Wednesday, 24 June 1998

Robin Hobb: Assassin's Apprentice (1995)

Edition: HarperCollins, 1995
Review number: 73

This is the first of Hobb's Farseer fantasy trilogy, set in the Six Duchies, a confederation ruled by a king who has a name supposedly related to his character. (From the days when they were truly appropriate the usage has degenerated so that the royal family are given propitious names at birth, such as Verity, Regal and Patience.)

The main character has no real name, so far as he knows; he is the bastard son of the "King-in-Waiting" (crown prince) Chivalry, and is known as Fitz or Boy. The book tells his life story from the age of five or so to his mid teens.

After a few years in the stables, he is tutored by the king's assassin, Chade, and begins to take part in the tortuous politics of the realm. The Six Duchies are undergoing a major crisis, being raided by Viking-like marauders who "Forge" their victims, magically making them lose all sense of community so they attack their kinsfolk, and rob and attack all they come into contact with. This is perhaps a fairly unsubtle parable about the dehumanising aspects of modern life.

As fantasy books go, it is not particularly original; there are plenty of series which begin with the adolescence of the main character (a prominent example is David Eddings' Pawn of Prophecy). The Six Duchies are reasonably convincing and the book is entertaining enough that I'm going to look for the rest of the trilogy in the local library.

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