All the Time in the World

My taste in reading material is wide and varied: SF/fantasy/"speculative fiction", mysteries (police procedurals, mostly), history, fanfic, straight fiction, smutty vampire books, biographies, poetry, cereal boxes, assembly instructions, the fine print, and your mind.

Assassin's Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb I read, and have read, so much SF & fantasy that a book almost always will remind me of something I've read before. In a lot of cases, unfortunately, the best that a book can do is not to instantly place itself in comparison with a previous book that covered the same ground, only better.

Not so in this case. Not only was it not ultra-derivative, but it dug into some interesting areas - like what happens when the illegitimate child of the heir to the throne is brought to the capital city by his impoverished maternal grandfather and left there to be raised by his heretofore unknown father? In a land where the rulers are given names at birth that reflect the virtues they are expected to embody, what happens is that the surprised and disgraced father relinquishes his place in the succession and retires to his country manor to live out the rest of his days in obscurity - but oddly leaves his six-year-old son in the hands of his huntsman, a trusted retainer, to make his own way as best he can.

Add to that the son's strange ability to bond mentally with the animals he helps care for, plus implied psychic powers inherited by members of the royal line, and the appearance of a somewhat-sinister mentor who begins to teach him the skills of an assassin in order to provide him with a useful function in the king's court, and you end up with a fairly unusual story, devoid of elves, fairies, wizards, or pretty much any of the other usual fantasy tropes.

Two other books followed in this series - Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest. As these came out 15 years ago or so, I may have a little trouble tracking down copies, but I think they'll be worth the effort.