by Robin Hobb
Read in July 2009
A hard knocks coming of age tale that never lets up nor provides relief or a glimmer of hope for the protagonist.
A boy of six, drug through the harsh winter weather by his maternal grandfather, and returned, like unwanted goods to a retailer, to an outpost of the King of the Six Duchies. The boy is the offspring of the King-in-Waiting, Chivalry, conceived out of wedlock. The second son of the King, Verity, happens to be in residence and assigns the care of the boy to the King’s Stablemaster, Burrich. Burrich eventually names the boy “Fitz,” a derogatory reference to his heritage (i.e. a bastard).
Fitz is raised along with the puppies and ponies. He eventually comes to the notice of the King while roaming Buckkeep. The King decides he should have a more formal education. Fitz soon begins training in weapons, horse and hound handling, reading/writing and more clandestinely as an assassin.
There aren’t many fantasy elements in this story. No magical creatures or magic, beyond psi powers of the Skill and the Forging done by the Red Ship Raiders. Most of the tale involves political intrigue and the tortured trials of Fitz, the bastard-in-residence at Buckkeep.
Robin Hobb does a masterful job of evoking emotions from me in response to all the heartache Fitz suffers and even his triumphs are bittersweet.