Assassin's Apprentice
Robin Hobb


FitzChivalry Farseer is a true bastard, not a derogatory one. He is the illegitmate son of Chivalry Farseer the heir to the throne of the Six Duchies.

The story begins with Fitz at the age of six. His grandfather is sick of looking after him so drags him off to the royal lodge and leaves him there for Chivalry to look after. Fitz's mother tried to stop him, but was unsuccessful. And that is the last we hear of his mother's side of the family in the book.

What follows is his life living in the royal palace of Buckkeep. The king, Shrewd, recognises Fitz as a royal bastard and then proceeds to buy his loyalty with education and keeping. Shrewd does this in order to obviate Fitz trying to become a pretender to the throne. As the title of the book indicates, Fitz ends up becoming apprenticed to the royal assassin.

The coastline of the Six Duchies is under threat from pirates known as the Red Ship Raiders. They have conquered most of the outer islander territories and have started raiding the Duchies. The are mean vicious people who kidnap locals for ransom. If the ransom isn't paid the hostages will be returned.

This threat is more savage then it sounds. When the ransom isn't paid the hostages are returned, but they are changed, Forged (after the name of the first town where it happened). They no longer have any morals or reason. They are less, even, than animals. When the ransom is paid they hostages are hacked to pieces and the parts left to wash up on the towns beach. This threat is causing unrest in the kingdom and King Shrewd is at a loss on how to counter it. Through all this Fitz continues with his training and is sent on simple assignments for the king.

There is also political treachery afoot. The political plot is the main thrust of this book, so I won't detail it and spoil the fun. The raiders and their forging terrorism are not solved in this volume. They merely begin their terror and unbalance the kingdom. I expect their downfall will be the conclusion to the Farseer trilogy.

'Assassin's Apprentice' is excellently written. It is easy and enjoyable to read. The characters are richly detailed and engaging, though too many are stereotyped. The stablemaster is fiercely loyal to his king and prince, and has a supernatural affinity with animals. The Skillmaster (court sorcerer) is emaciated and supercilious. The royal assassin is kindhearted and looks like death. The Fool is wise, enigmatic, other worldly and ignored by most, except Fitz. The list of stereotypes is longer, these are just a few examples.

It's not all stereotypes though. Robin does have some originality as well. The idea behind Forging and it's use by the Red Ship Raiders is novel. As are aspects of the mountain folk culture met in the later half of the book.

In places the pace of the book is a little slow. You can read 50 pages without anything happening. This is particularly noticeable at the start of the book. Robin spends too much time setting up the characters and the scenery and not enough time moving the story forward. It stalls here and there so new characters can be introduced before getting back to the story.

There is nothing to make this book stand out from the hundreds of other fantasies around. It is a rapid and enjoyable read. It has a comparatively small cast of characters and a reasonably simple plot. All in all it's a competent book, but nothing special, which is why I've only given it 3 stars.