Having finished the Farseer Trilogy, I then had a decision whether I wanted to follow the rest of the Realm of the Elderlings storyline in chronological or published order. I decided to go with chronological, which then led me to the first of the Liveship Traders trilogy, the Ship of Magic.
Part of my reading goals with reading Robin Hobb books is to learn more about characterisation and stories that put characterisation at the forefront of the story. Ship of Magic is certainly one of those books, and there were points where I really struggled with the pacing (the Malta chapters were almost irritatingly good at mimicking the irritating voice of a 13 year old spoiled child).
However, there were some bits that were quite frankly, fantastic. There were two storylines that I really enjoyed – Althea’s storyline of trying to get her lifeship, The Viviacia back from her father in law and Wintrow’s storyline of trying to find his place when his father has ripped him away from a Priesthood that he was forced into.
I really enjoyed Wintrow’s discovery of his inner strength, and how Hobb navigated telling the reader of his internal struggle between his priestly oaths and life purpose with the new life of living onboard a ship. Internal dialogue is something that can be a real struggle to represent well, but Hobb manages to really nail how Wintrow’s internal feelings interact with the world around him.
One other character who I really loved to be frustrated with is Malta. Malta is a 13 year old girl and by god does Hobb nail the inner workings of a young girl, vulnerable as hell, who is determined to show to her family that she is an adult. The way that Hobb nails her voice in her chapters to make her so incredibly stupid in the way that only a 13 year old with no life experience can be, but also make her sympathetic because you understand why Malta is the way she is. You’re introduced to her family, her mother and toxic bully of a father. You see that she’s been sheltered and treated as a baby her whole life. I found myself almost wanting to yell for gods sake Malta will you not do that, which is, I expect, the same kind of response most parents of teenagers give when their 13 year old comes to them with a Grand Plan. The bullishness and stubbornness that Malta shows is certainly something I remember from my thirteen year old self.
The final character I have to call out is Kennet. If you want to learn how to write a complex antagonist, then Kennet is a brilliant example. You’re shown is point of view, his world rationale, and his brutal pirate exploits. The narrative doesn’t justify his actions, but it does give you the context for why Kennet is the way he is, given the brutal nature of the world that he lives in.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Ship of Magic. It’s given me a lot of points to think on for my own writing, and I’m curious as to see where the story continues.
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