robin hobb, assassin's apprentice

Why is it that all these fantasy heroes seem to be teenaged boys? Is that when men think they are actually "coming of age"? In my experience, most teenaged boys are still awkward and croaky and skinny (the husband certainly was at eighteen!) and men don't really come into their own until their late twenties. I guess it makes for the archtypal unlikely hero, which I've never been fond of. I prefer the anti-hero. I'm currently reading a book, ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE in which the protag is both unlikely and anti-, well, Fitz starts out as unlikely and grows into anti-. I've realized he's also not all that well drawn. I keep reading, interested in which tide will turn him next, and fascinated by this being Hobb's first book, but I realized I really don't know Fitz all that well, even though it's written in first person. Like he was just told he was to make his first kill as an assassin (potentially--it's his call) and we got no internal reaction. Kind of flat, really. I think he's supposed to be one of those characters who rather don't feel, like they are shut-down or something.

One thing I do like is that everyone is fairly kind to him--even if it's just to serve their own interests. That's a divulgence from the usual. I flipped ahead in the back (shocking, I know, but did you really expect anything less from me?) and Fitz says something about loving his prince. I think when a character is not in control, they do need a focus for their loyalty. It provides a powerful motivator for a character who is not in control of their own destiny.

The focus for twin brother's Aidan and Kaelin's loyalty ever remains each other, but they latch onto their uncle and Sentinel itself. For instance, in the second book, Aidan gets dressed down by his Lord Prince, which is pretty mortifying as Aidan really does respect the guy. But then his Uncle gets in on it, and that devestates Aidan. That Kaelin agrees with everyone about his reprehesible behavior (Kaelin's right, it was) makes Aidan angry, but all his anger and bluster is just covering the deepest hurt of all.

These layers of emotion are interesting and fun to play with. I seem to do it naturally and realize what I'm doing later. It's cool to work with such developed characters and know their failings and what really digs at them, and then take an ice pick to it. Yes, we writers are a masochistic lot. Well, the good ones, anyway.

I also decided that Aidan and Kaelin will cut their hair in the third book, practically shaved. I think it might have something to do with the revealing of secrets, like the hair is a veil or something. Ooo, symbolism. What will we crazy writers come up with next??

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I disagree rather strongly about your statement "Is that when men think they are actually "coming of age"? In my experience, most teenaged boys are still awkward and croaky and skinny (the husband certainly was at eighteen!) and men don't really come into their own until their late twenties." The male experience of growing into a man occurs, like with women, as they go through puberty. I, myself, read Assassin's Apprentice after my sophomore year of high school and found myself bound to FitzChivalry Farseer in the same frustrating search for identity. And I find that Robin Hobb, a female author, did an unbelievably outstanding job portraying the realities of masculinity. Her literature is very progressive in terms of gender studies. 

But your own words, as a female of society, betray the fatal flaw many women make about manhood. Age does not make a man more manly, nor does experience or following social norms of "maturity," if such a thing even exists in either gender. Being resigned to acquiesce to the oppressive societal norms of masculinity is what must be rebelled against. I praise women who want to fight against antique gender roles and educate the populace on the frustrations of a young, modern female. But I believe no one is stopping to do the same for young men. After all, gender studies 101 tells us that if one gender is oppressed by gender role, the other gender must by as well.

You portray young men as awkward until they have aged and lost sight of what it means to be a young male. By their late twenties, men who are not married, not settled in a stable and well-paying career, and not devoid of emotion are seen as immature jerks who just complain. Perhaps, as much of an uncomfortable truth as it may be, manhood is lost by following the standards of male maturity of this day and age. That, what it means to be male is found before age 20 and lost by 30 to societal pressure. Many women say that men will always act like boys sometimes... well maybe that's because that's what masculinity is based on... that is to say, perhaps society has it wrong. Perhaps society should value the wiliness of young men and not the robotic stability of "mature men" because young men seem to have an unsocialized concept of manhood.

And as for you claims that boys take time to grow into their own... I've lived with women my entire life and most of my friends are female. Women are no secret. They are just as immature and awkward as any boy at any given age. To disagree is to have a bias value system that gives weight to one side or the other.

Grant H