This is my first foray in to Robin's works, after hearing a lot of things - so many things, good and bad both. This series seems well regarded, and from speaking with Robin on Reddit and watching her other interactions, I felt like this was a series I should definitely approach. The fact this book was a relatively quick read was also a plus, as I enjoy a shorter book in-between bigger novels/series.
In general, I'm glad I made the decision to start this series. Robin's writing is enjoyable in format, her characters and dialogue are smart and interesting. Her world has some history and a realistic feel. The character conflicts are real, and Fitz's internal strife, while sometimes frustrating (it's one of the dilemmas of having a young boy as a main character), are well described and explained.
The magic is relatively mild - some mind communication that is addressed frequently, yet never seems to be the gamechanger that many magic systems are. And while I understand this is the first book in a series, the "enemy" does not have nearly as dangerous of a feel as I thought it could have - they are raiding the Six Dutchies, they are capturing people and turning them into semi-lucid husks of people, yet I never really felt the "impending doom" that is often the main focus of fantasy series. Instead, the focus is on the inner turmoil of their court, of the backstabbing and family politics - this is interesting in it's own right, but being as it's the main focus, it feels like the RedShips are just thrown in as something else to deal with. I'm sure they'll be dealt with in future books.
And then there's Fitz...yeah. He's a young teen for most of the book, growing into a man, but also faces many of the emotional struggles a young man would. However, this can get extremely tedious to read, especially after the 912020348th case of his moaning, whiny self-loathing. While his struggles are realistic, make sense, fit with the story, it doesn't make them less of a chore to consume. As well, I feel the "sympathetic protagonist" is taken to near extremes, as it feels like Fitz is in a constant state of bad luck - everything that could go wrong always seems to. When he succeeds in things (such as his assassination missions), they're often glossed over and summarized. When he fails or is mistreated, it's described in full. He's constantly beaten, mistreated by nearly everyone, judged repeatedly for his station, resented, set-up. There's only so much that can happen to one character before you start to go "really?".
All of those negatives said, the book is very enjoyable in general. It's well-written; the world isn't described in Jordanesque detail, but for the most part it doesn't need to be. The journal-entry style pieces at the beginning of each chapter are a clever way of introducing history and lore into the story via Fitz's thoughts. The palace drama and discourse is something that appeals to me in fantasy, and this book is rife with it. The ending is dramatic and very frantic, the final 100 pages a flurry of activity. While I won't throw this novel on my list of favorite books ever, it's more than enough to get me to read the next installment of the series.