John Champneys's Reviews > Assassin's Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
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's review
Dec 11, 13

bookshelves: ebooks, novels

I finished reading this book yesterday (it’s now 27/06/12 11:52:29 AM) and I went into a swoon. I thought I had been drugged and nothing could have persuaded me otherwise, except for the fact that it could not have been, unless boys and dogs have learned the art of administering powders to humans. It’s really good. It gripped me so much that The Six Duchies, the land in which the tale is based, became more real and far more important to me than this humdrum life in which I must do boring things like eating my dinner, paying bills, going to the bathroom and taking a shower every day. The world we think of as real suddenly appeared very fractured — so much so that I fell in between the cracks, madly wanting to live in the Duchies, the town of Buckkeep, while paradoxically that land is far too dangerous for more simple souls like me to live. After a chapter of the book, I wanted to 'come back here’ (to my village in England) as Buckkeep was no longer safe. The body demanded that I go to bed, yet first I had clear my head from the effects of Assassin’s Apprentice.

I don’t want to give anything away by revealing too much of the story, so can only sketch a few hazy outlines. One of the techniques came to me as quite a shock, a shock which haunts me even as I scribble these lines. On that one I shall be silent, as I think it needs to be a shock to the reader too. I’ll just say that two themes which run throughout the story are what is known as The Wit which is the ability not only to communicate with animals but to share one another’s minds and to tell each other things, to gain and share information and feelings. The other is called The Skill, which is the ability a highly-trained man acquires to communicate and exchange information with other men. Neither of these abilities has really developed to the full in this volume, but we’re given enough to intrigue us. We are eager to find out more. Another character to watch out for is The Fool, who can never be found if you seek him, although you might be able to get into his private room to breathe the freshness of the air, sniff the scent from his flowers and glimpse fish-like creatures swimming around on the floor. Keep an good eye out for him and pay careful heed when he appears, and even when you do that, he’ll pop onto your screen when you least expect it. Smaller characters are not forgotten either. Keep an eye out for the pup named Nosy. I had a real frisson when I reached the conclusion of his part.

The book felt a little on the long side, and for once I was overjoyed that this was so. At 7% I felt smug. After all, I was thoroughly enjoying it, and I still had so much reading left to go. Pauses I took a-plenty, either because I wanted to savour each episode as though it were a vintage wine, or else because the dose of events I had ingested was too strong. I had to do something else altogether, but what was there for me to do? Whoever I spoke to, whoever or whatever I invoked in my erotic fantasies, whatever food I ate or books I tried to read and imbibe* all I could think of was dipping right back into Assassin’s Apprentice and spend some weeks there, even though it held me in a grip of terror some of the time.

Now that book is finished, and I’ve been mooning around the house, moping for more than a day. I’ve made a rule with myself to clear one more volume from my backlog before I proceed with volume two of the trilogy. After all, that’s never been a problem with me before. It’s the way I like to work with my reading life and poised between volumes of a trilogy. And yet I cannot do it now, although my god, I have, I’ve really tried. For when our hero learnt the art of poisoning, he took The Skill up to the next level. He devised a medicine which could be ingested through the written page. It’s a medicine which gets you hooked after reading a few pages. The story quickly habituated me to its pervasive atmosphere, and now I am fatally bitten. The next volume called Royal Assassin is winking at me seductively from the side-wings, tempting and luring me to press that 'Buy Now’ button on my Kindle.

*NB: In all fairness, there is a small handful of tomes which are resistance, which never change. These books stay the same, yet grow in stature as the years tick by.
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