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The Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

goodnightlady might as well be named my book master, because she suggested Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy, which starts with The Assassin's Apprentice and came with a warning that it sounds worse than it is. And the series does sound something like crappy stock fantasy from the time in the mid-90s when high fantasy novels were a dime a dozen: a bastard prince, a country in danger, a secret important training for the bastard, et cetera.

The difference is that this is actually a good book.

The story is told retroactively by Fitz, and it's no spoiler to tell you that he's a royal bastard. Left by his maternal grandfather at age six to be raised by whatever member of the royal family will take him, Fitz grows up a child of two worlds, living in part with his father's loyal man Burrich, and being slowly integrated to the world of King Shrewd and the royal way of life. While being a bastard may give him no favors with the royals, it does give him a special task for which he is hand-picked by the king and which may end up being as dangerous as it is good for him by the end.

Retroactive storytelling by adults who experienced events as children worries me, sometimes, because you end up seeing the world through an adult's eyes instead of a true child's perspective. Not so is the case with The Assassin's Apprentice. The action is through Fitz's untrained eye, and that makes it enjoyable. I think it suffered a little from being slow in parts, but Hobb builds her world expertly and the slow parts are always mitigated with more exciting, meatier secions.

It works really well as a stand-along book, too, which is good because I sometimes struggle to sit down and read a whole series one after another. The end is satisifying and while I want to know what happens to Fitz next, I don't feel compelled to go straight into the next book. It's one of my pet peeves when an author forces you into the next book, and Hobb doesn't. She ends in a place that works and you can keep going or end where you are, and I enjoy that.

The characters are lovable and very sympathetic, too, which I actually like. For high fantasy, it's really good quality, even if the titles are bad and the American book covers hideous. In fact, in the little book journal I keep on paper, my exact words were "so much fun!"


the forest-dweller

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