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5.0 out of 5 starsSome of the Most Satisfying Fantasy Reading You'll Ever Get
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2017
I read on the average of about 125-150 books a year. Most of them in the fantasy genre. I'm a 48 - year-old woman, so I've put away tons of books in my time. This fantasy series is in my top 3 most enjoyable and engaging epic fantasy reads of all time. The characters of Fitzchivalry and The Fool are easily some of the most memorable characters of the fantasy genre, ever. As a woman, you may find yourself in love with both - maybe not romantically - but they get in your head and won't leave. Extremely well-written, well-plotted, suspenseful-yet-pleasant, not all doom-and-gloom but plenty of crises that get resolved in satisfying, creatively written fashion. You'll find yourself wanting to be a part of this unique, and masterfully developed world. Robin Hobb is a wordsmith extraordinaire, in my humble opinion. Prepare yourself, because once you've dug into this first book, you will read the rest voraciously and find yourself feeling bereft when you've run out of books to read that are set in this particular fantasy world. They're all FANTASTIC.
Boy, if I had known that I would lose sleep, call in sick from work, cancel plans with friends and family, and miss appointments all from this book being so good, I think I wouldn't have bought it.
Who am I kidding, of course I would have.
An exemplary book, filled with memorable, three dimensional characters with an incredible story set in a well imagined world, similar to our own in many ways and yet so different. The main character is very much stuck in his own head, but that's not a bad thing for the reader. It's a pleasure reading his thoughts and feelings about being trapped in a place he'll never truly belong, wielding two powers he doesn't understand. One power others understand and refuse to teach to the public, one power no one understands and people are burned to death for using it.
Really, really incredible book and not at all what you might expect from the title or the cover. You owe it to yourself to read this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsA Slow-paced Masterful Introduction to a Fantasy World
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2019
Assassin’s Apprentice is a fantasy book by Robin Hobb, published in 1995. It is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy.
I’m on the fence about whether to categorize this book as adult or young adult. The protagonist, Fitz, is a 6-year-old when we first meet him. By story’s end, he is in his mid teens. So, by the standard of “how old is the main character?” it would be young adult, but its vocabulary targets an older audience, so in that sense it reads like an adult book.
When we first meet Fitz, he has very little memory of who he is. In fact, he doesn’t even have a name that he can recall. Nothing beyond “Boy.” An old man presumed to be his grandfather is surrendering him to the care of the royal family. Fitz, you see, is the bastard of the crown prince.
Fitz falls in the care of the stable master, Burrich, after the crown prince abdicates his claim to the throne and abandons them both. We soon discover Fitz has a mental ability to bond with animals—an ability called Wit—which Burrich despises and is afraid of.
As we follow Fitz’s life, he leaves Burrich’s care and relocates to the palace at the behest of his grandfather, the King. The King has decided the best way to deal with Fitz is to prevent him from becoming a threat to the throne by using him as a royal assassin.
Divulging more of the plot would be bordering on spoiler territory, so I won’t. Suffice it to say, that this is a somewhat lengthy (464 pages in this version) introduction to a fantasy world.
For people who like action-packed fantasy, this isn’t going to fit the bill. Hobb takes her time developing young Fitz—his sense of isolation and abandonment, his search for belonging, his desire to prove himself worthy of being more than an illegitimate child—and I can see where this slow pace might turn off some readers. It’s a very character-driven story, and one that will most appeal to readers who have shared Fitz’s feelings of not quite fitting in anywhere.
For me, it was very relatable, and I found Fitz’s coming of age to be compelling. Hobb proved her writing chops to me when—knowing this was the first in a series and that Fitz was most likely to continue as protagonist—I still felt a sense of dread and worry that he wouldn’t survive a crucial point of the book.
I was thinking this was going to be a solid 4-star read all the way until the end of the final chapter, which left me teary-eyed, and caused me to elevate the writing to 5 stars, and Robin Hobb to the ranks of my favorite authors.
5.0 out of 5 starsI'm now addicted to Ms. Hobb's works...
Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2017
This book started a mild obsession for me. Since reading it, I have devoured the remainder of the series, plus three other series by Ms. Hobb. I am an avid reader of many types of novel, but these have quickly risen to some of my favorites. The character development is not incredibly speedy, but has massive depth. It is not often that a book brings me to genuine tears, or makes me laugh out loud - but these novels do. Some reviewers have said they found the stories slow or tedious - I disagree. The character development is so masterfully done, and the world so vividly brought to life that it sometimes takes my breath away.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 9, 2018
Do not read this book! Well do not read it unless you are prepared to forgo housework, cooking, talking to your husband...etc You will be engrossed, swept away, led on and on through treason, intrigue, power and the devotion capable of man and beast. Yes this is Fantasy Fiction, but don't dismiss it as a lesser form of literature. The use of language, descriptions, powerfully portrayed emotions and detailed characterisations makes this imaginary world come to vivid life...it will also make you download books 2 and 3 of the trilogy almost before you finish book 1. One thing I will say is beware the final chapters...they are in fact the opening chapter of Book 2 and an excerpt from Book 3. I was so swept along that at first I did not realise this and got a bit confused. Enjoy.....you have been warned!
