Mad Ship by Robin Hobb
Series: Liveship Traders #2
Also by this author: Fool's Assassin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on December 30, 2003
Also in this series: Ship of Magic
As the ancient tradition of Bingtown’s Old Traders slowly erodes under the cold new order of a corrupt ruler, the Vestrits anxiously await the return of their liveship—a rare magic ship carved from sentient wizardwood, which bonds the ships mystically with those who sail them. And Althea Vestrit waits even more avidly, living only to reclaim the ship as her lost inheritance and captain her on the high seas. But the Vivacia has been seized by the ruthless pirate captain Kennit, who holds Althea’s nephew and his father hostage. Althea and her onetime sea mate Brashen resolve to liberate the liveship—but their plan may prove more dangerous than leaving the Vivacia in Kennit’s ambitious grasp.BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Robin Hobb's Ship of Destiny. 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
As much as I love all of the Fitz books, I have to admit, this series feels more ‘epic’. I love love the world building in this in a way I never quite did with her other books. Not that I missed it in them, I actually quite liked the world in the other books, but in these, it seems to be more front and center and it is just something unexpected.
And the number of strong female characters is applaudable! I love that their is such an array of “strong women” where they each have their unique ways of making themselves strong. They are not all tomboys or warriors. They look at their position in life, at their abilities and draw strength from where they can. It’s that independent attitude that makes me view them as strong.
Ofcourse, Althea is featured most central. Her liveship that she had bonded with has been taken from her family. She must start a quest to regain what belongs to her, and to the Vestrit family. Her strength can not be questioned. She does everything she can, and breaks out of the roles expected of a woman (even if she has to dress as a man to do so at times). She is strong, but she is not the only one. Althea may climb the rigging and Jek may carry a sword, but Amber, Ronica and even Keffria and Malta stand on their own and make strides for what they believe in. I was quite surprised (happily) by the character growth of both Keffria and Malta in this. Malta reminded me a bit of Sansa, where she at first appears to be an annoying and vapid teenage girl. But when put to the test, she manages to find herself and great store of determination to drive her.
But I don’t want to dwell on just the female characters, because there are amazing characters that are male and also the world building, the atmosphere of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds, the magic of the liveships, the politics coming to light with the Satrap and slavery are all very well done and create a richly formed world.
In true Hobb form, she manages to put her characters through hell. I don’t know if this is what causes us to love her characters so much? The threat of losing them? Or seeing them so close to losing everything? Does it make us love her characters in an effort to give the poor people something, even if its just the love of a reader that they will never know? Hobb is able to pull heartstrings that I didn’t even know I possessed. And I love her books for that. I can’t say I find this book to be quite as emotional as some of the Fitz books, but its still far from and easy life for any character featured in her books.
Wintrow, the poor boy that was taken from his quite peaceful life in a monastery and thrust into the harsh life of a sailor, a life he never expected or wanted is faced with more adversity and challenges. Horrible adversity and challenges even by Hobb’s standards. Kennit, the pirate with a twisted Robin Hood bent, raiding slaveships to free their cargo. His character is rather fascinating, and add to that, I am still quite intrigued by his sarcastic wizardwood charm that speaks to him.
And, the real measure of how much I enjoyed the book. I am continuing to put all my review and book club reads on hold until I complete this trilogy. I don’t want to stop reading even to write this review. I give much higher praise than that.