You can skip the next paragraph if you want to go straight to the review, this is just a long introduction that I need to make before writing my review.
It’s not an overstatement to say that The Realm of the Elderlings is hands down my biggest gamble of all time in the history of book buying; I bought it without using my brain, after all. You may call me shallow, my interest in this series sparked due to the reason that the UK paperbacks cover are so damn pretty. This reason alone, of course, shouldn’t be enough to justify spending tons of money on an author or series that you never tried yet; but it does, my friend. When Assassin’s Apprentice came to my doorstep in the middle of my dilemma on my birthday last year (thank you, Haifa), my decision was made. Looking at how pretty the book in real life, I immediately bought all the available—excluding Assassin’s Fate—UK paperbacks of the entire series for a whopping price of $200. This is the reason why I always say to both authors and book publishers that book covers do matter a LOT in capturing reader’s attention; especially on books that readers haven’t heard of or try yet.
Obviously, I can’t be sure yet if my ridiculous gamble will pay off or not until I reach the end. However, for now, I can say that this is a wonderful start to one of the biggest fantasy series of our time, and I hope it will remain that way until the end of the journey.
Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, the first series out of five that encompassed Robin Hobb’s The Realm of the Elderlings series. There are plenty of opinion on how slow this trilogy is and you know what? I can’t disagree with them. Not only because it’s a foundational book, it’s really a slow burn mostly due to how dense the pages and how scarce the dialogues are; readers just have to deal with spending most of their time within Fitz’s head. I am a huge fan of slow-paced books but even with that fact, I still think this is, in fact, the slowest start to a series I’ve ever read; sometimes even draggy. However, this doesn’t change my opinion that as a foundational start, the book does its job wonderfully.
Picture: Assassin’s Apprentice by Dagmara Matuszak
The main character, FitzChivalry Farseer is a six years old bastard who’s learning to be an Assassin while at the same time living a harsh life of being hated by practically everyone just because of his birthright. Hobb’s characterizations are simply terrific. Although we see things only from Fitz perspective in 1st person POV, all the side character’s personality were still well established; there are plenty of characters for readers to love and hate. Tons of people have said that all of Hobb’s books—including this one—are super depressing and exhausting to read, I can't say for the other books yet but regarding the first book, I’ll have to disagree with this notion. Yes, Fitz is living a harsh life for sure, but I found his struggle and perseverance in his adolescence here to be something I enjoyed reading. This is mostly due to the reason that Fitz has a strong affinity with animals, and the friendship between human and animals—especially dogs—are something I will never get enough of.
“Men cannot grieve as dogs do. But they grieve for many years.”
Great characterizations aside, the two magic systems—Skills and Wit—are very simple in concept and yet it fits Fitz (see what I did there?) storyline and the world really well; I can't wait to read more of the usage of these two magic systems in the future installments. Hobb’s world-building is also highly detailed and vibrant. Reading the book immersed me deeply if I was really there. After all that has been said and done, the main factor of the book that worked exceptionally well for me was Hobb’s prose. It’s simple, beautiful, and was just a pure delight for me to read. Hobb has a way of structuring her words and sentences into something profoundly memorable, and this is only the first book of her huge series too!
“All events, no matter how earthshaking or bizarre, are diluted within moments of their occurrence by the continuance of the necessary routines of day-to-day living.”
Overall, Assassin’s Apprentice is a great start to a series. The pacing can be better but considering that this is a foundational book to an overall gigantic series, let’s just say that I’m impressed and will continue immediately to the sequels, at the same time hoping the next books will get even better than this.
Picture: Assassin’s Apprentice by Marc Simonetti