Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Assassin's Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice
Robin Hobb
This is one of those series' I've had on my shelf for way too long. I bought them with the intention of reading them pretty much immediately and then never actually did. But a few weeks ago, in Gatwick airport, I was anxious for my flight and needed to buy something to calm myself down so I bought another copy of this book. And then I actually did immediately start reading it. I think I read more on that flight than any other flight I've ever been on, I was that engrossed in the book. And this book was nothing like I expected it to be. Not only was it a really good fantasy novel, but it was deep and dark and beautiful and it made me cry because of how close the story touched me. I don't think I've been this moved by a "traditional" fantasy novel in a long time.


This is a hard book to review for a couple reasons (one being that I'm writing the review long after I actually read the book) but I will do my best.

To start off easy, the characters. Honestly, they're all brilliant. I won't say I loved them all because I think they're all very complicated characters and the only ones I hold dear are Fitz and the Fool (and maybe Chade...) but I completely enjoyed everyone who appeared on the page. Everyone is well-rounded and has different intentions and goals and legitimately seem as if they are on their own paths and arcs. And even though Fitz is the main character, for the reader, it's refreshing to not have the world of the book actually revolve around him. He's certainly very important, but he's not the "chosen one" by any measurement. In fact, pretty much every major character breaks the mold. None of them felt as if I had read them before and it was such a treat to never know what to expect. Similarly, the politics of the world play a major role in the book and they were neither boring nor repetitive. The issues felt real (though I won't say the reflect today, which makes sense since the book is from 1995) and I liked how even characters on the same side took slightly different stances on things, just like they do in real politics.

Plot-wise I really enjoyed that it's told a bit like a memoir. It made it enjoyable to watch Fitz grow up over the course of one (I know there's more I want to read them but I feel he did the majority of growing in this book, just based on the leaps and bounds he takes) novel. It also reminds me a bit of The Name of the Wind in this vein because while things happen there's not exactly one big event that everything revolves around and trying to sum it up would be very hard without going into detail (which is why the back of both copies of this book have really terrible descriptions) and ruining things. And it's not a book to ruin things for; even though there aren't exactly plot-changing twists every hundred pages there are things better not seen coming and very enjoyable for those surprises.

The only part I wasn't really sold on was the main "romance" if you can even call it that, between Fitz and Molly. It just wasn't really romantic, I guess I'd say. There wasn't anything inherently bad about it except that I felt Molly was a character created for Fitz and has little of her own storyline outside of him. Also, their "romance" felt forced together and outside of this Fitz is a pretty sex-less character (in that I mean he never really seems to have romantic feelings for anyone else at all). For now I can write it off as the characters being so young and that in the next installments it's very likely they'll continue to grow and the romance will actually feel appropriate. The good part about the romance was that it wasn't distracting at all and that it wasn't really a driving force for Fitz, either. It was just a part of his life, and I can appreciate that, at least, as realistic.

But the parts that made me cry... they had to do with dogs. This book is kind of a love letter to dogs and how great they are and how they can help with depression and loneliness. I don't know if it was done intentionally but it really did feel like it was trying to say something about the power that a good relationship with a dog has. Fitz suffers from loneliness and feeling like he's not understood (and honestly, I think he's depressed; they never say that but I can draw parallels between my own experience and his) but begins to find relief whenever a dog gets involved. It's not a cure for anything in the book, or in real life, but it shows how dogs can really help heal.
TL;DR This book broke the mold; no, it redefined the mold when it comes to characters. It's all around a pretty amazing fantasy that I would recommend everyone go pick up immediately.

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.
So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.
Robin Hobb is the author of three well-received fantasy trilogies: The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest), The Liveship Traders Trilogy (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny) and the Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool’s Errand, Golden Fool, and Fool’s Fate) Her current work in progress is entitled Shaman’s Crossing. Robin Hobb lives and works in Tacoma, Washington, and has been a professional writer for over 30 years.
In addition to writing, her interests include gardening, mushrooming, and beachcombing. She and her husband Fred have three grown children and one teenager, and three grand-children.
She also writes as Megan Lindholm, and works under that name have been finalists for the Hugo award, the Nebula Award, and the Endeavor award. She has twice won an Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers’ Award.

3 comments:

  1. Ahhhhh, I have been meaning to read Hobb for ages now and this review makes me want to read her even more (especially when you mentioned the bit about the dogs). Thank you for writing such a lovely review!

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely a book worth reading.

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  2. I don't know why I haven't started this author yet, but I'm going to have to soon. Great review!

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