Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb - 05.07.07 ****
The first novel in The Farseer Trilogy, Assassin's Apprentice introduces us to Fitz, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, the King-in-Waiting of the Six Duchies. Brought to the royal palace at the age of six, Fitz is treated as an outcast by nearly everyone, with the exception of his caretaker (his father's stableman) and oddly enough, his grandfather, King Shrewd, who dares not pay too much attention to his own grandson for fear of inviting an attack by Fitz's many enemies. Nonetheless, the King decides that Fitz must be trained in the secret arts of assassination. Fitz's life becomes an unending drudgery of schooling - not just his letters and etiquette, but poison, herbs, & fighting skills.
As Fitz approaches manhood, savage barbarians begin raiding up and down the coast, destroying villages and kidnapping people. Their only demand is to pay them in gold to not return the hostages. Puzzled by this unusual demand, the gold is not paid, and as promised the hostages are returned - as souless savages. Now the kingdom must face the raiders from across the ocean as well as the murderous "Forged" that the raiders leave behind.
When the king finally sends Fitz off on his first dangerous mission, he suddenly faces even more enemies, as his own uncle tries to frame him for an assassination he didn't commit, and his greatest challenge - can he save the kingdom from the enemies hidden within?