Assassin's Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice photo
Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Release date: August 7th, 1995
Pages: 392
Goodreads page: here
TW: death, violence, animal death, depression
My rating: 5/5 ⭐


In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

My thoughts

I'm gonna attempt to write a review about this book, because I have so many feelings about it and I need to talk about it.

I reread this book for the third time last month, and it was such a pleasure to dive back into this world and series. As you may know, if you follow me on my social media, Robin Hobb has been my favorite author for years now, and this series has been my favorite series of all time for years, and honestly, I don't think I could find a new favorite series of all time. Because this series means so much to me.

Rereading your favorite books can be such a comfort but also a bit of a risk because you never know, your reading taste could have changed, and you could be done with a reading genre that you used to love for decades (talking about YA for me here). But with Robin Hobb, there was no risk at all.

“Is it the nature of the world that all things seek a rhythm, and in that rhythm a sort of peace? Certainly it has always seemed so to me. All events, no matter how earth-shaking or bizarre, are diluted within moments of their occurrence by the continuance of the necessary routines of day-to-day living.”
Upon the prologue of Assassin's Apprentice, the writing was so incredibly beautiful and poetic that I almost got tears in my eyes. It left me in awe. I've always said that Robin Hobb's writing was my favorite, that her writing could sweep me away in a fantastic world and left me in tears with just a few words. Well, this is true. This is all true. Her writing is that amazing. I know I won't be unbiased here (a review isn't supposed to be objective anyway), but honestly, I have never felt that way with another author's writing in the fantasy genre.

Robin Hobb's books can be a challenge. Assassin’s Apprentice is definitely an unusual kind of fantasy book, and I'll stop you right here. If you're all about plot and fast-paced stories filled with action, battles and lots of magic, well Robin Hobb's books are not for you. Her books are all about characters, feelings, friendships, family and politics.

“That is the trick of good government. To make folk desire to live in such a way that there is no need for its intervention.”
Assassin's Apprentice is the story of a young boy, a royal bastard that got abandoned by his mother and left with his father's family, the royal family of the Six Duchies realm. This is a coming-of-age story about Fitz, a bastard that tries to survive in the hard ways of the court politics, and who becomes an assassin's apprentice for his grandfather, the King. I won't say much more about the plot, because the plot here isn't the most important thing in this book. This book was slow, slow in a way you could feel nothing was happening because there was no real action, and yet, so much was happening. So much was evolving, in terms of relationships, knowledge about the world and about what Fitz was learning, court politics and the tension that slowly grew at court. While most of the book could be called very slow, the ending sped up the pace, and the last 60 pages were so wild and full of actions and twists that I read it in one sitting.

“Don’t do what you can’t undo, until you’ve considered what you can’t do once you’ve done it.”
When I started my reread, it instantly brought me so many emotions to be back with Fitz's POV from his early age to his teenage years. His loneliness was so well described and hard to read because this poor young boy went through so much. But despite his loneliness, he was supported by characters that I loved so, so much. First, we had Burrich, the stablemaster who was also Chilvary's, Fitz's father, right-hand man. He was assigned to care for Fitz, and while Burrich wasn't near perfect, he was actually full of flaws, he was so well written that his developing relationship with Fitz was so touching. One of the strongest points of Robin Hobb's writing was her characters. Her characters were so flawed, and well written and human, that they felt real. They felt so real that you couldn't not care for them. Rediscovering Burrich, and Chade, and Lady Patience in this book was so emotional to me, because these characters were so real and human, and once you have met these characters, I swear, they would become a part of you.

And as you can care so much about Hobb's characters, she has a way to make you hate some of her other characters with a force that has no equal. Some of the characters were so hateful and some of the worst characters ever that I came across in books. When I say "worst" here, I mean the ones I hated the most in all the books I read. They were so well written, and so hateful, that you will have no choice but to hate them with all your will. I am talking Joffrey Baratheon’s hate level here. Yes.

“Most prisons are of our own making. A man makes his own freedom, too.”
The magic is this book is also present but it isn’t the main theme of the book. There are two types of magic in this world, the Skill and the Wit, and both are completely different. While the first could be similar to telepathic magic between humans, the Wit is in the other hand a telepathic magic to communicate with animals. Both types of magic are not well explained until later in the book so I will not say much about these. But this leads us to my favorite part of this series: the animal companion trope. It is definitely present in this first book, and will become much more important in the sequel, and honestly this trope is so well done. Robin Hobb lives with a lot of animals in the US, and it shows because the relationships she created between Fitz and his animals was really accurate and special.

Assassin’s Apprentice is a grimdark book. It’s a book full of despair, hopelessness, sadness and darkness. It’s a book that challenges its characters, and mostly Fitz, in the worst possible way. For a lot of people, you have to be in the right mental state to enjoy this book, but surprisingly for me, it’s a comfort book. I’ve spent so much time with these characters in this world that coming back to them is like coming home.

So overall, this book is still definitely one of my favorite books ever. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, and if you love coming-of-age fantasy stories, full of heartbreaks, deep and well written characters and gorgeous writing, please, read this book. You won’t regret it! Also, you would be in for a treat, because The Realm of the Elderlings series is 16 books long.
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Welcome on my bookish blog! My name is Sarah, and I'm a 29 yo French reader from Paris. 🌙

Favorite quotes

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”
Robin Hobb

“War doesn't determine who's right. War determines who remains.”
R.F. Kuang

“Happiness comes from moving toward something. When you run away, ofttimes you bring your misery with you.”
Michael J. Sullivan

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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Favorite books

Royal Assassin
Assassin's Fate
Ship of Destiny
Ellana, la Prophétie
And I Darken
The Queen's Rising
The Well of Ascension
Heir of Novron
The Liar’s Knot
The Poppy War
Fool's Fate
The Name of the Wind
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue
The Kingdom Of Copper
The Wall of Storms

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