Hobb, Robin. Assassin’s Apprentice.

NY: Bantam, 1995.

It’s always nice to discover a new fantasy series (new to me, anyway) that displays such high quality of plotting, writing, and characterization. I knew “Megan Lindholm” was a pseudonym for an author of contemporary urban fantasy novels, but this is the same author’s nom de plume for fantasy in a medieval setting. Which is to say, she’s no beginner, and her experience shows.

Young Fitz is brought by his grandfather to the attention of Prince Chivalry — his real father, and the King-in-Waiting — at the age of five and is soon taken to Buckkeep, capital of the Six Duchies, to be put in the care of Burrich, who has charge of the Prince’s horses and dogs. And then Chivalry, a brilliant diplomat and charismatic leader, renounces his position as heir to King Shrewd and his brother, the bluff and simple-soldier-like Verity, becomes the heir. Life gradually becomes more complicated for Fitz since a royal bastard is always problematic to have around. In adolescence, he’s apprenticed to Chade, the King’s spy, intelligence analyst, assassin, and master of anything else that needs doing quietly. And he discovers that “the Wit,” his ability to communicate mind-to-mind with animals and to be psychically aware of other life generally, isn’t shared with many others these days, and that (being a “perversion”) it can get him in real trouble. But there’s also “the Skill,” the inherited ability to actually communicate with other people, and that’s highly valued among the royals. Can Fitz be trained in that? Because the Red-Ship Raiders from the Outer Islands are making life very difficult for the Six Duchies.

That’s only the merest tip of a complicated story that will draw you in and hold your attention. There are a large number of supporting players, all of them painted in multiple dimensions, and the descriptive and atmospheric passages are very well done. It’s a first-rate combination of magic-fantasy and realism that’s difficult to pull off properly, but Hobb manages it. Be warned, though: It’s a far from cheerful and light-hearted story. Fitz doesn’t have much reason to smile, which some readers may consider a downer. Not me, though. That’s what “realism” means. And this is only the first volume of a trilogy, which is itself the first one-third of the “Farseer” trilogy of trilogies. I’ll be clearing some space on my shelf for Hobb.

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Published in: on 23 October 2013 at 12:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I have three fantasy series that make up my favourite books. The Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies are at the top of the list 🙂 They are wonderful and actually inspired a lot of my own writing 🙂 It’s lovely to see someone else discover them


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