With unforgettable characters, a sweeping backdrop, and passionate storytelling, this is a fantasy debut to rival that of Robert Jordan. Filled with adventure and bloodshed, pageantry and piracy, mystery and menace, Assassin's Apprentice is the story of a royal house and the young man who is destined to chart its course through tempests of change. Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal household by his father's gruff stableman. An outcast whose existence has forced his father to abdicate his claim on the throne, Fitz is ignored by all royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in the young man's blood is a heritage of magic, the talent called the Skill, as well as another, even more mysterious ability.
As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts and leave behind the zombie-like husks of the townspeople to prowl the countryside, Fitz is growing toward manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission, a mission that poses as much a threat to himself as it does for his target---for Fitz is a threat to the throne...but he may also be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
©1999 Robin Hobb (P)2010 Tantor
“Intriguing, controlled, and remarkably assured...at once satisfyingly self-contained yet leaving plenty of scope for future extensions and embellishments.” (Kirkus)
I average three books a week, but as I cannot afford to purchase that many books I frequently re-read those I already have. If you are here looking for reviews, I typically only review those books I feel particularly strongly about or have some insight that hasn't yet been posted in a review.
I'm going to be suffering from withdraw for the next 2 months while I wait for the next book in this series to come out in audio... I've been looking for a good series to start with this author, but the only one audible has had in the past is the Soldier Son series and by all reports it isn't her best work. After reading this I think it likely I will pick that series up anyway, since even this author's sub-par work is still likely to be quite good.
This book is not heavy on fight scenes, and the main character isn't even that good in a face-to-face fight when it happens. Indeed, for an assassin he manages to kill and wound very few people, and is generally quite nice and likable. The thing that makes this story so excellent is it's world-building and attention to detail, and its ability to build and sustain tension. The plot moves from point to point and as one tension eases, another takes up the slack, drawing you constantly onward and never producing a dull moment. The characters are so well done that I can think of real people who have less personality. I can see how the lack of action might deter some people, but if you enjoy detailed world-building and excellent writing, this is a book you are sure to enjoy.
Another person mentioned the "Night Angel" series, which I have personally read and enjoyed - this however, is the EXACT opposite take on a fantasy assassin series in every way I can think of (and is written far better). Also, I don't know what it is about this reader and assassin books, but he is well suited to it.
You might love this book if you like lots of character development and dialogue. I thought I liked character development, but after this book, I guess I realize that I don't.
This book was well written in my opinion. The story was good and the characters were believable. The world was developed. But for me, there was not enough tension in the plot. The character development was not enough to hold my interest. I was interested enough to keep listening, but I will not get the second book.
I ended up buying all three books, and I enjoyed them, but it was really hard to like this hero. He is not much of an assassin. The only assassinations he does are by poisoning and those are mostly zombies, and he feels guilty about it. He kills in self defense and feels guilty about it. He doesn't take out the really bad people, even though everyone knows they are the really bad people and he would have saved thousands of lives and endless suffering if he had poisoned them too, because of some promise he made... but mostly because it would end the story too soon.
He has magic ability he doesn't want to use and doubts himself constantly and really hates himself... but ends up saving the kingdom anyway... and gets little credit for it. He spends a large chunk of the third book on a useless quest, and all the while he is thinking (and I was thinking) this is a bad idea. And it was.
Conan he is not. He is more like Conan's half-witted baby sister.
Despite all that, the plot was good, the world was rich, and the narration was very good. There is magic and herbology and animal kinship woven in here. I enjoyed it overall. I just wish the main character had more backbone.
For a trilogy with the word 'Assassin' in the title, it's quite deceptive. The hero is whiny and lacks courage, and the fact that he's an assassin has very little to do with the story, nor is he good at being an assassin. The story is decent but tends to drag on at times, with the hero constantly weary and in a state of woe. There are many good characters in this book, but the hero is the least inspiring. I would have given 2.5 stars if possible.
Average and predictable.
Decent character voices.
I would rent it, but not pay theatre price.
Be prepared to constantly expect something around the corner that never comes.
I don't know what to say about this book. It was not fast paced nor very exciting most of the time. The setting was pretty typical of the fantasy genre and the world building wasn't the greatest that I've read. This book feels like a set up to a trilogy where we are learning the background story of a few chars. It's essentially a story about a bastard boy, his mentors, and his dogs.
So why the 5 stars? I just loved this book. I was invested in the chars and cared about what happened to them. The friendships and bonds felt so real. The one downside is the one dimensional aspect of the "evil" characters. I was able to get past this easily, though because the story itself is strong. This is one of the books where you just enjoy the journey the author puts in front of you. I downloaded the second book within seconds of finishing this. Not because of some contrived cliffhanger but because I just couldn't wait to see where the story would take me.
This is an intelligent and engaging book that appeals to the adult fantasy readers/listeners. But as opposed to those like George RR Martin, who have a lot of graphic content not appropriate for kids, this has none of that. I am so glad that Robin Hobb doesn't see that as necessary for a good tale. It is just as good as these others, but without the unnecessary baggage. Highly recommended!
Overall, I was very much unimpressed by this book, and its sequels.
A friend (ahem, former friend) recommended this trilogy of books as a "great modern, fantasy series." So I'm ashamed to say that I've read the entire trilogy. I was promised each book gets better and better. They did not.
I'll say this for Robin Hobb, she writes beautifully and sets a grand stage.
...in regard to execution, however....
I'm sorry to say that the story is simply bland. We have an assassin, exquisitely trained, with little to lose, who does so very, very little! Virtually nothing!
In addition, you'll be presented with an ever-present storyline where the protagonist and his allies encounter obvious opposition and betrayal from among their own - and do nothing! The story paints the protagonists as perfectly equipped to deal harsh justice to the antagonists, but they do nothing over the course of three books!
'Suspension of disbelief' can only be applied to plot mechanisms, not the human nature of the characters.
I recommend you give this one a pass unless you're stranded on a desert island.
The story ideas and concepts in the book where interesting and fun, and my imagination started going crazy with possibilities when they were introduced. The author never seemed to bring all the pieces together to make the story engaging enough. Many of the main characters were easy to forget and I felt a sense of relief the book was over instead of a longing to know more about what will happen next in their life.
The reading of the book is very well done. I found the voice, accent, energy, and pacing to be very pleasant.
I really wanted to like this book better than I did. It's well written, great descriptions and interesting characters and situations.
However, the denseness of the main character sometimes drove me nuts. I understood where that denseness came from (you'll know what I mean if you've read the book) and intellectually, it made sense, but I just couldn't get over the damage that was done. I don't want a Mary Sue, but I do want a main character who can accomplish SOMETHING, for goodness' sake!
In a way, it was very realistically done (which is why, even though I got frustrated, I gave it 4 stars). I'd like to know what happens, but I don't know if I can do it.
As an aside, I found Boehmer's voice to be a little high-brow sounding for a narrator who, in the beginning of the book comes from humble origins, but I got used to it by the end.
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