A couple of weeks ago, Fangirl Friday featured my initial review of Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in Robin Hobb’s medieval fantasy Farseer series. I wish I could start today’s final review by saying that the second half of the book made up for the sluggish, poorly written first half.
Alas, this book left me perplexed at the series’ popularity. Assassin’s Apprentice tells the story of Fitz, a young bastard child in a medieval royal family. Amid struggling for social acceptance despite his illegitimate birth, Fitz discovers his innate magical ability to share minds with animals, called “questing.” As raiders ravage the coastal areas of the kingdom, life in the royal family is increasingly dangerous, especially as Fitz is taken on as an apprentice to the chief assassin employed by the king.
What the book does right, is occasionally paint a vivid picture of medieval life. From descriptions of stale bread and wine, to wall tapestries, to straw stuffed beds, the lifestyle depicted seemed to be quite realistic.
Where the book lacks the most is its entire negligence to answer the question “why?”
Why does the stablemaster think that Fitz’s ability to “quest” with animals is so disgusting that it warrants severe punishment?
Why does the king-in-waiting’s younger brother have any incentive to recklessly assassinate half the court?
Why are the Red-Ship Raiders ravaging coastal towns in the kingdom?
Why does Fitz simply let his love interest get away without even seeing if she was interested?
Virtually every action taken by any character in this book left me just shaking my head, asking myself why on earth they would be motivated to act as they did. Essentially, it seemed as if the author cobbled together a very contrived plot and never bothered to ask herself if the characters’ actions made any sense at all.
Furthermore, as the final pages dwindled down, I kept waiting for resolutions to various plot points and character arcs. Quite frustratingly, many subplots were left loosely untied, or simply cast aside with a hand-wavy sentence. As in, “The bad guy died. The end.” Wait, what?! How did he die? Was he killed? How does his death change the story?
No matter what the genre, I strongly believe that good storytelling has to include plot points that make logical sense within the structure of the story’s universe, and that the characters have to react consistently according to their personalities. And for goodness sake, all subplots have to be resolved by the end of the book.
Needless to say, I probably will not be investing the time in reading the remaining books in this series. There are simply too many wonderful new books out there to discover to spend time on a series that, in my opinion, struck out on the first installment.
Tell me, if you have read Assassin’s Apprentice, what did you think?