Fitz is getting used to life at Buckkeep, but a nighttime visitor offers him a dangerous opportunity. Does he have what it takes to become an assassin and to live among royalty? Find out in Assassin’s Apprentice #4 from Dark Horse!
ASSASSIN’S APPRENTICE #4
Writer: Robin Hobb and Jody Houser
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editor: Brett Israel
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 8, 2023
Previously in Assassin’s Apprentice: The illegitimate Fitz is taken in by his uncle, Prince Verity, and brought to Buckkeep to live and to meet his royal family. Soon it becomes apparent that magic runs in his veins – but not the proper kind of magic. Under Burrich’s training, he does his best to keep it suppressed. But life among nobles is not easy for a young boy who is seen by many of the nobles as a potential pawn in their power games.
A MIDNIGHT VISITOR
Assassin’s Apprentice #4 opens in the middle of the night when Chade comes into Fitz’s room, wakes him, and bids him to follow through secret passages to a tower workshop. Giving him a blanket to wrap up in, Chade tells the young boy a little about himself. Fitz is not legitimate, but King Shrewd has acknowledged that he is of royal blood. He lives in the castle. He will be fed and educated here. But Shrewd demands his loyalty in return. And if he is willing to pledge this, Chade has more to teach him.
Fitz does not yet understand what he is getting into, but he agrees. Chade does not tell him much, but he admits to being the king’s assassin. Diplomacy does not always run smoothly, and Shrewd uses him for more furtive methods to deal with enemies before they become a major problem. Chade will teach him everything he knows. But he has bargained for the ability to be open and honest with the boy, to tell him what he is learning.
Fitz does not say anything. Chade bids him to talk. They have privacy. He has some space for honesty. Fitz finally admits he does not like the idea of killing people. Chade admits he does not either. But Fitz will ultimately have the ability to decide, and he will not need to decide for years. Chade also remarks that learning things is never wrong; knowledge is always useful. What he chooses to do with that knowledge will be his choice.
Fitz agrees, and so his double life begins. Work continues with Burrich in the stables. Life continues in the castle. But sometimes his nights are interrupted for lessons with Chade. His confidence grows, and he talks to Burrich more, asking about his father. The nighttime lessons, which carry over into the day, fascinate him. Practice in improving his memory also teaches him how to befriend commoners. Chade even sends him on a mission in the castle to retrieve an object, although Fitz does not understand the importance of it at the time.
Then one night, while they play a memory game, Chade asks Fitz to bring him something from the king’s night table. Fitz refuses. Chade opines that he must be afraid he will be caught. But Fitz surprises us. He made a bargain with the king and pledged his loyalty. Even to take something as though playing a trick on him feels wrong to the boy. Chade wheedles him. Chade tries to talk him into taking something utterly inconsequential. Chade accuses him of thinking he would ever consider asking him to betray the king. And finally, he sends him back to his room.
I am fascinated by this treatment of a book that I really enjoyed, but which is frankly a deeply intricate tale involving a lot of complicated characters and their interactions. It is hard for me to imagine that it will fit into a graphic novel, but so far it seems to be solid.
TO OBSERVE AND LEARN
I do love the art of Assassin’s Apprentice #4. While the story is set in a fantasy world that has magic, what drives the story are the people and the politics. Fitz is a boy who straddles two worlds and does not belong to either of them. The art makes this clear to us. Fitz may be acknowledged by the king, but he works in the stables. As Chade’s apprentice, he may be learning how to hold himself around royalty, but he is also learning how to be invisible among them.
We also see that he straddles the line between adulthood and childhood. Fitz is not all that old, but he is making decisions that will affect his entire life. His loyalty to Shrewd is simple and childlike, as though he has made a promise and nothing will shake him from that. He has not yet learned that life comes in shades of gray. We see his vulnerability, his innocent rage at even the hint of injustice. But we also see how these moments that seem so trivial introduce him to an adult world where life is not so simple and straightforward. Chade is Shrewd’s man, and Shrewd lives up to his name by being careful and crafty and outthinking his opponents.
BOTTOM LINE: A TERRIFIC ADAPTATION
For an adaptation of a novel, Assassin’s Apprentice is ambitious and lives up to its promise. It brings a rich world into vivid life.
Dear Spoilerite,At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.
Assassin's Apprentice #4
Fitz declares his loyalty to the king and begins a whole new education.