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Ship of Magic

A book by Robin Hobb

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The best from Dickens, Tolkien, Melville and O'Brien!

  • Mar 19, 2011
Vivacia is a liveship - a seagoing vessel made of wizardwood sailing out of the trading hub Bingtown - that has magically come alive into self-awareness after the death of Ephron Vestrit, patriarch of the family that owns her. His youngest daughter, Althea, feels her it is her rightful legacy to command the Vivacia but the elders of the family, her mother, Ronica, and her older sister, Keffria, persuade Ephron before his death that it is in the family's best interests to give the captain's chair to Keffria's husband, Kyle Haven. This is the starting point for a story that, while set in a fictional world that includes the magic of liveships and wizardwood and the fantasy of sea serpents, is actually a monumental family saga in the finest sea-faring tradition of the 17th and 18th century British empire - merchants, slaves, pirates, meat hunting ships, strict codes of decorum and family behaviour, religion and the harsh justice familiar to readers of Dickens' novels that was meted out to those who defaulted on debt.

Hobbs' mastery of her plot lines is nothing short of extraordinary! With what is actually a relatively small cast for such a huge story, she has set up a multitude of plot lines and conflicts that realistically weave in and out of another with absolutely perfect pacing designed to keep any reader flipping pages at a breathless pace! Althea masquerades as a boy to establish legitimate sailing credentials and win back her right to the Vivacia. Kyle's son, Wintrow, struggles with his love of monastic life and a desire to become a priest while his father cruelly kidnaps him to a shipboard life on the Vivacia to push him into his stereotypical vision of manhood. Kennit, the pirate captain, refuses to recognize the love that his first mate, Sorcor, and the whore, Etta, offer him. Like Ahab chasing after his elusive white whale, he pursues his dream of becoming a king and captain of a liveship, no matter the cost to any around him. Wintrow's sister, Malta, is nearing womanhood with spoiled, profligate ways that threaten to pull the Kestritt and Haven families over the brink of bankruptcy. Ronica, now the matriarch elder, tries to hold her fractured family together and deal with their teetering contracts with the Rain Wild Traders.

The depth to which Hobbs has developed the characters of these people and pulled them off the page into reality will take your breath away. Can she maintain this level of suspense and excitement through the remaining two entries in The Liveship Traders trilogy? I don't know but I sure intend to find out just as quickly as I can get to the nearest bookstore!

And, for what it's worth, Hobbs has proposed some sort of underlying mythology that explains a relationship of some kind between the sea serpents and the liveships that remains unresolved as of the end of Ship of Magic. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Hobbs has in mind! Unquestionably, a 5-star novel that can be recommended as one of the finest books I've read in my life.

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More Ship of Magic reviews
review by . August 03, 2004
"Ship of Magic" is a little over 800 pages long and tells a slo-o-owly developing story from the multiple viewpoints of a family of liveship traders, the liveship herself once she is awakened, plus various sea serpents, a pirate king, and other more peripheral characters--at least they're peripheral in "Ship of Magic" but this is the only the first book of a trilogy, 'The Liveship Traders.'       I've also read this author's 'Farseer Trilogy,' and once settled into one of her …
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Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer trilogy, has returned to that world for a new series.Ship of Magicis a sea tale, reminiscent ofMoby DickandPatrick O'Brian'sAubrey/Maturin series in its details of shipboard life. It is also a fantasy adventure with sea serpents, pirates, and all sorts of magic. Theliveshipshave distinct personalities and partner with specific people, somewhat likeAnne McCaffrey'sBrain ships and their Brawns, though these are trading ships and have full crews.

Hobb has peopled the book with many wonderfully developed characters. Most of the primary ones are members of the Vestritts, an Old Trader family which owns the liveship Vivacia. Their stories are intercut with those of Kennit, the ambitious pirate Brashen, the disinherited scion of another family who served on the Vestritt's ship, and Paragon, an old liveship abandoned and believed mad. The sentient sea serpents have their own story hinted at, as well.

Though Ship of Magic is full of action, none of the plotlines get resolved in this book. Readers who resent being left with many questions and few answers after almost 700 pages should think twice before starting, or wait until the rest of the series is out so that their suspense won't be too prolonged. But Hobb's writing draws you in and makes you care desperately about what will happen next, the mark of a terrific storyteller. --Nona Vero --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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ISBN-10: 0553575635
ISBN-13: 978-0553575637
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
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