What a tragedy to be finished with this trilogy, and to have finished my first journey through this world. My heart hurts at the loss. The Farseer Trilogy, beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice, is a long, intimate trek inside the mind of FitzChivalry Farseer, from his youth until what seems like middle age. Compared to similar fantasy by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkein, George R.R. Martin, and C.S. Lewis, these novels are often brutal and pained, heavy on the realities of living in a medieval society—and the realities of living in and alongside nature.

I recommend it, hesitantly, to those looking for a world within which they can truly immerse themselves—and those with a tolerance for a lot of long journeys far from civilization.

This review is spoiler-free. Please keep an eye out for spoiler warnings toward the end.

Author: Robin Hobb

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Link to Goodreads: link

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.


The Farseer Trilogy is told from the first-person point of view of FitzChivalry Farseer and starts from his earliest youth, so it’s hard to not get attached. The fact that the books are long and address every facet of his life make this connection practically inevitable. The result is a relationship like one with a sibling—you know so much, maybe too much, about this one character—but that doesn’t mean that you agree with everything they do or even like them. Nonetheless, it’s instinctive to root for them.

We grow up with Fitz, experience his young angst, watch as his core beliefs are shaped and sanded by his mentors, fall in love with him for the first time. Later in the series, we are able to look back on earlier pleasant days along with Fitz because we were there, too. For ALL of it.

We grow up with Fitz, experience his young angst, watch as his core beliefs are shaped and sanded by his mentors, fall in love with him for the first time. Later in the series, we are able to look back on earlier pleasant days along with Fitz because we were there, too. For ALL of it.

Sometimes this is an effective style: if Fitz is betrayed, we understand; if he makes a controversial decision, we understand; if he explodes and does something impulsive, we understand. There were certain points in the final book in particular that had me in tears for this boy I knew so well.

The style is less effective when there’s something obvious going on with the plot that Fitz doesn’t notice. In those moments, reading these novels feels like pounding on a locked door, shouting at the prisoner inside that the key is in his hands. This happens frequently, and occasionally forced me to put the book down for a few days in frustration.

Hobb’s style is also wont to bog down the plot—slow as it often is—with detailed attention to periods of time that are essentially irrelevant. I imagine Hobb takes us along on these ‘filler’ journeys and periods so that we can grasp Fitz’s mental growth and internal difficulties. But the result is often fatigue. If there were ever such a thing as too much character development, Hobb may have found it. (However, if character development is really your thing, go for it!)


Hobb’s writing style is intentional and skillful. It is what one quintessentially expects from an epic medieval fantasy series. The world is excellently conceived and detailed. And, I might add, it is a lovely read as an audiobook, narrated by the excellent Paul Boehmer. If you don’t have Scribd, I must take this opportunity to recommend it.

The fantastical elements of this world are closely tied to the natural world, with the main form of ‘magic’ being a mental ‘Skill’—a form of telepathy that, in strong doses, has the vague potential to be pretty much anything. The second form of magic is the ‘Wit’—the ability to mind-speak and bond with animals.

Of course our hero is singularly gifted with both. (Of course he’s the foretold hero who, by virtue of his bloodline will save the world, but more on that later.) Both of these magics were a lot of fun—not intrusive upon the realities of Hobb’s world, but still central.

But take note: the Wit is a much bigger part of this series than you might expect. If I could take back the hours of my life I’ve spent reading about what it’s like to be a wolf, I would. Some was interesting. Some was overkill.

Fitz, as the foretold hero (the ‘catalyst,’ in this version), is strong in both Skill and Wit. In different ways, his talent for both is stymied by someone or something. One of the most frustrating elements of this series was the ability of the reader to see exactly where it was leading from almost the beginning.

He’s foretold.

He’s way more powerful than he thinks.

He just has to accept his fate.

Et cetera. While Hobb occasionally took this in interesting directions, for the most part it was a frustrating wait—and a LONG one—for Fitz to grow up and come into his own. I have nothing against Chosen One narratives in general—I think they can be a comforting guilty pleasure for most—but this felt like it was quite possibly the first Chosen One narrative (though it obviously isn’t.)

Much of Fitz’s internal conflict tangles with this fate in uninteresting circles. I would much rather Fitz have thought for himself and questioned the merits of monarchy in the first place, or gunned for the throne for himself. But he’s the product of his environment (which we see all of), and so the ending of the series, while not unhappy, was disappointing.

Spoilers from now on.

Fitz gives everything to his king, just as he’s been trained to, at the clear expense of any and all happiness. At last he finds something like contentment, but that’s only as a hermit who’s thought dead by all he loves. At first, I thought the excerpts at the beginning of the chapters were penned by the fool, and all the more interesting for it. But no.

It’s reflective of Hobb’s choices throughout the rest of the series—she’s not afraid to be cruel, even needlessly so, to her characters. She doesn’t shy away from their pain or fear or jealousy. But the resulting vibe of the whole thing is a little grim, making the whole Farseer world seem a little dubious. Is it worth saving? From soulless, soul-eating monsters, perhaps; but in the long run? I could never be sure if I was really rooting for Shrewd or Verity or Chade or Kettricken. And a book without any characters to root for is a hard book to like.

(I, like all others who will read this book, adore the Fool and feel he was one of the saving graces of the series, however underdeveloped his background and general existence.)

Overall, I loved this series because it let me disappear into another world for almost three months (the audiobooks are really long). I love epic fantasy. And I love DRAGONS. So—the ending, while surprising, was surprisingly welcome!

Which epic fantasy should I read next?

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