Assassin's Apprentice: The Farseer
Spectra, 1996 (1995)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
obin Hobb, one of the top modern fantasy writers, has demonstrated a remarkable range across her many series - from
The Liveship Traders
to the recent
begins one of the best of them, the
trilogy, set in the Six Duchies.
ts catalyst hero is young FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard son of the kingdom's heir, Prince Chivalry, who - apparently shamed by the revelation of a bastard child - abdicates from the throne and retires with his wife Patience to a country home, where he dies in an accident, several years later. Fitz is raised by Chivalry's embittered man, Burrich, who's in charge of the palace stables and all the animals therein. The only member of his family who shows Fitz any kindness in his early years is his father's full brother, now the heir, Prince Verity. Burrich discovers early that Fitz is talented in the
, a beast magic that allows him to share the minds of different creatures. Burrich abhors this talent and subsequently makes sure that Fitz has no opportunity to bond with a beast.
inally, the boy's grandfather, King Shrewd, takes an interest, planning to use Fitz as a weapon against his enemies, and to ensure that he cannot be used against the crown. He gives the boy a room in the keep, and assigns him tutors, including a secret one, Chade, who comes to him at night and teaches him the '
fine art of diplomatic assassination.
' While Fitz learns and grows, the Six Duchies come under attack by Red Ship raiders, who have come to power over Outislanders. They raid and demand ransom to kill their hostages - if it's not paid, they send them home. These
folk are left mindless and worse than beasts, a burden and a danger to their families. In an effort to fight back, it's decided that Fitz will be taught the
, along with other young nobles, by the cruel Galen.
he king's Fool, who sees the future, warns Fitz that he's in great danger. He almost dies - more than once - and his confidence is very badly damaged. Then he's sent on a diplomatic mission to bring home Verity's bride from the Mountain Kingdom. There he's betrayed, but uncovers an even greater plot, which he manages to foil, his loyalties shifting in the process. This is a remarkable fantasy series, that sets Hobb's young hero great challenges, with even tougher ones to come. If you read the genre, don't miss
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