Review: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 4 of my reread of Robin Hobb’s books before Assassin’s Fate comes out. I’m not doing as well on this personal challenge as I had hoped, considering I still have quite a few left to read. Ship of Magic was one of the ones that I had read previously, even if it had been a long time ago. Ship of Magic taught me more about sex then my sex ed class ever did. My book horizons have expanded since then. It was good to get caught up on this again, especially since the next one promises closure to the stories of Vivacia and Paragon.

Setting/Worldbuilding: 9/10

There are a lot of scenes that take place on some sort of ship, which is good, because when we are on the ship, I actually feel like I’m there. Unfortunately, when they get to port, I don’t really get much of a feeling for where they are at all. Perhaps it’s a device to help express the life of a sailor, because there is not much to distinguish one port from the next, but after detailed descriptions of the Six Duchies, I was expecting a little more.

On the other hand, while the physical setting is not as detailed as I would like it to be, the world building is phenomenal. There’s enough to keep you wondering about what exactly the Rain Wild Traders and the Bingtown Traders are hiding from the rest of the world, but enough to let you know exactly where all the characters stand in relation to each othe. I find it amusing that Bingtown finds the Six Duchies to be barbarians and backwards when from a modern standpoint, in relation to the women, we would find the Six Duchies to be much more progressive.

Plot/Pacing: 8/10

Like many fantasy novels, the plot sort of meanders along, following different threads til they suddenly come together shortly before the end. But, because we have so many different characters, and because Robin Hobb excels at characterization, the long stretches of character development and worldbuilding are not only bearable, they are actually entertaining. Not all fantasy novels manage to take that slow pace without the risk of losing interest, but Robin Hobb manages quite well.

Characters: 10/10

Robin Hobb excels at characterization, and this is the first book in The Realm of the Elderlings that highlights that fact. Instead of focusing on a singular protagonist like in the Farseer Trilogy, she expands to an assortment of POV characters. Not only does this keep the action sharp by following around different characters in parts that could have dragged the story down, it also allows her to show off her characterization skills.

The female characters are the real highlight. From Althea to Etta to Malta to Ronica each one of them is unique and serves the plot directly rather than simply being a plot device like so many other narratives. Despite the views of the society they live in, none of the plot would be happening if it were not for the female characters.

Althea: I believe Althea is supposed to be considered the main protagonist, even though this is an ensemble piece, considering that she is featured on my hardback cover. I like that she grows throughout the series, that she starts thinking that everything is owed to her and then she realizes that she actually has to earn it. My heart did break for her when Ophelia said the liveships would have sided with her against Kyle if she would have gone to them in the beginning, especially considering Vivacia’s fate.

Malta: I’m having a hard time reconciling the headstrong and ignorant Malta from this book from the one I grew to know first in the Rain Wild Chronicles. I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops over the next two books.

Etta: I love her. I love that she so easily takes over the ship once Kennit takes her on board, and that she doesn’t appear to be afraid of anything. The only thing I don’t like about her is that she’s getting jealous of the ship. It’s just a ship, girl. Relax. Your boyfriend is not quite as amazing as you think he is anyway, and you’re probably just better off taking over your own pirate ship.

Wintrow: If you want to talk about a broken heart, though, just think about poor Wintrow. Poor boy, just wants to live his life and his father just shoves him into another position. Just another example of how the patriarchy hurts more than just women.

Kyle: Hey, Kyle, did you perhaps ever mentor a young boy named Hest? Does the timeline work out for this? Because I feel that they went to the same school of douchery, or are related, or Kyle mentored him or something because Hest definitely feels like a Kyle Haven 2.0.

Brashen: Love interest? I don’t know. I have a vague feeling that I liked him more in the second book.

Kennit: I love Kennit, mostly because he’s such a well written villain. He keeps thinking that he has all these evil plots, but every time it “backfires” and makes him look like a hero. That fact that he keeps getting confused by it makes the whole situation better.

Overview: 10/10

It’s been fun rereading The Realm of the Elderlings from the beginning again. I know how a few things turn out, but it’s been interesting to see what I remember (not much) and to see what I’ve forgotten. As it turns out, I’ve forgotten most of this trilogy and given that it seems to be coming back, it’s probably good that I’m doing my reread now. It also reminded me that Robin Hobb seems to be very fond of the (view spoiler)

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