Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb
It was a little odd rereading this, because it’s been quite a while since I read these books, and yet they’re still so very familiar! I know every beat, and I think I could practically recite some of Fitz’s monologues. It’s still a great book, though the familiarity perhaps spoils things a little bit — I know exactly where things are going, and how stupid Fitz is being about x, y and z. I always had the urge to reach into the book and shake him, and I definitely had that now. Especially, perhaps, because last time I read it I was a teenager, like Fitz, and now I am an adult and oh my goodness, Fitz, don’t be an idiot.
I love the characters so much, particularly Verity. I can’t imagine why people would ever have preferred Chivalry, because from the sound of it, he was just too perfect. In contrast, Verity is blunt, sometimes unthinking, but he’s so dedicated to his people. He’d sacrifice anything, and he also cares for the small people — including Fitz, whom others consider a liability or a worthwhile thing to sacrifice.
I find Burrich frustrating, because his opposition to certain things is just based on superstition, as far as it appears to Fitz — he expects Fitz to obey him without ever explaining why. Of course, we’re meant to feel that way, ’cause he’s a stubborn ass, but I still find him frustrating.
I’m looking forward to rereading the rest of the trilogy. Except for that bit — Hobb is all too good at making her characters suffer.
This week’s theme is “Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With” and actually, I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of it. Okay, here goes…
- Jill Pole and Prince Rillian from The Silver Chair. Actually, most of the characters in the last two books. They just didn’t have the magic, somehow.
- Prince Sameth, Lirael & Abhorsen. Compared to their mother, both him and Ellimere are just weak tea. He spends so much time denying his responsibilities, where his mother just took it all on and never dreamed of saying no. In a way, it’s a more realistic characterisation, but gah, so much whining.
- Elvira, from Half a Crown. I love most of Jo Walton’s characters, but Elvira’s concerns seemed so far away from the concerns of the more mature characters we’ve already spent time with.
- Boromir, from The Lord of the Rings. I know he’s actually a good guy at heart, and we see the evil power of the Ring twisting him, but there was something so glory-seeking and self-centered about the guy, especially when compared to Faramir.
- Malta Vestrit, from The Liveship Traders trilogy. Ohh my god, so spoilt. And it doesn’t really get better even as she begins to grow up; I never liked her. Mind you, a lot of the characters in this trilogy were very dislikeable, to me.
- Miriamele, from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Speaking of spoilt characters…
- Jaelle, from The Summer Tree. I never felt like I really understood the character, and I wanted more out of her.
- Katsa, from Graceling. I know! She’s pretty kickass, but I never really connected with the character. It’s why I didn’t like it that much the first time I tried it.
- Lancelot, in anything. Almost the sole exception is Heather Dale’s music and parts of Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory.
- Dorian Havilliard, Throne of Glass. Actually, I didn’t really ‘get’ either love interest in the first book, but Chaol is growing on me. Dorian… there are some aspects I’m liking, but in the first book, he really didn’t win me over.
I tried to pick books I liked, in general, and characters who are not meant to be villains. I’ll be interested to see what other takes people have on this theme!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “ten authors I really want to meet”. Now, I’ve actually been lucky and met a fair few authors I love — Jo Walton, Robin Hobb, Alastair Reynolds… But I’m sure I can come up with ten more.
- Ursula Le Guin. And nobody is at all surprised. Not even a little.
- Patricia McKillip. I know very little about her as a person, but her writing is awesome.
- J.R.R. Tolkien. I mean, not as a zombie or anything, but if I could go back in time. Attend one of his lectures maybe?
- Hazel Edwards. She wrote There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake. Obvious.
- Cherie Priest. She seems cool, I want to pet her dog, and I like her on Twitter.
- N.K. Jemisin. Granted, I’d probably just babble quietly, but that’s the same with anyone I admire.
- Robin Hobb. Again. I was fourteen at the time, after all.
- Jacqueline Carey. Sign all my books. All of them.
- Guy Gavriel Kay. Ditto.
