Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to try out Calico's Dares with this book. Once again, I'm left wondering what's wrong with me, that I dislike a book other people are gushing with praise over.

Assassin's Apprentice follows a Prince's bastard (through first-person perspective, no less) through his first decade or so of life in a fantasy world. Magic is a talent that mostly royalty and the upper classes possess. If the lower classes have it, it's shameful and something to be avoided or feared.

Fitz, as the narrative calls him (we learn about halfway through that his full name is FitzChivalry Farseer) comes to the king's keep when he's six. He doesn't remember his life before then. He's handed over to the care of his supposed father's servant and carer of horses, hounds, and hawks, Burrich. Though the resemblance between Fitz and Prince Chivalry is unmistakable, no one dares legitimize it. And Fitz grows up, learns to read and to poison people, tries to learn magic and fails, makes friends and loses them, and deals with political machinations.

The world is extremely well-developed. I got the feeling there's a lot more going on in the world than in Fitz's small corner of it. The fantasy elements weren't merely plugged in to serve as fantasy backdrop. It really felt like an organic world that could've evolved in tandem with its magical elements.

Unfortunately, very little is left to implication or hints in the worldbuilding. Fitz's scope of knowledge is too grand, and he crams that all into his story. He's often privy to conversations that make no sense to him, but that he recounts word for word, nonetheless. They turn out to have strong portents later, or they serve to fill in information he doesn't know, but it dragged the story down. I could've done with a lot more summarizing and glossing over.

The book is very light on the action. There are precisely two events with any narrative tension in them, and, for the first, I couldn't understand what the big hurry was, or what he was supposed to do when he got there. It serves to later help him make it home safely from some silly test, but, other than that, I was mystified as to its inclusion.

Had the majority of the book been taken up by the journey to the mountains, I think I would've enjoyed it a lot more. I liked the society we found there, especially the royal family, and I felt like the book finally came alive then. But, that was a small portion of the overall story.

Mostly, this book felt like it was building up to the rest of the story. I do understand that this is the first book in a trilogy, but it failed to draw me in to the rest of the story. It felt too much like we were being held back just so we wouldn't get to the interesting part yet that it sucked all the tension out. I wanted to be done with reading this book, and not because I cared what happened.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Paul Boehmer. He also narrated The Way of Shadows, another book about a fantasy assassin I didn't much care for, which may have colored my perception of this book. I had no complaints about his reading, though his pace often felt plodding. I couldn't tell you if that was because of the narrative or if he was reading too slowly.

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