I mean, right away it’s pretty hard not to notice it’s in first person POV, which is still incredibly rare in epic fantasy, and I think dangerous because it’s so hard to pull off. But I quickly adapted to it, and think it works well here. I still think a nice third person POV lends a storyteller quality that works absurdly well with epic fantasy, and it could have worked beautifully here as well, but this is Fitz telling us his life story as an old man, so it seems to me that it’s appropriate, and since I haven’t read the final two books yet, might have an additional purpose that I’m not yet aware of. First person also has the added benefit of being easier for the reader to self-identify with, this especially being the case here, since Fitz is . . . how do I say this without sounding like an a-hole . . . kind of an absent narrator? At least, emotionally. He’s distant.
And, really, can you blame him?
So Fitz is born a bastard of the noble and upright King-in-waiting, Prince Chivalry Farseer, in the kingdom of the Six Duchies. Fitz’s existence as a small child catalyzes a series of upheavals in the court, eventually leading to his father abdicating the throne, and his coming to live in the castle as a bastard, under the care of Chivalry’s man, Burrich, whom Chivalry has left behind, leaving Burrich heartbroken and resentful. Burrich raises Fitz, who doesn’t have a name until he’s an adolescent (everyone just calls him boy, or “fitz,” which just means son), and even when his name is officially Fitz, it’s still always a reminder that he’s never just *himself*, but always the bastard son of a prince everyone loved, whose prospects were ruined by Fitz’s existence.
He has a lonely childhood, never really bonding with anyone emotionally, excepting two puppies he’s able to magically communicate with, because he has what the characters in this world call the Wit, which is a magical ability to essentially empathize with animals (and to a certain extent people). But Burrich believes the Wit to be a taint, and forbids Fitz to practice it, essentially amputating the one form of true connection he has.
The book covers Fitz’s life from the ages of six through about fifteen, and the poor kid goes through more in that span of time than most people do before they’re thirty. He’s gradually brought to the attention of the King, who decides to put him to use, and his resemblance to his father is never failed to be remarked upon, gaining him enemies and friends alike.
It was a bit slow going at first, definitely not a fast-paced thriller, but once you get about 1/3 of the way in, Hobb sucks you in emotionally. It took me like a week to get that far, and then I read the rest of the book in less than a day, before I’d even realized I’d done it. This book is cruel to your emotions. It gets you to care and then it SMASHES YOU IN THE FACE.
I’m definitely looking forward to finishing this trilogy, and reading more of Robin Hobb’s books. I’ve only ever previously read a novella by her set in this world, and also a short story she wrote under the name of Megan Lindholm that was speculative, and set in a contemporary setting. I can’t wait to see what she does with this series. (And yes, I’ve heard the last book is hard going for some people. I’m hoping that won’t be the case for me.)