- Susan Cooper. The first thing I move into a new house is my copy of The Dark is Rising sequence, and I’m not even kidding about that. It goes in the first box or bag to enter the new place, and gets put on the shelf symbolically before anything else.
So, uh, yeah. I could probably think of more, but I’d better stop daydreaming now…
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “ten books for readers who like _____”. I’m gonna go with epic fantasy, since I do love a good epic fantasy and it can be difficult to find ones that are to your taste. I’m going to assume that Tolkien’s work is a given, in this category…
- Poul Anderson. He did a lot of sci-fi stuff, but also some fantasies. I love The Broken Sword (I posted my old review as one of my Flashback Friday posts here) and Three Hearts and Three Lions. This is fantasy that isn’t directly affected by Tolkien, so it doesn’t have all the same aesthetics — but The Broken Sword in particular draws on some of the same sources, and has some of the same interests. The poetry, for example, in The Broken Sword — there’s definitely comparisons there with the way Tolkien used verse.
- David Eddings. No, okay, I know all his series are basically the same stories and characters recycled, so I’d only recommend reading one. But for brain candy, I do like a bit of Eddings. Personally, I would go with The Diamond Throne et al. I think Sparhawk was my introduction to Eddings, and I still have affection for those books.
- Jacqueline Carey. Specifically Banewreaker and Godslayer for a flipped around version of The Lord of the Rings, something that goes into a lot of shades of grey and finds that few people are irredeemable, and that there’s more than one side to any story. If you like court politics more, then Kushiel’s Dart is more likely to be your speed. (And she’s even written some urban fantasy more recently, too.)
- N.K. Jemisin. I liked her more recent duology, but it was the Inheritance Trilogy that really hooked me. Court politics, gods and men. And women. Interesting mythology, various different perspectives, and it’s not a multi-volume epic. Each book doesn’t stand completely alone, but one level of the plot is certainly accessible without reading the other books. Lots of interesting narrative voices, too.
- Raymond E. Feist. This is a case of a multi-volume epic. I’ve never read them all, but I do love his Riftwar Saga. It’s something I want to come back to. I fell for so many of the characters and ideas, and this is a case where there is a ferocious amount of world-building. You’re never gonna go off the edge of Feist’s maps and find the writer’s forgotten to account for the world outside his tightly controlled setting.
- Robin Hobb. So many characters to love and to hate. I’m not at all sure what I think of the Soldier Son trilogy — there were some persistent themes in them that I just didn’t like — but the Farseer books are great. Assassins, quests, dragons, magic, animals, politics… It has a little bit of so many things that I love, with a convincing narrative voice too.
- Steven Erikson. Willful Child was really disappointing to me, but I loved Gardens of the Moon, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the books. And this is another of those wide worlds with lots to dig your teeth into.
- Tad Williams. The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books are awesome. I started reading them and thought it all fairly typical — you know, kitchen boy is probably going to turn out to be a hero, etc, etc. I was probably reminded of David Eddings, actually. But there’s a lot of world building, a lot of other characters to love, and I found it all so compelling that I read all four massive volumes in less than a week.
- Scott Lynch. I hardly need to say this, do I? The Lies of Locke Lamora is great; the world the books take place in is rich and full of wonder (things the characters wonder at, and things that the readers wonder at while the characters take them for granted). “High” fantasy? Maybe not; we’re not dealing in princes and kings, nor even kitchen boys who turn out to be knights, just a bunch of orphans from the streets who turn out to be real good at scamming people. But there’s epic background.
- Guy Gavriel Kay. Particularly the Fionavar Tapestry books, which seem like a synthesis of so much else from the genre. There’s hints of Stephen Donaldson, Tolkien, Anderson, so on. These were his first books, but he was already very powerful with the details of character and relationship. Tigana is also highly recommended, and stands completely alone, with all the politics and magic you could wish for.
I thought I’d find this week’s hard, but actually, I quite enjoyed doing this. Let me know what you think — and let me know what you’ve posted about!
This week’s topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a great one: top ten heroines. Let’s see…
- Yeine, from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Seriously, seriously kickass lady who navigates politics, would prefer a fair fight, and becomes a goddess. Why not?
