Reading Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb reminded me how much I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’re aware of the current authors in the fantasy field, you know that A Song of Ice and Fire is not written by Robin Hobb, and so I probably wasn’t a huge fan of this book. However, that’s not entirely true.
The story is about the bastard of a prince who was next in line to be king but then abdicates. The boy grows up in the stables and the king takes an interest and then he’s trained to be a very Heinleinian hero who can do anything in the world, but mostly poison people for political gain.
There are some good bits, especially to do with magic, and how one man has to hold the marauding pirates at bay by clouding their minds all by himself and stuff. Also the soulless returned victims of the pirates are a good takeoff on zombies which tried to bring up the notion of it being politically difficult to kill them (they are the kingdom’s own subjects after all, just made sociopathic through magic).
The thing that strikes me false about the whole story is the lack of cynicism. It’s very clean and shiny, even though it’s trying to portray how shitty life is for a royal bastard who prefers to sleep in the stables. I wanted this to be told with the George R.R. Martin kind of grit where [SPOILER ALERT] one of the heroes gets his head chopped off before the first book is even over. But it wasn’t.
There are some contrived conflicts and not a lot of real “Oh god, what’s going to happen to whoever?” moments. It all feels very safe. Even the murdering, which is very glossed over.
I’m debating reading the next book in the trilogy. It wasn’t a bad book, but didn’t really get me terribly invested in the whole thing.