Assassin’s Apprentice: An old favorite

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Robin Hobb Farseer SagaAssassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I read The Farseer Saga years ago and have since considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. It’s one (along with The Lord of the Rings and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn) that I often suggest to new fantasy readers. But after more than a decade of reading deeper and further into fantasy literature, I’ve often wondered how well this saga would now appeal to my more mature (I hope) palate. When Tantor Audio recently released The Farseer Saga on audio, I was overjoyed and considered this to be my sign that it’s time to re-visit the six duchies.

When Assassin’s Apprentice arrived in the mail, I yanked out the CD that was currently in my computer, tossed it aside (sorry, Ray Bradbury) and stuck in the first Assassin’s Apprentice disc. My lips trembled as I mouthed the name of the narrator: Paul Boehmer… Never heard of him. Is he good enough to portray Fitz, one of my all-time favorite fantasy characters? And… my stomach twisted… will Fitz be the same boy I came to care so much for so many years ago?

Within minutes I was reabsorbed into the world of FitzChivalry Farseer, that insecure, lonely boy who has so much potential but, due to his illegitimate birth and his peculiar abilities with animals, never gets what he deserves. Fitz was just as I remembered and Paul Boehmer portrayed him (and all the other characters) beautifully. (Except that at one point he incorrectly used the word “prisoner” instead of “poisoner.”)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsRobin Hobb’s prose was as nice as I remembered, too — straightforward and simple. It never calls attention to itself (and therefore away from the story). Her characters are engaging and nicely portrayed, though a couple of her villains are overdone. Her animal characters are especially notable and, though I’m not a dog lover, I can’t help but be emotionally connected to Fitz’s canine companions. My second read also gave me a greater appreciation for Hobb’s world-building as I encountered tidbits of information that are relevant to her later works (Tawny Man, Liveship Traders, Rain Wilds).

My only disappointment is that I don’t have the next book, Royal Assassin, in my hands yet. I’m not sure why I’m so eager to torture myself again with this story because I know what’s going to happen. Things don’t always go well for Fitz. His story is heart-wrenching, and I know I’ll be emotionally drained after I finish it. But I’m going to love every minute of it.

~Kat Hooper

book review Robin Hobb Farseer SagaI tend to avoid hack-and-slash paperback candies, as well as the ridiculously endless doorstops (Has the Wheel turned yet? What a pity…). This book is neither. Robin Hobb (a pen name, and that was one mildly irritating thing, as she published other works in the ’80’s and so is not a new author as the book jacket suggests) is a wonderful word-smith and storyteller. Her first-person narrative is effective and engaging, although the introductory set-up of the events as a flashback/memoir somewhat undercuts the later dramatic tension (i.e., the teller obviously lived through all the related events).

This is a coming-of-age novel about a castle bastard’s growth into a young assassin. Beyond that, though, there are wonderful details of medieval life, of a medieval town, and of more intimate things — of dogs and the maturing of boys and girls. The build-up to the climax was a little prolonged and at times confusing, and the climax itself was somewhat predictable; nevertheless, one of the last paragraphs is nothing less than sublime. (Of course, it involves a dog.)

Questions do linger ( e.g. what is the process of Forging exactly?), thus, the stage is set for the next book. Will I rush out and read it? I don’t know, but if I don’t, I can still count this as one of the better — and more different — fantasy novels I’ve encountered. Well done.

~Rob Rhodes 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Robin Hobb Farseer SagaAfter reading maybe a few too many YA fantasies recently, it was a breath of fresh air to delve into the world of Fitz, the assassin’s apprentice. It was complex and layered, the way I like my fantasies, and I suppose my reading generally.

Fitz, the bastard son of the crown prince with a peasant woman, is taken from his mother as a six year old boy and dropped into the royal household. Assassin’s Apprentice follows Fitz from his childhood, rejected by many and ignored by almost all others, to about age fifteen, as he grows in magical powers both with “the Wit,” which allows him to share minds with animals, and “the Skill,” a telepathic power. He also gains some more sinister learning, as the king’s assassin, Chade, teaches him the skills of dealing death to those that the king thinks need to be out of the way — for good reasons or bad. And the kingdom is under attack, both from within and without, so Fitz’s peculiar skills will become necessary.

There are mysteries and oddities about this world that are revealed slowly, but didn’t give me the feeling that the author was hiding the ball just to stretch out the suspense. It’s a book that made my brain work a little to follow all of the threads and layers, rather than making me want to skim ahead just to get to the end.

Minus a star for being a little slow in parts and leaving several loose threads at the end. It’s the first in a series, so I assume most of these threads get wrapped up later, but for the most part I think this works reasonably well as a stand-alone novel. Overall I thought it was a really intriguing fantasy, with enough depth and detail to really suck me into this world.

~Tadiana Jones

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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ROB RHODES was graduated from The University of the South and The Tulane University School of Law and currently works as a government attorney. He has published several short stories and is a co-author of the essay “Sword and Sorcery Fiction,” published in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. In 2008, Rob was named a Finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Rob retired from FanLit in September 2010 after more than 3 years at FanLit. He still reviews books and conducts interviews for us occasionally. You can read his latest news at Rob's blog.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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  1. I enjoy listening to audio books. Unfortunately my library doesn’t have many fantasy.sci-fi ones.

  2. That’s why I joined Audible. They’ve got everything.
    Make sure you check to see if there are any downloadable ones from your library’s website, too. You might also try interlibrary loan — my library will do that for me. Also I’ve submitted purchase requests that they have honored.

  3. Kevin /

    This book is a good start to the series. I like the world Hobb has created and she does a good job of developing the characters. Not quite enough action for me, but still a good book.

  4. Celene W. /


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