Robin Hobb has a true gift for creating character's that you feel are about to walk off the page. Their personalities, flaws and all, drive the story along rather than reacting to the world around them. The first book in the first trilogy (as of writing this she is wrapping up the third book in the fifth trilogy that takes place in the same world!) sees young Fitz Chivalry dropped at the castle gates and is taken in as a bastard son of the eldest Prince Chivalry. The story sees Fitz grow as a young man into an adult, trained in the art of subterfuge and assassination (with some magic thrown in for good measure). In between all of the political drama is the threat of the 'Forged'. People who have essentially had their souls taken from them and are primal beings scouring the land. Seriously, this book and all of the following ones are freakin' awesome. If you like A Song of Ice and Fire, you owe it to yourself to read these.
As Fitz, an outcast and the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, grows to manhood, a legacy of magical skill and other mysterious talents propels him into the role of protector of the kingdom, if his initial perilous mission does not destroy him first