This past week, I finished a trilogy I've been listening to via audiobook at work now for about a month. At first it didn't seem all that interesting, I have to admit. The title of the first book (Assassin's Apprentice) seemed cliche and screamed of Young Adult, a genre that I've never been all that terribly interested in. The setting itself, as I began my listen, was a very classic approach to the fantasy setting, but I couldn't blame it, because it was written in the 90's, back before the fresh wave of epic fantasy had really kicked off in full. But, I told myself, some of my favorite books are very medieval-esque fantasies, so I decided to give it a try.
I did not regret that decision.
This series has been an integral part of my thought-life for the entire month I've been listening. The vocabulary has become my own, the characters have become my friends, their pains have become my pains. And those pains often paralleled my own in such powerful ways that I ended up starting to cry in the middle of work. As I always seem to do when I read a good book. I had another nostalgia-fest when I had been sure that I would never be able to have the same sorts of feelings that David Eddings' The Belgariad gave me.
I grew up, one more time, through the eyes of a young, hurting boy.
The series, as its center, is the story of one young man. FitzChivalry Farseer, the illegitimate son of the King-in-Waiting of the Six Duchies. He grows up struggling with that legacy--with the sense of abandonment given to him by his father's refusal to ever acknowledge his existence, the struggle he has to face every day at the hands of people who call him a bastard and shove him into the dirt, and the ever-growing loneliness he feels from being bound to duty for his king as an assassin, and never anything more. The bigger story is about a war, two magical powers, the politics of a royal court, and ancient allies being awakened. But the core will always be this one man: FitzChivalry the assassin.
This story filled my heart with nostalgia and emotion, digging into the very depths of my being and bringing up hopes and fears and worries that I had tried not to consider. This story was about people not being able to be with the ones they loved, and that hurt me in the right ways. The ways that make you determined to be a better person.
This story changed me, as all good stories have a habit of doing. Thank you, Robin Hobb, for writing these three books. Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest all sound like the most 90's fantasy books ever, but they are filled with infinite wonder, emotion, and story unlike many a book I have read in my lifetime. Give them a try, I beg you. They are worth your time.