“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” So says Oscar Wilde, and so says me. This is the Back List series. It’s a celebration of #comfortreads - those books we read over and over, the stories we go back to again and again, and the characters we love as if they were old friends.
Assassin's Apprentice [Illustrated Edition] by Robin Hobb (Fantasy), HarperCollins, $65, buy now
Twenty-five years ago, Robin Hobb's first novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening, friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Thus began a beloved saga spanning multiple series, full of adventure, magic, and sinister plots. To celebrate a quarter century of wonder, this special edition of Assassin's Apprentice presents a modern classic as it's never been seen before: with eleven beautiful full-colour illustrations by Magali Villeneuve.
Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father's gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz's blood runs the magic Skill – and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.
As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
Fantasy fandom is full of people, like me, who love a new illustrated edition of an old favourite. My heart skipped a beat when I saw this new release for November, and I knew my first Back List mention had to go to my well-worn collection of stories about Fitz and the Fool by Robin Hobb. It’s heartwarming that this beautiful, timeless, sprawling tale is being celebrated with a gorgeous illustrated hardback edition of the first book in the series, Assassin’s Apprentice, on the 25th anniversary of its first release.
These books are for readers who like young adventure (and young love), complex magic, royal intrigue, politics and war, and masterful storytelling that takes you on a powerfully emotional journey with characters you’ll fall in love with ( don’t say I didn’t warn you!).
Oh, and did I mention dragons? Because… dragons, people. Lot of them.
I’ve read the first trilogy at least three times. I skipped the second trio called The Liveship Traders (because I was young and stupid, and we’ve all done things we’re ashamed of). I read the third trilogy at least twice, then went back to read Liveship (and loved them so, so much). I re-read them all again in preparation for the final trilogy, which wrapped up in 2017…
… and I have not picked them up again since because, well... if you’ve already read these stories about Fitz and the Fool and Nighteyes, you will know why I've set them aside for a while. And if you don’t know anything about Fitz or the Fool or Nighteyes, I want to keep this post spoiler-free and point you in the direction of your nearest bookstore/library. Go. Go now.