Backlist Burndown: Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer #1) by Robin Hobb

Backlist Burndown is a monthly meme hosted by Lisa from Tenacious Reader where you put aside at least one book from your blacklist every month to read, and then post a review of it on the last Friday of that month.

This is a book that I’m sure two bloggers (Lisa and Kaja) will be happy to see that I have finally read and reviewed 🙂

Assassins’s Apprentice (Farseer #1) by Robin Hobb

Publisher: Spectra

Publication Date: March 6, 1996 (first published 2006)

Edition: Mass Market Paperback, 435 pages

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

It would be an injustice to give this book anything less than a 4 star


Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill—and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.

As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

I’m finding it difficult to write a review for this book. I absolutely loved Fitz’ character; his arc and development, and his almost coming-of-age tale. The Six Duchies was a great world, and I loved The Skill and the Red-Ship Raiders in the story. However, my biggest problem was that it always felt like we were skimming over certain details of events, and it was an more of an explanation setting up the next scene. Oddly enough though, I was never once bored reading, and to give this anything less than a 4 star, feels like I was be doing it injustice.

Fitz is the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, King-in-Waiting. At the young age of 6, Fitz’ grandfather drags him and his mother to a fortress to give the bastard back to Prince Chivalry – because the Prince has not acknowledged nor provided any coin to help care for the boy. No one has ever heard, or could imagine, that Chivalry would have a bastard child. The guard who receives the boy, brings him to Prince Verity, who is unable to deny the striking resembles and gives him off to Burrich, Chivalry’s stable-master, to take care of until it is decided what to do with him.

A bastard can be a dangerous thing – particularly with link of succession when the King-in-Wating has no other children. Fitz is eventually taken to the court and kept under the care of Burrich. Here, Fitz meets King Schrewd, and this is where the King offers to buy his allegiance. It is after that, that late in the night he gets a meeting from Chade, so that he may begin his assassin training.

When I think of assassins, I’m picturing some ninja-like skills and training, and maybe some action scenes like what we got in Brent Week’s Night Angle trilogy. Well, Fitz is extremely deadly when it comes to poising, and is apparently good at sneaking around in the dark – but there are no scenes of scaling the castle walls, sneaking into the foreign king’s room to slit his through, and nor are there any fancy sword duels.

Fitz does get trained by Chade to become an assassin, but when that does happen, we do not seem him learning to wield a sword or how to become an expert at potions. Instead, those details are mentioned is passing as a narrative recap of what we have missed, and instead focused on Fitz’ conversation with Chade.

This focus on the character and story – over certain details or focus of a particular moment – becomes a main way of Hobb’s story telling. Too be honest, I was a little sad to miss those training moments with Chade, and later on with Galen too. With Galen, we did receive a bit more detail than I was expecting – based on the story was being told – but it still only felt like we got a brief spark note of how things works, and that there was much more room to delve and stay focused on that one thing.

This may sound like a weak start to a 4 star book, but that is because you have not met Fitz. Normally, grazing over certain events and skimming on the details of some parts, would be a major deterrent for me, but taking time to explain them further, wouldn’t really have helped further Fitz’ character.

I loved Fitz. Incredibly empathetic, and like-able. Fitz starts off as a bastard who no one wants, and is forced to go live in the stables with horses and be taken care of by a man who he, Fitz, believes to have killed his dog – Fitz’ first friend. Life in court is hard being a bastard: people blame him for what happened to Prince Chivalry, and because of who he is, he will never be safe in life from enemies trying to assassinate him. His whole life, and through out this book, you can’t help be feel his pain, and want him to be happy. The only times when he seems happy, are when he was out with the local kids in town who have no idea who his identity it… they just call him “New Boy”. Those moments were my favorite – particularly the ones with Molly.

Fitz’ life is what this story about: about how he is trying to find his place in court as a bastard, and doing his part help Prince Verity and King Regal fight off the Red-Ship Raiders and protect the kingdom.

