My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read most of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders/Rain Wilds series (and was eager to finish it, but it wasn’t completely written at that point!) years ago, and when I was leaving on a trip I thought I’d pick up another series of hers and take a little “fantasy vacation,” too.
I’m glad I was reading this one on a plane; otherwise, I might not have finished it.
In fact, I am not sure if I’ve read this one before or not, which maybe isn’t the best sign.
It’s not a bad story at all; it’s full of court intrigue and a light dusting of magic. Characters are relatable, I enjoy the castle keep setting, and I was pulled along to reach the end.
However, compared to the Liveship Traders series, (or at least my memories of it) this book was pretty dull.
I kept having the thought that, in the hands of another writer, this same story would have been more enlivened. As it was, it was like the narrator couldn’t decide if he was being unreliable or not. At first this is forgivable: it starts with our hero–a bastard son of the king without a formal name (awkward!)–as a young child. He has a child’s perspective and it makes sense that he wouldn’t necessarily recall some things.
But as the kid grows up and becomes the titular assassin’s apprentice, I just kept finding myself wanting more. More details about training to be an assassin, about how to kill, about his childhood training and his relationship with the others at the keep. Instead, things are mentioned frequently in passing, and more time is devoted toward side stories that frankly I never got particularly invested in. The end result is that I liked the book but feel like there was a lot of dithering and wasted time. It felt more like a book I was reading just because I was trapped on a plane than something I was really drawn to keep going with. The moments that seemed like potential for incredible action descriptions I found myself daydreaming about–how would I have written that? What could have happened on that misadventure? What greater depth could that scene show?
I read this on an ereader, so I don’t know page numbers, but I do know that the really exciting and interesting stuff–I’ll have to leave it out in case you decide to read it anyway–didn’t show up until I was 90% through with the book.
Then the action was over before I could blind and it turned out the last 5% of the book was filler, so that wasn’t a lot of room for a denouement, either.
Part of me is still curious about the rest of the trilogy, and though I mostly had figured out the twists in this one before they happened, it was still an interesting courtly intrigue type plot, so I’m curious as to what might happen next. But I wouldn’t rank it as engaging fantasy and I don’t feel pressed to immediately pick up the next book. Maybe it can wait until I need to wait in an airport again.