Time and again I’ve had Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy recommended to me, and I can’t recall who it was that finally persuaded me to pick up and read Assassin’s Apprentice. In truth, it was probably Mark Lawrence, whose twitter feed I find delightfully entertaining. Anyway, I had just finished reading a short story he’d penned called During the Dance which, while it was a tiny morsel of a thing, was nevertheless an outstanding reading experience. Enormously different from his other work. Just after I finished it, Mr. Lawrence, announced on twitter that he can’t praise Robin Hobb highly enough, and so it was that I picked up the audiobook of Assassin’s Apprentice, and started my journey in the Six Duchies with Fitz Farseer.
The world Robin Hobb has built in this trilogy (and in 12 subsequent books, I’ve since learned,) overflows with character and life. Told as it is, in first person, it is tinted with all of the emotional fluctuation of Fitz, a boy, bastard born, with what can only be called an unreasonable amount of pain to deal with at a young age. It’s a tale of loneliness, friendship, intolerable pain, young love, cataclysm, fantasy, magic, and raw terror. It is so deeply compelling that I often found myself sitting in my car unwilling to actually walk into the office because I simply had to discover what misfortune would befall the Fitz and his limited number of friends next.
And trouble befalls them constantly. In fact, one of the only issues I had with the book is that too much goes wrong for the characters, too often. I was knocked out of the story several times by the simple fact that an unreasonable cavalcade of mishaps, bad-luck-situations, and being outsmarted by the antagonist assault Fitz, which contributes to his constant epiphanies regarding his immature responses to circumstances and subsequent brief moments of lucidity, which inevitably are undone by the next unbelievable hardship that befalls him. I mean, [SPOILER ALERT HERE] he dies and is brought back to life against his will. Rough.
That being said, the writing is marvelous, and the characterization of both the world and its inhabitants is exquisite. Despite the hardships that so many of the common folk go through, it’s a world I wanted to visit. It felt very much alive and as though, just beyond Fitz’s periphery, an untold number of other tales was unfolding. There is also the noteworthy mention that each of the books in the trilogy takes place in a slightly different setting. Assassin’s Apprentice follows the young Fitz through his early years of childhood, then on an organized journey in which he has a secret ulterior motive. Royal Assassin takes place almost entirely in one castle, which restricts the action and opportunities presented to Fitz in an interesting way. Assassin’s Quest takes place on the road in its entirety, and most often features Fitz and Nighteyes the wolf, terribly injured, walking through the snow. I say this because I find Hobb’s ease with having completely different settings follow each other without any visible gaps to be really impressive. She is a truly masterful writer.
I’m very excited that there are several other in-world series that Robin Hobb has authored, in which we get to ride behind several other sets of eyes, including those of my favorite character, the Fool. If you’re looking to grow attached to a world both entirely relatable and vastly unique, and don’t mind the occasional dip into adolescent angst, this series will most assuredly work for you. I highly recommend it. The narrator of the audio edition is magnificent, as well. This made my commute more bearable, for certain. 4/5