Fitz is born a bastard to the King-in-Waiting, and automatically, he can either become a threat or a tool to the royals. Without much of a choice, he becomes a tool, learning to become an assassin while growing up in a court surrounded by enemies.
Spoiler Free Review:
Content Warnings: animal cruelty, attempted suicide, child abandonment, bullying/abuse
I have to say, I went into this with a lot of preconceived notions. I don’t typically like older fantasy books, because I’m enjoying the trends and diversity of new fantasy. Also, this book and series are held in incredibly high regard, so that always makes me a little nervous.
For the first 100 or so pages, I was totally thinking that this book just wasn’t for me. It was boring and I could only read about 3 pages at a time, but then I hit a certain point, and I just couldn’t put it down! I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!
The book is from the point of view of an older Fitz telling his story from when he is 6 years old and freshly abandoned, to when he in his mid-teens. Another point this book has against it is that I typically don’t enjoy books that cover this much time, especially when told by the main character of their past. I can’t really judge if this was done well, but it certainly wasn’t done poorly.
Fitz’s story is so sad. He has pretty much no one he can trust, and as soon as he does, they get ripped away from him. He goes through so much in just the span of this book, and I know he survives it (because he’s telling the story), but I know he’ll go through even more throughout the series. I think this did a good job of endearing me to him. I just wanted to give him a warm drink and a hug and put a blanket around him, despite feeling like he doesn’t have a super distinct personality yet.
I really, really enjoyed the evolution of the relationships Fitz does have. They are kind of always in flux because of how precarious Fitz’s situation is.
There is one conflict at the center of this book that I actually really enjoyed. There is an external threat to the region and the way it was done was so cool! There were definitely parts that were genuinely scary if I thought about myself being in that situation.
My biggest negatives for this book were that the beginning was so slow and that there were hardly any female characters. I can understand this was kind of a product of it’s time, but I still would have loved to see more women in this.
There were a bunch of things left open-ended for the rest of the series, and I’m honestly really excited to hear more of Fitz’s story, as well as the rest of the series in the Realm of the Elderlings.
(Also, I got the illustrated editions with artwork by Magali Villeneuve and the art is stunning! Here are some of them (spoiler-ish), the one of the Fool is my favorite.)