Assassin's Apprentice, and Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb Rothdas book review RSS
4.0/3.0 Stars

The story of a viking prince coming to terms with being a furry. The first books covers young puppy love and then teenage dog love, while the second book has the main character forming a bond with a dangerous and sexy wolf.

I liked the quiet world building: it has waves of viking raiding and then settlement, and various types of low-magic flowing through the world and its history. I also liked how so much of the story is about relationships. Despite the awkward titles of the books, what they are mostly about are things like family bonds, romantic bonds, toxic co-workers, and other social and sentimental aspects of the characters. A few people do get poisoned, but that is not at all the focus of the novels. The magic in the story is similarly themed, as virtually all of the magic is about communication or connection. E.g. the ruling viking family has a sort of basic mind magic that lets them communicate from mind to mind and form a sort of janky hive-mind, while hedge witches and the like are able to sense the bodily strands of life and physical connection between living things. The Big Bad in the story has an opposite power, that of forced-Republicanization, where people are completely separated from all social and moral connections to the world and turned into little more than savage ghouls.

Other neat minor aspects: there is a Fool character who has a bit of meta-knowledge, and who actually does a good job with being intelligent and clever (contrast this with Sanderson's Fool character, who ruins every scene he is in because the author is not funny/clever in that way), there is a province named Tilf, and I liked the occasional bouts of writerly brilliance when the author decides to really stretch her legs and describe a scene or an emotion, I liked how the danger of magic to its user was that it was so pleasurable, that it was a nearly perfect flow state, and that in time it could lead to the user forswearing rest, food, and drink in order to continue the joy of its use.

On the downside, I did not like how the books become progressively more about being lawful stupid as the story goes on. After a certain number of iterations of someone being abusive/hostile, if you don't take reasonable steps to stop the abuse, it starts to seem like you just enjoy it. The main characters increasingly fail to take basic actions to deal with their situation, mostly because from a narrative standpoint the author is seeking to create emotionally charged victimhood/martrydom scenes rather than intelligent action. It reminds me of some of Le Carre's later work in this way. There's also a certain amount of fetishizing of monarchy and fealty that goes on in the second book, which I'm not a huge fan of. The wolf is waaaay smarter than any of the humans when he says "yeah screw this this lets go live in the forest and hunt does and fuck hoes".