Focusing on the growth of the crudely named Fitz Chivalry, Assassin’s Apprentice is a character driven fantasy-fiction story with a richly imagined world and believable characters.
When five-year-old Fitz is dropped at Buckkeep Castle and discovered as Prince Chivalry’s bastard, he’s quickly relegated to the stables under the care of stable master Burrich. Burrich raises him like he does the animals and Fitz forms an unusual and unnatural mental bond with Nosy, one of the stable’s puppies. It’s not until King Shrewd discovers Fitz, that he begins training him as an assassin. Through this, Fitz forms a bond with his mysterious mentor, Chade. When sent on a mission to a neighbouring Duchy, Fitz’s skills are put to the test as he encounters the first of what becomes known as the Forged–people of the Duchies turned into mindless, savage beings. Under duress from Chivalry’s wife, Fitz’s knack with the Skill, a form of mental power, earns him training with Skill master Galen, who inflicts cruel training on Fitz. Through this, Fitz discovers a ploy within the royal family and works to prevent it.
Most of the novel is spent exploring the characters, their relationships, and the world, especially that of the royal court. Thus, while little seems to happen in external world, Hobb builds the characters and world in impressive detail so that readers are still captivated. Some characters are lovable, others detestable, but all are intriguing.
Some of the story’s events set up for events that never fully play out. For example, the Forging is never properly explained, and only serves to push events towards a crisis in an inadvertent way. Perhaps they will played out in the rest of the trilogy. This is a little disappointing, but it doesn’t ruin the fascinating story. Instead, it helps to flesh out a living, breathing world.
Overall, Assassin’s Apprentice is an engaging and gripping fantasy-fiction book, full of mystery, interesting characters, and a slowly unravelling, yet richly detailed plot that will have readers burning through pages.