Title: “Assassin’s Apprentice”
Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Del Ray Mass Market
Genre(s): fantasy, young adult
Part of a Series: Yes, book 1
Why I read it: It was recommended by someone at Comic Con.
Summary: Fitz is brought as a young boy to Prince Chivalry, who is his father. He is given to Chivalry’s man Burrich and taught how to tend to the dogs and horses. Fitz proves to have special abilities when it comes to animals, which frightens Burrich. He forbids Fitz from using it. As the boy grows up, King Shrewd takes an interest in his bastard grandson. Fitz begins training with several members of court, including Chade—the king’s assassin.
The kingdom is soon besieged by Red Raiders who seem to turn the villagers into zombies. The king and his sons Verity and Regal struggle to fight them off. In order to gain extra help, the King turns to a Skillmaster to train the next generation of users of this strange ability. Fitz is among those chosen but the Skillmaster despises him. He struggles to prove himself but fears he fails. King Shrewd continues to use him for other purposes. Fitz is soon sent on a mission of his own, one that ends up being a matter of life and death for him.
Review: I’d like to thank the person working Comic Con who suggested this book. It was a great read!
The story is written in first person and draws the reader in. It’s framed as Fitz writing a history of his country as he also tells his own story. Each chapter opens with little bits of history that usually helps with the chapter. It’s a cool way to provide exposition without overloading the reader.
Fitz is easy to become invested in. And not just because the story is told from his viewpoint, though that helps. I think it’s because we start with him as a child. It’s easy to care about a child. Especially one who is essentially orphaned as he’s a bastard. His grandfather forces his mother to give him up. And his father is the heir to the throne and married. Claiming Fitz as his own would cause a lot of problems in his marriage and in the kingdom. So the reader wants to take care of Fitz. We want to see him grow up well.
Hobb has created an amazing world. Magic doesn’t seem prominent but there are special powers held by a select few. I would’ve loved to know more about the mountain folk as they seemed interesting. But Hobb managed to capture a lot of their culture in little time without doing an exposition infodump.
The other characters are all interesting as well. Especially Chade, the king’s assassin. He’s not hard and scary. He’s quiet and can move unseen. His style of teaching is interesting and unlike Galen later on, he doesn’t believe in traumatizing his student. He plays games with the young boy, games that sharpen his senses and his retention skills. It’s very clever and effective.
Bottom line: A good fantasy.
Would you want special powers?