Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb kicks off her Farseer trilogy, which is part of her 16-book Realm of the Elderlings series. This book is, first and foremost, a character-driven story. I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to slap a few characters in the face. Robin Hobb has a way of making her characters feel like real people and it can suck you into the story.
The book takes place in the Six Duchies. The six duchies are ruled by the Farseer bloodline, with King Shrewd being the current ruler and his son, Chivalry, being the King-in-Waiting. People of royal blood are named according to the characteristics their parents hope they develop.
Instead of having classic races like elves and dwarves, Hobb has invented a new species: the Elderlings. Little is known about these creatures, except that they are unnaturally long-lived and once helped the Farseer ruler save the Six Duchies from a fleet of raiding ships.
The two forms of magic are the Skill and the Wit. Like Hobb’s writing, both are rather introspective. The Skill allows people to communicate directly with their minds over any distance, and the Wit allows for psychic bonding between man and animal.
There are several characters that I’m leaving out to keep things relatively brief, and I’m probably not doing justice to any of the ones listed below:
- Fitz: Our first-person narrator, Fitz is the bastard son of Chivalry. He has a strong love for animals and makes a lot of mistakes as he grows up.
- Burrich: The royal stablemaster, Burrich is like a father figure to Fitz as he grows up. He’s a stern but fair man, often relying on tough love.
- The Royal Family: King Shrewd is as crafty as his name suggests, and King-in-Waiting Chivalry is famous for his morality. Prince Regal, contrary to his name, is a spoiled man-child who always tries to get his way.
- The Fool: The king’s mysterious adviser, the fool is an enigma to nearly everyone and mostly speaks in cryptic riddles.
Fitz is the bastard son of King-in-Waiting Chivalry. When he arrives at Chivalry’s door at six years old, Chivalry decides the honorable thing is to renounce his title and move away, leaving Fitz to be raised by Burrich, the royal stablemaster. No one is quite sure how to treat a royal bastard until the king decides that Fitz will begin secretly training as the royal assassin. As Fitz begins to be instructed in the art of murder, mysterious ships begin raiding the coasts of the Six Duchies, instilling fear throughout the kingdom.
Most of the broader plot actually takes place in the background, with the focus being on Fitz’s life as he grows up. The plot does begin to pick up later in the book, but the emphasis on character always comes first.
Robin Hobb is known for her introspective, character-driven stories. Don’t expect fast-paced action or epic battles. Instead, you’ll encounter complex and well-written characters, a detailed world that you learn about one piece at a time, and strong writing that avoids crossing the line into purple prose.
Should You Read This?
Your enjoyment of this book will likely hinge on how much you like slow, character-driven stories. This is not an action adventure heroic fantasy. It’s quiet and introspective and (at times) emotionally devastating. Depending on your reading preferences, you will probably either love or hate this book.
Recommended Beverage Pairing
- 1/4 oz. Vanilla Coffee Liqueur
- 1/4 oz. Irish Cream Liqueur
- 1/4 oz. Orange Liqueur
- 1/4 oz. Hazlenut Liqueur
- 1/4 oz. Dark Crème de Cacao
- 1 cup hot pourover coffee, medium roast
Add the liqueur into a mug and add the coffee on top. Garnish with whipped cream.
Robin Hobb is famous for tormenting her characters and bringing out the emotions in her readers. She also writes damn good books. This drink might help take the edge off some of the more emotional parts of the book, and the caffeine boost should help you stay awake for those long reading sessions.
- Debut fantasy novel
- Audiobook (highly recommend)