Assassin's Apprentice


Oct 11, 2007
Johannesburg, SA
I am not sure if there is a thread about this book, but anyway here goes. I started reading this book and I must say I am quite enjoying Fitz's character and the style of Hobb's writing. I have one query though, from reviews a lot of people mention that there isn't much of a story/plot but more focus on the characters only. Is this true? I also heard that Hobb balances action, adventure and pace very well. I gave up on The Curse of the Mistwraith because I could not connect to the 2 characters. How is this book compared to say GRRM and Janny Wurts or Feist?
Yes, i would say more character orientated but there is a solid driving plot. I'm not sure about the balance between 'action, adventure and pace' - i would say the book fulfills its premise in a professional satisfying way but not outstanding in pacing. Best aspect is the cosy castle life atmosphere which is quite escapist.

The main problem is fitz is such a wimp. Truly, Robin Hobb does not understand the male psyche :D. Much of the book consists of his emotional turmoil over one thing or another, with very little assertion to fix the problems - he is a self insert woman by the author.

Not close to GRRM in tone at all, and i think it's better written than Feist but on the same level of sophistication. Never read Janny Wurts so can't compare her.
I started reading this book and I must say I am quite enjoying Fitz's character and the style of Hobb's writing.

It took me a while to get into it - I really disliked the self-conscious scribal voice at the start - but once Fitz settled into the keep it became quite engaging. I really liked the issue of Wit, Burrich, and the enigmatic Fool. There was a lovely richness to the story as well, even when nothing much seemed to be happening.

with very little assertion to fix the problems

I was surprised by how easily Fitz felt worthless under Galen. Yet he didn't seem to dwell much on Smithy later.
The Curse of the Mistwraith
Not one of the better series. Generally I'd say Janny Wurts is better. Fiest is too different to compare. Maggie Fury would be a better comparison.
Robin Hobb does not understand the male psyche ... he is a self insert woman by the author.
I'm not sure that's true. He is I think deliberately flawed.
I would say that Robin Hobb sets herself a difficult task and write about a very unheroic hero. Fitz is most certainly not knight in shining armour; indeed he has a lot of issues with himself that are shown through the writing; and yet overtly if you look at many of his actions he's actually externally seen very different by others.
I think it a fantastic display of how personal impressions can differ greatly from the actions and perceptions that others have - esp as you get into the series and Fitz changes and grows up and yet still retains this same character.

I'd also say Hobb's books are some of the few where the lead character(s)s make choices you "know" are wrong. Or those which will bring the character great pains or torment; or which shy away from the glorious wonderful happy path. They make wrong choices; but you allow them that (whilst wanting to shout at them all the time - esp Fitz) because you hear the thoughts; you can see that the character has clear justification even if its flawed.

I would say Hobb is in a niche of her own a little; her work is different to Fiests and GRRM's and I would say its hard to start putting one above the other directly as they are so different. Hobb goes for a slower pace, a more single character focused story (and yet her Rainwilds and Bingtown series are multi-perspective), less heroics and often as not a lot of "mistakes" by the characters along the way. Personally I find her writing enjoyable - and I say that as a fan of Fiest (well of Magician; his other works that I've read don't stand up well to it); GRRM; Steven Erikson; Janny Wurts (love Ride Hells Chasm - not quite got into her other works as yet though).
I have just started Assassin's Apprentice. What am I in for?
I'm embarrassed to ask this, but from reviews and a lot of notions on this book/series it seems like she likes to kill dogs in her stories. Is this true? It's one of the main reasons I haven't read them because I have no kids, only 2 dogs are my kids and I cringe when I see animals in distress in movies and books. I will never watch Marley and Me ever again, and I tend to avoid animal movies like Alpha etc.
I'm an animal sucker, too. I cannot stand seeing them hurt in the real life or in movies and books.
No. It's not true. Fitz bonds with a wolf, Nighteyes which is one of my favorite characters in her book. If you love dogs, you will adore Nighteyes.
I watched Alpha and the wolf had plenty of puppies in the end. :)
I'm reading this at the moment (about 2/3rds through) and it's getting a firm "meh" from me. I must admit that I don't tend to find stories about young people growing up all that appealing, but I won't turn against a book because of that - after all, it's a popular subject. I do think Fitz is a convincing young man, and that he isn't a "self insert woman", whatever that is supposed to mean. However, he is a very passive character. He spends a lot of time being told not to do things by gruff men, and I wonder if the story wouldn't be more exciting if the gruff men were telling it. The writing is fine, if not especially great.

But the real issue is that there is almost no plot. There are vague stories of the raiders and their crimes, but these have hardly touched on Fitz's life. There's not much description of the world outside the castle, apart from the names of some royals and some kingdoms. The suggestions that characters will do something exciting, or draw Fitz into a story, are all very vague. So while Chade, the Fool, Patience and some of the others are quite interesting, nobody is actually making the plot move forward - at least, not that the reader can see.
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I read this book many years ago, quite soon after it was published iirc, and I liked it a lot. However, I do think it is one of those very few novels where, despite there being little plot, the quality of the work is enough to pull the reader along. In this sense, AA is like Colin Greenland's 'Tabitha Jute' novels, where, likewise, little happens, but you just can't stop reading. I think this quality has much to do with Hobb's ability to create, animate and describe her characters. They're compelling.
Well, I've finished it now, and it pretty much jumps from second to fifth gear in the last hundred pages or so. The ending is good, and I really like the resolution, with the arch-villain chastened but undefeated, and the characters returning home with a successful marriage alliance, but no outright victory. Obviously, this leaves space for sequels, but it's quite a satisfying end in itself.

That said, Hobb's action scenes aren't very good (I had to re-read a couple of times to check that Fitz had actually stabbed a man to death, which really ought to be more memorable), and I really think it could have been two hundred pages shorter and just as enjoyable. I don't mean to rubbish the whole sub-genre (after all, I've tried to write in it), but it does make me worry that the things people enjoy in epic are different to the things I like.
I really think it could have been two hundred pages shorter and just as enjoyable.

Indeed. It's still one of my favourite series, but I doubt I'll ever end up re-reading it. I tried delving into the other in-universe books with the ship one and although I dragged my way to the end (hoping it would mirror the ending style of this one) I never even considered continuing with that series.
I think with Assassin books her focus on one single character can bog things down a little. With Liveships she's got a cast to work with and hops around a lot more which means slower periods for characters get a bit shorter and the sequence keeps jumping to a new key moment for a different character. It helps keep things fresh.

That said I think Hobb also challenges herself with difficult lead characters at times. Fitz is tricky, but harder was the Soldier's Son series which is again focused on one character who spends the middle of the story depressed - which makes him very hard to write about as a character. I enjoy them as different takes, they aren't heroes or dragon fighters or no-nothing people who suddenly save the kingdom with fancy battles and major feats. If anything the world blasts around them and they provide a few small elements in key moments that tip the scale.

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