Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
Series: Liveship Traders #1
Also by this author: Fool's Assassin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on December 30, 2003
Also in this series: Mad Ship
Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships—rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Now the fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. For Althea’s young nephew, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard the ship, the Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the ship—and the Vestrits—may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider: the ruthless buccaneer captain Kennit, who plans to seize power over the Pirate Isles by capturing a liveship and bending it to his will. BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Robin Hobb's Mad Ship. Praise for Robin Hobb and the Liveship Traders Trilogy “Fantasy as it ought to be written . . . Robin Hobb’s books are diamonds in a sea of zircons.”—George R. R. Martin “A truly extraordinary saga . . . The characterizations are consistently superb, and [Hobb] animates everything with love for and knowledge of the sea.”—Booklist “A major work of high fantasy, reading like a cross between Tolkien and Patrick O’Brian . . . one of the finest fantasy sagas to bridge the millennium.”—Publishers Weekly “Rich, complex . . . [Hobb’s] plotting is complex but tightly controlled, and her descriptive powers match her excellent visual imagination. But her chief virtue is that she delineates character extremely well.”—Interzone
This is my first endeavor for my Backlist Burndown. And I am quite happy with the choice as it was quite an inventive book, and Hobb once again did an amazing job with characters, stories and world building. I have read both the Farseer and Tawn Man trilogies prior to this. Yes, I know, technically out of order, but I was advised I could easily read them that way. I will say, that yes, they can be read in this order, but I can actually see a reason to read them in the published order. While there is not much overlap in characters between the two, and no huge plot giveaways, I do know something from reading Tawny Man that I would not have known otherwise. It’s not a huge detail in the grand scheme of things, but its enough of one that I will recommend other reader read them in the published order if they plan on reading all three trilogies.
I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant to read this for fear that I could never love it as much as love the stories involving Fitz. But, happily, that is not a problem. While I may not have quite the same level of attachment to Althea as I did Fitz, it’s not a problem. I feel like this is a larger story from the beginning and to get that, you can’t focus on just one character as much. The magic of the liveships is fascinating. Pretty much, they are crafted from wizardwood and are terribly expensive. Trader families from Bingtown work deals with the people from the Rain Wilds to own and operate them. The cost is heavy and impacts generations. But what they get is a ship that becomes alive/sentient. A ship that can know their thoughts, desires, understand the currents and crew in ways no mundane ship could. The ship has the ability to make everything easier. But part of how the ship works is through a deep connection with the owning family. The ship needs this connection to be sail, to function and to be happy. And by the same connection, the family also forms a strong bond with the ship. It is not just a tool or method of travel, a way to ship good, the ship is like such a close member of family that is seems an extension of them. Ships all have their individual personalities which are determined greatly by their connection with family and their experiences in their early years.
Althea Vestrit is the younger daughter of a Bingtown Trader who has a brand new liveship (Vivacia), yet to be quickened (this is the point where the liveship really wakens). Instead of living a pampered and feminine life that would normally be expected of a daughter of a Trader, her father takes her aboard the ship, where she lives among the crew. She’s my type of girl, eschewing skirts for more practical attire for life on a ship. She is strong willed and full of life. And after a hard blow to the family, she is headed on a course to challenge the normal life and expectations of women.
Althea is not the only character of importance in this. While she is crucial, she is not central to the story. The same could be said for Vivacia. She is absolutely critical, and perhaps could be thought of as central. But the events that happen to her are all part of a much larger story that are really the world and politics that that influence their lives. Slavery is one example a major problem that seems to be spreading. And pirates, can’t forget to mention pirates! They play a large role as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. I really want to know so much more about the characters and what happens next. So much so, that I have set my review books aside to continue reading the series. I have not read a trilogy straight through in so long, and while I feel like I should read my review books, I also feel like treating myself. I read and blog for the love of books and genre, and well, reading Mad Ship next just feels right.