5.0 out of 5 starsOne of the best fantasy novels ever written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 21, 2017
Fitz is only six years old when his grandfather takes him to the nearby fortress and gives him into the care of the soldiers there. He is the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, the heir to the throne: a man whom Fitz never meets, as he retires from court – and from the line of succession – in the belief that he’s disgraced his name by fathering an illegitimate child. Without even realising it, Fitz has already been the catalyst for an event that will transform the future of the royal line. He finds himself in a strange position, half-royal, half-low-born, struggling to find a place in a hierarchy that has no room for him. In some places, he finds warmth and acceptance: from his uncle Verity, for example, who wouldn’t think of finding fault in a harmless boy; and from Burrich, Chivalry’s devoted follower, who serves as stablemaster and brings up Fitz in a warm haze of dogs, horses and straw.
But all too soon Fitz learns that there are many who dislike him, for having been the cause of Chivalry’s abdication, and for the potential danger he might pose to the line of succession: among them are his young uncle Regal and the Skillmaster Galen, who is later assigned to Fitz as one of his teachers. And then there are those whose motives Fitz can never quite understand; and of these, the most prominent is his grandfather King Shrewd. Shrewd knows, as few others do, the value of a royal bastard and his acceptance of Fitz forms part of a bargain with the boy: that, as the royal house shelters and protects Fitz, so he will protect and further the interests of the royal house.
Hobb’s fantasy world is the kind that I love best: it is earthy, beautifully-described and not so very different from our own medieval world. Fitz isn’t confronted by wizards and sorcery, but by the petty intrigues and factions of the court: a labyrinth of politics which he must negotiate in order to keep his country safe. Although there are legends of the Elderlings left over from an earlier time, there is little magic in this age. There are a few strange powers, but these sit so comfortably within Hobb’s world that they seem natural, almost matter-of-fact.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Assassin’s Apprentice is unremittingly bleak, but this is definitely a novel that has grit underneath its fingernails. Reading it now (this was a reread), I’m struck by how similar in spirit it is to Game of Thrones – not only in its brutality but in the constant suggestion that, really, no one is safe.
In the past year I’ve met some very compelling fictional characters, who have dazzled me with their competence and brilliance. But returning to Fitz feels like coming back to a friend: he engaged me emotionally from the first time I read about him, when I was twelve, and all that’s changed is that I now feel more protective towards him. He’s so real, so shy and insecure that I often feel the urge to run into the pages and give him a hug (or berate him). Unlike so many fantasy protagonists, Fitz isn’t a hero: he thinks of himself as the instrument of other people’s wills. That requires him to live a half-life, moving in and out of the shadows, ready with poison when his king desires it. And yet he isn’t a cold-blooded murderer: he’s just a bruised, lonely, determined boy who dares to hope that, one day, he might find someone to love him. Fitz is never the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to being emotionally articulate, and if he only had a bit more common sense – in short, if he were more like a fictional character and less like a real person – he’d see that there are possibilities within reach. But he’s still only a boy – and perhaps such realisations are better suited to the man he will become.
Returning to this book hasn’t just brought back a flood of childhood memories. It has reassured me that this series really is one of the best out there. You don’t have to identify as a fantasy reader in order to enjoy this: it conjures up a world of epic proportions with a surprisingly intimate focus, all described with piercing clarity. The plot never slackens, even in its quieter moments, and Hobb is a master at the throwaway scene which nevertheless reveals a lot. In short, it’s the kind of story that grabs you by the throat and simply never lets up. If you’ve never read Hobb, you should definitely start here.
Over 90% of reviewers give this 4 stars or above, and you can't really argue with that. It's well written, and for the first 100 or so pages I was convinced I'd found a real gem of a story. However, I thought thereafter that the pace began to drag, particularly in the middle section, and the more I read the more utterly depressing the story became. Seriously, this is a book which should come with free Prozac! The book is written from the point of view of the main character, a royal bastard named Fitz, and I've seldom encountered a character in fiction who suffers so much tragedy and loss, given that he's still a child. Most authors slip in a heart-wrenching moment or two, but here there's no let-up. Fitz, through no fault of his own, is almost universally disliked and shunned. Even the little friend he makes in the village seems inexplicably cold towards him. Fitz tells the reader at least 20 times how very lonely he is! I read this book whilst in lockdown - big mistake! Compared to the relentless misery he endures earlier in the story, the book ends on a slightly more positive note for young Fitz. However, the future still looks very dark and uncertain for this character. Maybe life improves for him in books 2and 3, but I seriously doubt it. The author has invented a 'royal assassin', but given him neither the character nor the will to be one. I predict lots more misery and unhappiness ahead. Not a formula that works for me, and I won't be investing further in this trilogy.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 21, 2018
I tend to avoid books that play on the trope of a growing up boy that is somehow special. It's a formula I find trite and tiresome. Hence, I was weary when starting this book as someone had pointed out Hobb was guilty of such and I should avoid her books. However, I found myself devoid of choices and decided to give it a try, despite my low expectations.
