Books that are truly worth reading

Assassin's Apprentice

Robin Hobb

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.

Recommended by Martin

Another trilogy, this time pure and classic fantasy. The concept is not the strength here. The bastard son of a prince is disowned and raised by his father’s stableman and as he grows, he discovers he has a rare magical skill that may be the key to saving the kingdom that rejected him. So far, so fantasy. What sets this book (and the whole trilogy) apart is not the concept but the execution: the characters are the most well-realised of, I think, any book I have ever read and the prose is wonderful, engrossing and skillful. All too often fantasy and sci-fi novels fall into the trap of leaning on plot and world-building at the expense of character and nuance but not here.

This is a rare fantasy book that stands tall on the strength, believability and rich detail of the relationships between the characters, elevated by its plot, setting and imagination but not reliant on them.