Review: Ship of Destiny

9780006498872-ship-of-destiny-1Title: Ship of Destiny (2000)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 903
Series: Liveship Traders #3, Realms of the Elderlings #6 (Series Tracker)

Ship of Destiny shows the convergence of 10+ main characters and their storylines, which was mostly satisfying, but sometimes felt muddled because of how many moving pieces were suddenly occupying the same space. Nevertheless, author Robin Hobb has built an incredible world with a boatload of characters, all of whom, no matter how small, have important roles to play in the end.

I loved the addition of Tintaglia the dragon and just the overall direction that dragon-kind appears to be taking in the long-term series — having the creatures be intelligent instead of beast-like is always my preference. Hobb writes Tintaglia in a way that makes you believe her to be more enlightened and significant than any mere human we’ve come across so far. Not every writer can successfully cultivate that voice.

After two novels of carefully plotted set-up, Ship of Destiny delivers an action-packed conclusion to what was a wonderfully epic trilogy. The final book of the preceding Farseer trilogy meandered about until everything was tied up at the very end, but Ship of Destiny balances the payoffs to hit evenly throughout the course of the book. Overall, the whole of the story feels greater than the sum of its individual book parts and the Liveship saga is an absolute feat of storytelling. On to the Tawny Man trilogy!  

★★★★¼ out of 5

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Review: The Mad Ship

les-aventuriers-de-la-mer,-tome-5---prisons-d-eau-et-de-bois-369293-250-400Title: The Mad Ship (1999)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 906
Series: Liveship Traders #2, Realms of the Elderlings #5 (Series Tracker)

The Mad Ship continues the conquests of those we met in Ship of Magic, while adding a few new character POVs to the fold. As paths cross and fates entwine, many single POVs pair together and the narration becomes more cohesive. Nevertheless, this is much less a complete tale as it is a continuation from book #1 — and with no definitive ending, I suspect book #3 will follow the same path. In many ways this trilogy is one loooong book, sliced into three parts.  

I have been burning through Robin Hobb’s work pretty steadily over the last few months, and I hit a wall with this book. As a reader, I seek fresh new journeys, but this ongoing saga progresses at such a slow pace that it was tough to stay as consistently enthralled as I was at the outset. Luckily, the quality of Hobb’s writing remains top notch and the story grabbed me back as the ending approached.

With such a heavy emphasis on character development, it’s easy to overlook how well Hobb does story revelations. She plants seeds for overarching mysteries that are very hard to solve as the reader, but when the answers are revealed they are surprising, satisfying, and they have ramifications for the overall Realms of the Elderlings world that keep me excited for each subsequent book.

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: Ship of Magic

Robin_Hobb_-_Ship_of_Magic_CoverTitle: Ship of Magic (1998)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 880
Series: Liveship Traders #1, Realms of the Elderlings #4 (Series Tracker)

Ship of Magic sheds the traditional high fantasy habitat and fixed perspective employed by the Farseer trilogy to tell a seafaring tale with multiple points-of-view. Moving south from the Six Duchies, we’re introduced to the Vestrit family, whose bloodline has been in possession of a Liveship, a sentient vessel who has recently awakened. Such an awakening is a great blessing for a trading family, but the Vestrit’s can’t anticipate the pirates, sea serpents, and family divisions that come alive, as well.

With the added flexibility of multiple POVs, Robin Hobb deposits her new characters across the map and deftly moves them about to do her bidding. There is no significant forward momentum towards the larger story arc, but each character’s individual story was compelling enough to hold my interest. Most plot lines feel rich with potential, but I had hoped for a more complete story to take shape.

Something Hobb does especially well in this new territory is establishing legitimate threats to the characters across several levels. On a personal level (Jerk son-in-law Kyle Haven, Malta the brat), a regional level (the overindulgent Satrap, enterprising pirates), a physical level (pirates and conniving sea serpents), and an unknown level (the mystical Rain Wild river folk) — All combine to form a daunting maze for our heroes to navigate. This was a good start to the trilogy and I suspect the next two installments will build on the foundation that Ship of Magic establishes.

★★★¾ out of 5