Assassin’s Apprentice by Robing Hobb is an unusual fantasy story in that the main character is an apprentice to a king’s royal assassin. If you are going to read the book for enjoyment, you’ll have to put on the shelf any moral reservations concerning assassination you might have. It sounds like a dark and nasty profession, but the way it is presented in the book, it is almost respectable. I admit I liked the characters, including the assassins, and once I got into the book, it flowed quite smoothly.
The main character is a young boy named Fitz, the bastard son of the king-in-waiting, a prince named Chivalry (that was an interesting little facet about the book: all the royalty were named after the virtue they were supposed to embody in their lives. Thus, you had King Shrewd, Lady Patience, Prince Verity, Prince Regal, etc….). Fitz is a young man with an exceptional array of talents. He has both the Wit (the ability to bond with and essentially telepathically speak with animals) and (later in the book) the ability to Skill (much like the Wit except it applies to humans). The story begins as a first-person narrative on Fitz’s part like a memoir. His earliest memory is being dropped off at a royal outpost by his grandfather. The grandfather is apparently tired of supporting the bastard son of a royal personage and consigns Fitz to the care of his father. Then the grandfather disappears from the story, and the story of Fitz’s life in the royal household begins. At first, he is all but ignored and simply under the care of Prince Chivalry’s loyal stablemaster Burrich. Then he comes to the attention of King Shrewd who wants to put him to use as the next royal assassin for the king, and his training begins.
Strengths: the characters were well-developed and existed in a well-proportioned number. There weren’t so many that the reader got confused, nor were there too few that the reader got bored. It was just about right (cue Goldilocks). The writing was superb, the character development excellent, and the plot and storyline were good and engaging. Weaknesses: hmmm … I can’t think of any at the moment, except, it did take me a while to get engaged in the book. There was just something about it I didn’t like at first. Also, the “magic” system of the Wit and the Skill I thought was kind of lacking. I prefer fireballs and lightning bolts like in AD&D. Oh well. It was still an excellent book.
I’ll give Robin Hobb’s The Assassin’s Apprentice four stars out of five.