- Tenar, from The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin. That was always my favourite book of the bunch. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Tenar is strong in a way that has nothing to do with physical strength.
- Mori, from Among Others by Jo Walton. Because she’s quite a lot like me, only she really can see fairies and she has a streak of pragmatism I could really use.
- Harriet Vane, from the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Bit of a change of pace from the first three, being a different genre. But she’s a woman in a man’s world, pursuing both writing and academia, a strong woman who knows her own mind and sticks to her principles. But at the same time, she’s not perfect: she snarls at Peter, she’s unfair, etc, etc.
- Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève, from Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. If there’s anything that can hold her back, I don’t know what it is. She’s gorgeous, she’s a spy, she manipulates politics and gets involved in all kinds of stuff on behalf of her country.
- Katherine Talbert, from The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. Even if she doesn’t want to learn to fight at first.
- Ki, from Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm. Practical, determined, fierce, and good to her animals, to her friends.
- Caitrin, from Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. She doesn’t seem like she’s going to be a strong person at first, yet she learns to face her fears — without it ever seeming too easy.
- Mirasol, from Chalice by Robin McKinley. She’s thrown in at the deep end, with very little gratefulness or support from those around her, and she pushes through it to do whatever she has to do.
- Csethiro Celedin, from The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. She basically says that if anyone hurts Maia she’ll duel them and gut them. Like!
I’m gonna have to look at loads of posts on this one, because stories with good heroines are definitely of interest to me!
I think this would be a nice one to go viral: a post in which we celebrate the tropes we love instead of griping about the ones we don’t (which are, no doubt, someone else’s favourites). So thanks to Kaja from Of Dragons and Hearts, here is a post about tropes which are, so to speak, my cup of tea.*
- The loveable rogue. Locke Lamora, I am looking at you right now, but also looking further back into my reading past: Jimmy the Hand, Crowley from Good Omens, Gaiman’s Marquis de Carabas… And perhaps best of all, though not from books: Captain Malcolm Reynolds.
- The paladin. Joscelin Verreuil. Captain America.
- The second son. Faramir. Arutha. Verity Farseer. Josua from The Dragonbone Chair. I don’t know what it is, but I tend to prefer the younger brother.
- Heists. You have a really clever plan, you say? Morally dubious, you say? As long as it’s fiction, I’m along for the ride.
- Superheroes. Uh. I’m not sure this even needed to be said. But not just guys like Steve Rogers, who have been altered for it, but the people who make themselves into heroes, too, like Hawkeye.
- Moral ambiguity. Nobody’s perfect, and while a character who is a total bastard just isn’t fun for me, it’s nice when a character isn’t a total angel.
- Guilty conscience. Perhaps especially when it’s not really that person’s fault. Like, say Steve Rogers blames himself for Bucky’s death — it’s not really his fault, he’s in no way a bad guy, but the fact that he can believe this makes him that bit more human and believable.
- Dragons/elves/aliens are nothing like humans. Capricious, commanding, nothing like the regal/wise/enlightened creatures we expect? Interesting!
- Friends like brothers. “I’m with you till the end of the line.” Gaaah. Gaaaaaah. Or Marcus and Esca, Locke and Jean, Fitz and Nighteyes, Dean and Castiel…
- Secretly in love. Shut up, I am not a ginormous softie. I’m not!
*I may be British, but I don’t actually like tea. Chamomile tea or fruit teas, maybe. Mostly not.
Here’s a new, but very appropriate, meme for this blog! From here.
Each Thursday, our copy of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.
The topic this week is PETS:
Everybody needs somebody to love. And the best companionship doesn’t always come from the same sentient group, does it? Be it furry or scaled, large or small, sometimes an animal companion is the best thing a person can have.
- The otak, from A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin: We don’t see much of the little creature, but without him and his fierce shy loyalty, Ged wouldn’t survive past half the book. And we know how special he is because most otaks are shy.
- Nighteyes, from the Farseer trilogy, by Robin Hobb: Okay, not quite a pet, but an animal companion nonetheless. You’ve got to love this guy.
