Author: Robin Hobb
Series: The Fareseer Trilogy - Book I
Review by: CL6 Talythia Starseeker
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This first book tells of the early life of Fitz, a royal bastard, and the trials and difficulties that he faces at court.
The tale starts with his grandfather leaving him to the care of his father, Prince Chivalry, the King-In-waiting of the Six Duchies, who he never actually sees. Chivalry's right hand man, Burrich, looks him after him from the age of six. He is soon taken to Buckkeep, the capital of the Six Duchies, a massive fortress-castle that is the home of the ruling family of the Six Duchies, the Farseers. Chivalry abdicates his claim to the throne after Fitz's parentage is revealed, leaving his brother Verity as the new King-In-Waiting, while Prince Regal, their ambitious step-brother, waits and plots.....
Not only does Fitz have the Skill, a sort of telepathy that allows the wielder to influence another's thoughts and to contact other Skill-users, from his father's side, but he also has the Wit which is similar but allows him to contact the minds of animals, especially those he Bonds with. However, this is a much reviled magic, thought by many to be a perversion, and as soon as Burrich discovers that Fitz is Witted, he removes Nosey, the hound Fitz had Bonded to, and doesn't give him the opportunity to Bond to any other animal. Burrich keeps him busy with jobs in the stable until the age of ten, when he catches the eye of his grandfather, King Shrewd, who makes a bargain with him to have him educated, fed and clothed in return for Fitz's unquestioning loyalty. Fitz is soon given lessons in weaponry, horsemanship and scribing, and secret lessons with a man, who introduces himself as Chade, who teaches him to be an assassin for the King.....
But a new threat comes to the kingdom in the form of the Red Ship Raiders, pirates from the Outislands who raided villages along the coast, taking villagers hostage, saying that unless a ransom was paid they would return the villagers. The remaining villagers refused and their loved ones were returned, but something had been taken from them in a process that became known as 'Forging' that left them uncaring of the consequences of their actions, and caring only for themselves. As Raider attacks increase and Forged ones spread across the coastal Duchies, killing and causing havoc, the people become dissatisfied with their rulers. A division forms between the coastal duchies and the inland Duchies, who dislike paying increased taxes to help the ravaged coastal Duchies, a situation exacerbated by the plotting of Prince Regal, who clearly has design on the throne....
And caught up in the middle of these events is Fitz, whose very existence changed the course of history of the Six Duchies.....
Review: This excellent story is told in the first person, from the point of view of the main character FitzChivalry Farseer sometime in the future. This gives us a lot of insight into how Fitz thinks, thought it limits what we know of all the other characters, since we only see them from his point of view. This also means that we only know as much as Fitz himself knows, and often the reader can share and empathise with his state of mind, like his confusion when he talks to the mysterious Fool, who drops hints about the future.
Fitz is far from perfect, he's not especially smart or strong, but he is persistent, and seems to keep going through whatever life throws at him.
The setting of the trilogy, the Six Duchies, is well realised as and also has a nicely thought out culture, and the characters are far from stereotypical. Despite the many 'stock' fantasy features of the story - royal bastards, magic, talking to animals - the way they are presented makes them interesting. Much of fantasy now can be seen as derivative of other works, but perhaps today talent can be shown in taking old fantasy concepts used many times and using them in such a way as to make them seem new and different - Robin Hobb certainly manages that here.
Title: Assassin's Apprentice