There are also two cool magic systems. The first is that Fitz had the ability to connect and share thoughts and experience with animals; there other is thing called the The Skill – which reminded me of telepathy. The Skill is explained – but it feels like it still has a lot more to it than Fitz had told us. Also, the talking to animals is really only grazed on the surface, and we have no idea what it can be capable of. This is not a fault on the story telling, but because of Burrich who does everything in his power to prevent Fitz from using it.

((This series was a major influence of George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire, right? Those of you who have read the series/watched the show will why I am asking this question))

As I have said, it felt like many details were left out and skimmed over, but how things ended in the court and with Red-Ship Raiders and The Fool (who I am beyond intrigued about), I get the feeling that these were not expanded on because we are waiting for later in the story.

Saying that, I really felt Assassin’s Apprentice had that book 1, set-up and introduction. Don’t take that as negative though, that’s just what it felt like. Definitely going to start up book 2 soon, and if you looking for a character focused fantasy, I’d check this one out if I was you.

4/5 Rating


Date Read: 11/08/15 - 11/15/15
Review Written: 11/20/15
Tagged , , , , , ,

14 thoughts on “Backlist Burndown: Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer #1) by Robin Hobb

  1. bormgans says:

    I’ve never read Hobb. Is this a good place to start?

    Liked by 1 person

    • S. C. Flynn says:

      I would say yes, probably the best place to start.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes; from what I’ve been told and have read, this is the best/most ideal place to start. While all of Hobb’s series are separate, contained stories to themselves, I do believe that all the series are tied to one another by – aside from the world – certain characters and events.

      I do believe that you could read the series in any order that you want (like I said, each trilogy is a separate story) you will get more out of the books in read series by publication order.

      I had originally wanted to start with her Rain Wild Chronicles (the series that Lisa @ TenaciousReader has been reviewing for her Backlist Burndown), but then when I did some research I found that it would be better to start with Farseer and continue from there.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I really believe its the only place to start. 🙂 I was recommended an alternative reading order, and regretted it. All of the series do end up connecting and reading them out of order gives spoilers for previous books, and also can you leave you not seeing the big picture. Her books are great, I enjoyed them immensely even with the reading them out of order, but I did regret the decision.


  2. S. C. Flynn says:

    Very detailed review! 4 stars from me as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. S. C. Flynn says:

    4 stars for me too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I did find it interesting how most of the assassin aspect of this was almost off stage or down played, it was a much smaller part of the book than I thought it would be. I guess because the story was really focused on Fitz and he is more than just an assassin. I absolutely adore Fitz. And honestly, I think the books get more addictive as you go. Hope you continue!


  5. Steph says:

    I love this beautiful book. Dark and hopeful. I love Hobb. I’m so glad you enjoyed this.


  6. proxyfish says:

    Oh I love this book! I must finish the trilogy as Assassin’s Quest has been sitting on my shelf for far too long! I actually started my foray into Hobb’s work with The Liveship Traders and I haven’t regretted it. I absolutely love that trilogy, perhaps more than Farseer… I hope you get around to it!


  7. Kaja says:

    I’m really glad you liked this one, DJ! I think Hobb writes the best characters I’ve seen in fantasy, as you pointed out. Burrich was such a cool figure. I’m not exactly sure what happens in which part of the trilogy so I’m not going to comment too much because I fear I’ll accidentally spoil something for you!
    My husband has read nearly everything she’s ever written under “Robin Hobb” (she also writes as Megan Lindholm) and he says that this trilogy is the best (also the best place to start) and that Fitz’s story is continued in two other trilogies, one of which is still in progress. There are at least two other series in between – I’m currently reading the last part of The Liveship Traders trilogy and I have to admit I prefer the Farseers, too, so I’ll be continuing with Fitz after I finish this massive book (yeah, all her books are massive, that can be a problem! :D)


  8. @lynnsbooks says:

    I also loved this book and I really need to continue with more of Hobb’s books – I have so many of them!!!
    Lynn 😀


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