- The Disreputable Dog, from Lirael, by Garth Nix: Another sentient one, really. I’m doing bad at this, aren’t I? But you gotta love her.
You can probably think of some obvious ones I forgot…
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten characters you wish would get their own book”.
- Verity Farseer (Realm of the Elderlings, Robin Hobb). Or maybe his wife, Kettricken. Either way, they’re both great characters, I love the idea of “Sacrifice”, and I wish we’d seen more of Verity being awesome. I don’t think there’s really space for a Verity book in the series, and arguably his crowning achievements are in the Fitz books anyway, but for dreaming about, there’s all the time before Fitz is born, or the time Verity spends alone in the mountains before Fitz and company catch up.
- Faramir (Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien). I had the biggest literary crush on Faramir; I think he’s one of the strongest characters we see in Middle-earth. He’s as worthy as Aragorn in his way — both consciously resist the Ring — and he had pretty short shift from his father. He deserves more!
- Jane Drew (The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper). Arguably Greenwitch is her book, but it’s so short! She’s the only girl in the Six, and it’d be great to see more of her.
- Susan Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis). She deserved more than being dismissed as too interested in “lipsticks and nylons”. As of The Last Battle, she’s still alive and there’s room for redemption or reinterpretation of what’s going on with her. I don’t think Lewis could ever have really handled her with subtlety, but you can dream…
- Ysanne (The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay). We only briefly see what Ysanne is like and get hints of her history. A story set entirely within Fionavar that ties up some of that would be lovely.
- Mel (Sunshine, Robin McKinley). There’s so much mystery around that character that was never resolved. It adds an interesting background to Sunshine, but I think everyone wants to know more about him.
- Jasper (A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin). He’s just a plot element, really, to set Ged on his path. He vanishes out of the story and we never really know why he leaves Roke, whether he ever gains some redemption. He’s presented a little too simplistically — I want to know more, even though he’s not a pleasant character.
- Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones). Because Calcifer.
- Anafiel Delaunay de Montrève (Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey). We know a little about his past, and enough about him to sketch in what we need to know, but I’d like to get to know the character close-up, rather than through Phèdre’s eyes.
- Prim (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins). We see her through Katniss’ eyes, but it’d be fun to know what Prim’s thinking, what drives her — what little rebellions are in her, against Katniss and for her, as they’re growing up and Katniss is doing all this self-sacrificing. She’s presented as pretty much totally cute, but there’s gotta be more complex things going on.
What about you guys?
This week’s theme is “Top Ten Books I’d Like to Reread”, which is a topic just made for me — the first one in a while I think I could talk for ages about — because I love rereading. Honourable mentions in advance to Chalice and The Hobbit, both of which I already reread recently! And I’m just going to leave it unsaid that I want to reread The Dark is Rising books, since I do that every year.
- Seaward, Susan Cooper. I’ve been meaning to reread this for a while. Heck, by the time this post goes live, I might’ve got round to it already. It’s beautifully written, a bit more mature than The Dark is Rising, and I love the characters a lot. I read it right through the day I got it, I think, at Christmas a couple of years ago. And then I made my partner read it, and my mother, and… everyone else I could get my hands on, really.
- The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay. I think this might be the next book in my chronological-by-publishing-date reread of GGK’s work. I think it’s my mother’s favourite of GGK’s books, and my partner loves it too; I remember liking it, though it wasn’t my favourite, but it’s one of the few I’ve only read once so far (along with Under Heaven, which is too new for me to have reread yet).
- Sunshine, Robin McKinley. This is another I might’ve got round to already by the time this post goes live, because I’m tearing a streak through Robin McKinley’s work lately. Sunshine is one of my favourites; the world-building, the characters and their relationships, all the talk about food… And also, vampires done right, so that they’re genuinely fucking freaky, even Our Hero.
- Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey. And pretty much everything by Carey, actually. I love the richness of her writing, and the intrigues of the court in Terre D’Ange. Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the sex and BDSM in the book, I’d recommend it to everyone, because the actual world-building is really cool. But I’m aware it’s not something everyone can be comfortable with.
