Hello and welcome to a much anticipated (by me) edition of Your Mileage May Vary. This week I’ll be discussing a classic! Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.
As always, a reminder:
I’m gonna just come right out and say it. Assassin’s Apprentice was everything I wanted in a book. It is everything I wanted Border Towns (my erstwhile WIP that has since been shelved pending deep revisions) to be. A fantasy that lacks a robust magic system (though there were touches of magic), supernatural creatures like elves or dragons, and doesn’t spend a tremendous amount of time fawning over fight scenes and grandiose battles. It’s a story about a boy wrapped up in a political landscape he can barely understand through no fault of his own.
And I loved it. It was not too slow. It was not too dull. It was perfect. For me. Its only downside is that it’s nearly 20 years old and thusly out of contention as a good comp. Wah.
Alright, alright. For those who’ve not read this book despite its age (like me, no shame), we follow a boy called Fitz, so named because he is the bastard of the King-in-waiting, who promptly abdicates upon learning of his illegitimate son and flees to the countryside to console his wife. That leaves the king and his remaining sons with a quandary as to what to do with Fitz, and so the king does the obvious thing: has him trained as an assassin on behalf of the crown.
I thought the book was excellent, honestly. If I had any complaints at all, it would be that there was a touch too many things that didn’t get fully explored or explained. Why The Wit, Fitz’s preternatural ability to mentally bond himself to animals, is sOoOoOoOo bad, for example, as to ruin his relationship with the one man who considered him a son. All we have to explain the Wit to us is Burrich himself, but that is all. It left me feeling resentful toward the character, not unlike Fitz himself, I imagine. Perhaps that gets further explored in the sequel. I hope so, because it was that ability that really drove home the whole book for me. That last illustration of Nosy the old dog, laying on Fitz’s chest, after saving his life one last time. I’m not a weepy reader, but that one got me misty-eyed.
The book does have a lot of concepts, to be sure, and not all of them bear fruit in this novel. Some are merely seeds, and while I might be annoyed by this in the moment (especially since I’m not really in the mood for a series of late), each development lent itself to a fabulously rich whole that I devoured in two sittings. And I can’t really be mad about that.
There isn’t much else to say, really, that isn’t profuse praise. Highly recommend.
Final rating for Assassin’s Apprentice: 5 out of 5 miles.
Okay, so now that we know what my taste is does anyone have any recs that are a lot like Assassin’s Apprentice, but, you know, more recent? (Will take older books too, but specifically hoping to find comps for whenever Border Towns decides to flower.)
I’ll be back on Thursday for your regularly scheduled blog post. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.