Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice is the opening novel in the Farseer trilogy, an epic fantasy set in the Six Duchies. Hobb gives voice to our young narrator Fitz, the bastard son of the kingdom’s prince, whose arrival at the royal court in Buckkeep sees him outcast and, largely, ignored. King Shrewd, however, sees promise in Fitz to fulfil a very specific role in his court. This narrative of Fitz’s childhood promises to relate the beginnings of a story which is sure to expand out into the kingdom, but this first book barely even scratches the surface of this journey from child to man.
“We left. Walking uphill and into the wind.
That suddenly seemed a metaphor for my whole life.”
The bastard son of Prince Chivalry, young FitzChivalry finds himself marched quite literally into the royal court, by his grandfather who proclaims him to be the prince’s illegitimate son and dumps him into their care. Passed onto Burrich, Chivalry’s stableman and man-at-arms, Fitz is raised as a stable boy and, though active, he finds it a lonely life. He never meets his royal father, who abdicates and removes himself from the court at Buckkeep before Fitz’s arrival at the castle. Neither does Fitz remain a stable boy only for long – his allegiances and loyalties are constantly tried as he becomes officially and unofficially apprenticed in various areas and to various parties, including Burrich, the King, Prince Verity, an odd recluse named Chade, a vicious tutor named Galen, his father’s wife Lady Patience, and more. Surrounded by so many competing interests, it is unsurprising that a young boy could still feel woefully alone and incomplete in some way amongst these figures.