The book proved to be engaging enough, and very well written. Usually books have overly detailed descriptions of everything or they rely on relating the facts, though Hobb achieved a good balance. More than that, the vocabulary on the book turned out resourceful and I found myself peeking into a dictionary every now and then, something that had not happened in a while. Each chapter provided a sense of wholeness, and overall robustness, which I'm not sure if I should attribute that to the book being old thusly devoid of modern tendencies, or if it just her style.
Since the book focused on one character, I felt this waned the potential tension of any and all dangerous situations. You know for a fact that however maimed or traumatized, the protagonist will survive. It's an unfortunate side effect of this writing style and a weakness, in my opinion. The book also falls too short at 390 pages, which could've easily been prolonged if the last arc was not so rushed and convoluted.
Nevertheless, this is a good book, and worthy read for anyone looking for a simple fantasy book.
5.0 out of 5 starsI am so impressed with this book and have already started the next book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 19, 2020
As it is with the well established series of the fantasy genre, and even more so ones of this magnitude, there are always tonnes of opinions. What the book did wrong, how it depressed some readers, how it was slow but amazing or any number of other comments. So it is more than likely you will see some similar views within this review but I like talking and reviewing books so I’m still going to write this despite what I have just said 😀
As we can see I’m pretty late to the Robin Hobb party but I don’t think it is a book I could have tackled any earlier. I had this trilogy on my TBR for a while but always veered away from it because I knew it was an older fantasy book and a classic. Though, I can safely say that I am happy I joined the Hobb party no matter how late.
So Assassin’s Apprentice has some fairly long chapters, at one point I was tired and thought ‘Ohhh I’ll just read to the end of the chapter’. Ummmm, no. I quickly looked how long it was and was like ‘nope, I can’t do it. I can’t make it that long’ 😂
Straight off the bat, I knew I would love Hobb’s writing style. It is soo stunningly written, and being told her other trilogies only get better is amazing and has be insanely excited.
With writing like Hobbs it often goes hand in hand with immense world building and this book is no exception. Hobb treats you to such detailed and colourful world building, there wasn’t a time I didn’t feel utterly involved in the book, in both larger scale plot events and smaller interactions.
One thing I really loved about this book was the time spent with Fitz as he grew up, I really enjoy these starts to a book and this one kinda reminded me of Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song. Now, I know this came out first but I read Blood Song first, so if I say it reminds me of Blood Song just take that as it is, ok? Ok. I loved Blood Song, so as soon as I met a young nameless boy being carted off to somewhere other than what he thought was his home and be thrust into the unknown I was eager! Even more so for this tale to begin the way it did with the snippets of narrator texts (again reminded me of Blood Song) it was already off to an amazing start.
Though, while I mention this and as I said I enjoy these beginnings because we see incredible character developments it does make for a far slower pace. This isn’t really an issue for me, least all in a first book but I know it may be for some people.
Hobb has done a damned fine job at building an incredible collection of characters. I loved the depth of Fitz as a character, he had so much personality and as a reader you genuinely felt a whole range of emotions. What made him even more intriguing was the fact that he never truly showed anyone himself wholly, he always kept something from someone! It provided a lot of options for the book, is he going to slip up with one person, tell the wrong person something they don’t know, show them a side of him he simply cannot? It is brilliantly written.
You do spend a lot of time in Fitz’s head, and this isn’t really a bad thing but i did find myself at times hoping for a character interaction and not getting one.
This story goes far beyond Fitz alone, you become invested in nearly all the characters and Hobb both gives you the goods and doesn’t. Chivalry for instance, isn’t a character we got more from and I really wanted to see more of him, but where this is the case Hobb seamlessly interweaves the characters relationship to him to satisfy it. We see the way Burrich thinks of him, and the level of loyalty he shows, this alone shows us more into Chivalry’s character. His relationship with his brother and with Patience. It is quite masterfully done, we create a relationship with a character who isn’t even there so imagine the goods you get from those we do come into contact with.
Now, I don’t often mention magic systems in my reviews, I probably should because the are an intrinsic part of the fantasy genre but honestly I don’t feel qualified in magic systems yet having not read some of the leading ones of the genre. That’s not to say I don’t have an opinion on them but you won’t get me talking about hard magic or rule based ones and so forth. Buuuuut, saying all that I am going to say how much I liked the magic in this book. We have Wit and Skill and they are so simple in nature yet the way Hobb weaves them into the plot and the characters development just puts them a step above others I have read. Hobb also teases us with the potential for these magics to play a far greater role in the future books of the trilogy.
Overall, I am so impressed with this book and have already started the next book. I am reading them considerably slower than usual but that is more to do with a busier schedule than anything but I am almost grateful for it as the time I am giving these books when I can is that much more treasured.