I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship.
But when Fitz is adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving the people Forged and soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much a risk to himself as it does to his target: Fitz is a threat to the throne… but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom.
What a pleasure to read something so engaging and well written after a few less-than-stellar choices! Fantasy is my favourite genre and Robin Hobb writes just what I like to read. In some ways, this tale is absolutely stereotypical--an orphan boy, a mysterious background but likely with royal connections, and special talents that he discovers as he grows. In those ways, it is reminiscent of The Dragonbone Chair or Magician: Apprentice. With Fitz’s ability to bond to animals, I was also reminded of Anne McCaffray’s Pern.
It is Hobb’s skill that makes this novel such a pleasure to read. She describes things well without going overboard. Her sentences flow, allowing me to immerse myself in the world without being overly aware of the words. Her characters perform actions and make assumptions that seem sensible to me. The dialog is natural and the world, although obviously fictional, seems normal despite things that we might call psychic talents. Fitz may get a bit sulky from time to time, but he realizes it quickly and readjusts (unlike Simon in The Dragonbone Chair, who is rather a whiner).
There are a lot of books written about assassins: Grave Mercy, Jhereg, and Spider's Bite are just a few examples. But Fitz is the first fictional assassin with whom I have felt connected--I could sense his loneliness and the desire for true human contact. I’ve planned to read the second book in the series before the end of the year, but I am now really looking forward to it!
Book number 329 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.