I don't know why it took me so long to pick this book up. It has been sitting on my shelves for ages, and I never felt like reading it. I'm not in the mood to read straight fantasy, I kept telling myself. The extensive world building, the political intrigues, it seemed all too heavy after so many light young-adults. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Robin Hobb's writing gripped me from the very first page; and this is an anomaly for me. I usually need at least fifty pages to get into the story, and another fifty to start loving it. The narration is so wonderful and poetic in a way, it sweeps you into its light arms and carries you through the story. I saw everything Hobb described, every character became alive, the whole world seemed to be so natural. You know a fantasy author is good when you don't have to look on their map that comes with the book.
Assassin's Apprentice is basically the start tale of royal bastard Fitz (for lack of any other name; he usually goes by "Boy"). At the age of five he is brought to the court of King Shrewd, where he is to reside and be a King's Man. As a bastard, he is too dangerous to be left running around the kingdom unchecked, but he will never be acknowledged either. He is trained to be a royal assassin, who is completely loyal to the King.
Fitz' life is definitely not easy. He overcomes countless hardships. Even though he gets a purpose in his life, he is utterly alone. People either act like he isn't there or they try to "put him back in his place". Meaning Fitz' life could be in danger.
Fitz is a wonderful tragic hero. Usually I'm not that big of fan of those (I like my heroes to have happy endings and live ever after), but Fitz is such a complex character you can't help but feel for him. You live through all his hard times with him, you feel his loneliness, his excitement, and you just have to root for him. I kept hoping for him, that all would turn out well in the end, even though his situation got more and more desperate.
Of course, Fitz' story is long from over, as the book ends quite abruptly. This didn't really bother me because I have book two (Royal Assassin) and three (Assassin's Quest) here waiting for me, but I think this could be quite a turn off if you don't have the possibility to immediately pick up the second book.
Assassin's Apprentice was way better than anything I had expected. I wasn't bored a second of it, even the courtly intrigues where interesting enough to keep my attention. I can't wait to see what happens next to my poor Fitz.