Friday, January 29, 2010 | | 3 comments

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I know, I know, it's been a long time since I've posted. What can I say. I'm busy with my own novel, and I've also become mildly addicted to Diablo II and Torchlight. Such is life. Anyhoo, onto the review.

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb was a surprise for me. It gives, in first person, the early childhood and teenage years of a bastard child fathered by the King in Waiting, Prince Chivalry. When Chivalry learns of his son, he abdicates the throne and leaves the Castle forever. The boy grows up under the watch of Chivalry's right hand man, the stablemaster Burrich. Part way through the book, as is fairly obvious by the title, he begins training to be an assassin.

I had assumed that this book was just another of the smear of books that came out in the 80s with an almost AC/DC level of sameness (if you missed that joke, just listen to their songs. I dare you to tell them apart). Turns out this book was published in the early 90s, which surprised me. Hobb doesn't exactly fall far from the tree when it comes to the basics of her story. Young boy, no parents, raised up for a great destiny, a kingdom at war, nasty royalty, classic love story. It's all there. But I found myself turning page after page, because it was just different enough that it came out quite nicely. In that regard it reminded me of other authors that have flirted with the classic 80s epic fantasy while still giving it a jolt in one area or another. Authors like Rothfuss, John Brown, and others come to mind.

One thing that bothered me a little bit about Assassin's Apprentice were the historical texts at the beginning of each chapter. I understood that they were there to flesh the story out, but I know for a fact that they could scare some readers off. When the first sentence of your book is, "A history of the Six Duchies is of necessity a history is of its ruling family, the Farseers," you're not exactly grabbing my interest, now are you. I tried to get my brother to read this, before I had even started it, and he put it down, saying it started out "way too boring" to hold his attention. That doesn't say good things, since he's a fan of the genre.

Still, Hobb did many things right with Assassin's Apprentice, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a well worn copy of Royal Assassin from the library and digging right in.

Overall Score: 8/10. The book suffers a little in the pacing department, but the story was top notch, and the characters, while somewhat static, were easily recognizable and easy to relate to. It kept me turning pages.

Friday, January 15, 2010 | | 1 comments

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I must confess that this isn't my first time through this book, it's more like my third. I can't seem to avoid reading this book every year or so, just for the sheer pleasure I get from it. It really is a wonderful book. All right, enough fan boyism, time to get to the actual meat of the review.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a fantasy book by Scott Lynch. It's part of a series of a planned 7 books called The Gentleman Bastard Sequence. The novel tells the story of Locke Lamora, moving back and forth between his childhood upbringing and his current situation, namely that of a Garrista, a boss of a gang in the city of Camorr. Locke and his group of thieves are planning a massive heist of cash from a rich Don and Dona of Camorr. Robbing nobles is strictly prohibited by the Secret Peace, a sort of don't ask don't tell agreement between the nobility and the Mob boss of Camorr. They devise a clever plan to rid the Don of his wealth while at the same time keeping it secret from the Duke's police as well as the Mob boss. Things take a turn for the worst when Locke and his crew get wrapped up in the revenge of The Grey King, a clever man planning the overthrow of the underworld of Camorr.

The book is a wonderful lesson in giving just enough information that you can have a fully realized world, without spending chapter after chapter describing everything in sight. The city lives and breathes around you as you read. Lynch does get a bit verbose at times, and there were some parts that could have been removed altogether, but overall he does a wonderful job of giving just enough to keep you in the scene while at the same time making the world around you come alive.

If you're a fan of capers (Think Oceans 11) then I highly recommend this book to you. It's got a plot that I love, and shows how clever the writer and the characters are throughout. I also love the dialogue in this book. WARNING: This book does present a somewhat frequent use of the F Word, so if you absolutely can't overlook that, it might spoil the whole thing for you.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (9/10) is one of my favorite fantasy books of all time. The world is great, the characters are wonderful, and you're left heartbroken where you should be and rooting for the protagonist all the time. For a first book, this is very polished. In terms of the overall novel, I would rank this book above The Name of the Wind. Rothfuss manages to be a little bit better storyteller than Lynch, but you honestly couldn't have gone wrong with either in the year they came out, and you still can't go wrong with them now.