- The Fire’s Stone, Tanya Huff. I could swear I’ve already talked about wanting to reread this somewhere on the blog, but I can’t find it. I did start a reread recently, but then got interrupted. I’m particularly curious because just before I first read this, my partner and I were working on an original world/plot that was very, very similar in many ways. And I’m looking forward to the relationship between the three main characters, and the way the situation turns out for them all. It’s sweet, feel-good stuff.
- The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell. I’ve always loved the way Cornwell handles the legends. Okay, some of his characters really don’t fit with the legends, and I do like the legends, but at the same time he has one of the most likeable versions of Galahad, and a really interesting take on the magic/reality stuff where the narrator can view it as magic and we can dismiss it as trickery, or maybe not quite.
- The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner. And the rest of the series. It’s easy to read, fun, and does interesting things with the character, the world, etc. I’m less a fan of the most recent book, but I’m still going to try rereading it.
- The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin. The whole series, really, but this one is my favourite. It marks a separation from the world of the first book, which is fairly conventional fantasy, and begins to shape a place for women and a different view of the world that’s more in line with Le Guin’s own beliefs. And she’s so good at writing the small clear moments of quiet that really shine (Ged’s hand and the thistle).
- Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb. It’s been a long time, and I miss Fitz, Nighteyes and Verity. (My mother never liked Verity nearly as much as I do, but I find him one of the most genuine characters of the lot — not subtle, not perfect for his job, but doing what he can and making good despite the difficulty.) And there’s a new Fool trilogy now, which I even got an ARC for originally, so I want to reread everything to get back up to speed for it.
- Sorcerer’s Treason, Sarah Zettel. I remember these being good books, using a less typically Western fantasy setting, with a lot of Russian influence and I think later Asian? I remember finding it very different, at any rate, and I do like Zettel’s work. So, soooon. I hope.
Any of these your own special favourite? Let me know! I comment back to everyone who comments here, both on my post and on your own if you’ve done one.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels”. I thought this one would be easy, initially, since characters are really important to me when I read, but it’s actually tougher than I thought.
- Pretty much anything by Guy Gavriel Kay. Even where his writing was less polished, more derivative, I fell completely in love with the characters. He’s one of the few authors who can reliably make me cry.
- The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb. Sure, there’s a lot of plot too, but Fitz’s voice is the most important aspect of the story, and you just want to reach in and bang his head against something to force the sense in, sometimes.
- Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Not only is it vampires-done-right, but it’s first person narration, and everything Sunshine is as a character shapes the way the plot turns out.
- The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. If you count the circus as a character almost on its own (I do), then yeah, this one definitely counts.
- Seaward, Susan Cooper. I need to reread this soon. I loved it so much, and despite the shortness of the book, Cooper built up a relationship between the two main characters that I genuinely loved and wanted to follow.
- The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers. Actually, as far as being character-driven goes, you’re best reading the whole series chronologically, to get a feel for the way everything fits together, for the way the characters develop. I don’t even think I’d necessarily say I’d start with this one. But it’s the one that really made me understand Lord Peter.
- Chime, Franny Billingsley. To say much about this would be to spoil it. A brief excerpt from my review: “Briony isn’t an easy narrator, and she isn’t reliable either, as she constantly tells us. The narrative isn’t a straightforward quest, it’s a maze, it’s full of funhouse mirrors.”
- Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier. This is the book where me and Marillier really clicked — I tried some before this one, and wasn’t impressed. But I got really involved with this, with the characters and their problems.
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin. The narration is brilliant, the way it all slowly comes together, and I love what Jemisin does with her main character, and with the characters of the gods around her. Particularly when it comes to the child-god, Sieh, who has to act in accord with his nature, or he suffers.
- Among Others, Jo Walton. I strongly connected with this because I connected with Mori. Watching her grow up and begin to understand her world better over the course of the novel is a delight.
Wow, that actually took a lot of thought. Veeeery keen to see other people’s picks for this one!