Tamara's Reviews > Assassin's Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
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Jun 15, 15

really liked it
Read in July, 2009

This book was highly recommended by one of my favorite authors, Karen Hancock, so I took a break from the usual and tried out a new fiction author (which I am VERY slow to do, usually. Too many shallow books out there).

This one was pretty good, although it's amazing how vapid secular fiction can feel. The plot is interesting, following the illegitimate son of a crown prince who the king decides to train as a spy and assassin loyal to himself, rather than risk him rising against the current monarchy. The book mostly follows Fitz's struggles growing up known as "The Bastard" and what he's trained in, and most of his missions are more about gathering information than killing. But, it left me feeling like it was just...empty. Fitz doesn't decide what he stands for, doesn't wrestle with moral questions (other than deciding whether "assassinations" are murder or justice). I wanted him to have grown, changed, and taken a stance on whether what he was trained to do was right or wrong, but he stays rather ambiguous. This is the first book in a series, though, and he is still a boy, so maybe he makes those judgments later. The moral relevance bugged me. Even issues she brings up for contemplation she never gives answers to.

The characters are interesting and diverse, however. Hobb does a good job of assigning each character both strengths and weaknesses and using those to influence the plot. She also keeps the story moving through a well-ordered series of smaller plot pieces--smaller challenges that Fitz has to face.

My biggest problem with this book is the sections describing Fitz's training in "The Skill," a kind of mind manipulation/telepathy. It's rather Borg-like, actually--the ability to meld minds with another so you can influence actions, see other places, send messages, etc. It was a little too close to sounding Satanic for my comfort. Not overtly so, definitely, but I don't particularly like playing with fire, even the edges of it. Especially when it's handled as something you can LEARN.

I read it mostly to study/contemplate its style (and because it was a free download to my new toy--a Kindle2). So for "writing research" it was decent. But I'd recommend one of Karen Hancock's books WAY before this one.

(Update: I have to note that, after reading the rest of the series, these characters have become some of my favorites of all time. There are still things I dislike in the series, so I can't recommend it unequivocally, but as far as character development goes, Robin Hobb is a genius.)
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