into the trilogy, the magical system is explained more.

    there’s a bit of a joke going around that Hobb hates her characters, because otherwise she wouldn’t them through such crap. It’s not that she hates them, it’s that she makes you care about them so much that when things do happen, it’s crushing for the reader.

    • Michael Hannon says:

      I’m happy to hear that the magical system is explored a little more in future books. It sounds pretty neat, but I’m hungry for more details.

      I think you hit the nail on the head; she certainly makes you feel for Fitz and are just as crushed as he is when things inevitably go wrong.

      Thanks for reading!

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