I'd started and stopped reading this book three or four times over the last five years. It wasn't the fault of the book, of which I've always enjoyedI'd started and stopped reading this book three or four times over the last five years. It wasn't the fault of the book, of which I've always enjoyed the first 60 or so pages I read each time, but rather Civilization going on sale or a new volume of something arriving on my library hold drawing my attention.
Trapped inside by horrible Wisconsin winter weather for the first few weekends of the new year, I finally managed to dig into new territory and by about page 100 I became hooked. At first I thought the book would be the methadone for my Game of Thrones addiction, and in many ways it is very similar. Tons of political intrigue at its core with low fantasy weirdness lingering at the fringes of the story, but it is the thoughtful world-building that ultimately differentiated itself from its more prevalent, equivalent series. Specifically, the Wit and the Skill really drew me to follow Fitz on his journey. It is a magic system like none other I've encountered in genre fiction.
There were two problems I had with the book, but neither was so great that they will keep me from reading the next in the series. Fitz spends much of the book as a lens for the reader rather than a character. I enjoyed the world building so much that it carried me through to when Fitz finally gets some agency, but for those in need of a stronger or more immediate link to a protagonist this might be a turn-off. Once his personality and goals become more defined, the book seems to start pushing him toward becoming a Chosen One akin to Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker. He and his allies become more broadly good and his enemies become more broadly evil. Granted, this is a series of fantasy novels, so some of this is to be expected. However, the author's handle on the grey morality and complicated ethics of court politics is so deft most of the time that when the story begins following a more generic hero's journey I can't help but fidget in my chair a bit.
That said, I intend to read at least the full Farseer Trilogy based on the interesting world Robin Hobb has created and the endless complicated quandaries Fitz and his allies find themselves navigating. If you like Game of Thrones and its ilk, but tire of feast descriptions and less-than-coherent world-building, I wholeheartedly recommend Assassin's Apprentice....more