Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Series: Farseer Trilogy #1
Published by Del Rey
Published on: November 5 2002
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Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father's gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz's blood runs the magic Skill--and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.
As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
I did a research paper on Edmund from KING LEAR when I took a literature course on Shakespeare in college. The focus was on his illegitimacy and how by constantly being mocked and disparaged about his less than noble birth (by the nobles he was forced to associate with), he had two choices: become a simpering plaything for his “betters,” or turn on them.
Aaahhh, the clarity of youth. *snorts*
Fitz is a bastard.
Dumped on the castle steps as a child by a grandfather who no longer cared to feed and clothe him, he began training to befit his station . . . as an assassin.
Like Edmund, he fits nowhere and is alternately treated with disdain and absent-minded disregard. Fitz is forced to endure cruel tests to prove his loyalty to the king, tests that jeopardize the fragile relationship with the one person he trusts . . . He is alone.
That’s one of the few complaints I have about this book: a heavy-handed emphasis on Fitz’s loneliness.
Despite this isolation and constant ridicule, Fitz neither suffers the mistreatment with a smile nor betrays benefactor(s).
Fitz is loyal.
Initially, the loyalty is somewhat manipulated into existence, but once it’s there, Fitz finds his own reasons to remain devoted.
He’s the compromise, the protagonist who rises above his circumstances that my decade-younger self didn’t have the patience to imagine. Which is unfortunate, b/c the Bastard Hero makes for a much more interesting character than the more common Bastard Villain.
The other characters as well as the world-building were likewise interesting and complex, but I found the plot somewhat lacking at times.
This is a trilogy, so I knew there would be threads left unexplained/unresolved, but what appears to be the main storyline—the Red-Ship Raiders—was so unexplained/unresolved that it seemed secondary to this installment’s conflict.
Secondary and unrelated except in a few tangential ways.
Also, my #1 Rule: once you’re dead, you’re dead, wasn’t exactly broken, but Hobb made it dance a merry jig, walking a very fine line (several times) in that regard.
Death is meant to be permanent. If a character dies, you grieve. If an author miraculously brings that character back to life, your grief is wasted, and the next time a character dies, you don’t trust it. You don’t trust the author.
And if you can’t trust the author, what’s the point?
SO. A couple of minor issues aside, ASSASSIN’S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb was a solid start to what is one of the best-loved fantasy trilogies available. I’m not even a dog person, but Hobb’s insightful personification of various hounds had me longing for my own, and the King’s Fool who definitely is not, are just two of the reasons I’ll definitely be reading the next installment. Recommended.
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