by Robin Hobb
This is an excellent fantasy story in the old traditional sword and sorcery sense. It's about a boy, born a royal bastard, who is thrust into his father's family with all the intrigues and dangers that go with being a loose end in the line of succession.
The story is very well written and although I seldom read stories with child protagonists, this one was worth making an exception. The characters are distinctive and interesting as individuals, even if their names are rather cheesy. The more likeable ones include an assassin, a rough keeper of animals, the boy himself (generally referred to as Fitz, as his father never game him a name) and a shrewd grandfather who is known as *cough* King Shrewd. Oh my...
The fun thing about assassins is that they are full of surprises. Just when the plot seems to be going along predictably, something comes out of left field to change the game.
Somewhere after 40% it does begin to drag a little, and then to meander in plot. However, the political intrigues that are the real strength of the story are further developed so that by 90% I was really interested again and wondering how it was all going to get wrapped up with so little time left. I feared a cliffhanger ending that would try to blackmail me into buying book 2, when the price of the further episodes is rather high in my opinion for something I would describe as Fantasy Lite. Yes it's a good story, but it's fairly simple and will appeal to those who like to read a lot of YA and prefer stories with a single protagonist, rather than the sort of complications of keeping up with something like George R.R. Martin's Songs of Ice and Fire series.
I just have a preference for stories that will stretch my brain cells, although I can enjoy light entertainment as well. This one did pick up with loads of action in the final stretch. I didn't like some of the conclusions, but at least the story did wrap up with tidy closing stages so that I wasn't left on that cliff. A few loose ends were obviously left so that the saga can continue, but despite the story starting well, I think it will continue without me to follow along. I enjoyed reading it, but there were just some final elements that left me with phrases like "Why didn't you..." "You couldn't possibly let him..." and similar rants echoing through my head.
I give it 4 stars for writing ability, but only 3.5 for plot detail. Too many things just didn't ring true in the end.