Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

(9.7/10)

The Ship of Magic is book one of the Liveship Traders trilogy written by Robin Hobb. First published in 1998, the series is set far to the south of The Six Duchies, the setting for the excellent Farseer Trilogy.

After having read and thoroughly enjoyed the Farseer trilogy I was expecting more of the same again. I was not disappointed; in fact I found the writing of even higher calibre. This is no small compliment as I find Robin Hobbs’s use of the English language superb and a joy to read.

The story is unique, the character development excellent. In just a few chapters the characters are well drawn and take on a life of their own. There is a distinctly nautical feel to the Liveship Traders but it is in no way important that you have a passion for the sea as the story could be based on land, sea or air, it really wouldn’t matter.

The event upon which the story is central is the “quickening” of the liveship Vivacia. Once three family members of separate generations have died on board the ship it will become “alive” and share the memories of the deceased and become a being in it’s own right. This is a wonderful notion and adds certain freshness to the story that remains throughout.

" They all looked up at him from the sea-bottom, their great eyes of green and gold and copper unwinking. Shreever spoke for them all when she asked, ‘Why? The water is warm, the feeding easy. In a hundred years, winter has never come here. Why must we leave now? "
Ship of Magic: Prologue

Once the liveship Vivacia has been wakened, the pace of the narrative slows down; the characters are further developed, at this, a key moment in the lives of all the main characters. The inevitable infighting that plagues families times of bereavement also affects the Vistrits and they are a family torn apart. Kyle Haven exerts his newly foundcontrol of the family and this drives a further wedge amongst them.

It is at this point that Paragon once again returns to the narrative. Paragon (or Pariah) is a half-crazed liveship, renowned for being cursed and bad luck. It is to this ship that Brashen and Althea turn in their hour of need. This is a very interesting sub plot and hopefully will play a bigger part in the subsequent books.

“ ‘It’s done,’ Althea breathed. She doubted if anyone but Brashen heard her. But as his grip on her tightened and he began to pull her up, Vivacia suddenly turned to her. She reached up, her strong hands catching hold of Althea’s own. Her green eyes met Althea’s.
‘I had the strangest dream,’ she said engagingly. Then she smiled at Althea, a grin that was at once impish and merry. ‘Thank you so for waking me.’
Ship of Magic: The Quickening of the Vivacia.

The second half of the book follows Althea, Wintrow and Brashen as they endevour to find contentment within their new lives. Alongside their stories is the social-drama that is life in Bingtown for Keffria, Ronit and Malta. There is a definite class system in place and image very important. Keeping up appearances even though they have fallen on hard times is very important to the Vestrit family.

Wintrow's troubles however far outweigh the rest of his families. He is a figure that is easy to fall in behind, a soft, gentle caring boy who is thrust into a life that he does not wish for.

You can add to this story a pirate by the name of Captain Kennit and have an excellent nautical tale fall of excellent characters.This is a large book and takes some reading. It is an orignal theme that has very good characters and a gripping storyline. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The book's cover illustration's are by the John Howe.

"Refreshingly original" Jenny Wurts

Review by

4 positive reader review(s) for Ship of Magic

Our interview with Robin Hobb

City of Dragons, the third instalment in The Rain Wild Chronicles, will be published in the UK on the 23rd of April 2012. In advance of the book's release, Robin Hobb has kindly taken time to expound on the inspirations b [...]

Read interview

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All reviews for Robin Hobb's The Liveship Traders series

Ship of Magic

by Robin Hobb

On the northernmost point of the Cursed Shores lies Bingtown, a bustling hub of exotic trade and home to a proud merchant nobility famed for its extraordinary vessels. Only [...]

Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 1
Published: 1998

Score: 100

Our rating: 9.7 | positive reader reviews

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The Mad Ship

by Robin Hobb

Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but lives only to reclaim the Vivacia as her rightful inheritance. However, Vivacia has been captured by th [...]

Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 2
Published: 1998

Score: 102

Our rating: 9.9 | positive reader reviews

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Ship of Destiny

by Robin Hobb

The dragon, Tintaglia, has been released from her wizardwood coffin, only to find that the glories of her kingdom have passed into ancient memory. Meanwhile, Malta Vestrit [...]

Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 3
Published: 2000

Score: 97

Our rating: 9.5 | positive reader reviews

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Ship of Magic reader reviews

from Denmark

VERY character-driven narrative to the point that hundreds of pages actually pass before there is any momentum in the plot. A very long book (and the first part of an even longer trilogy), which would have benefitted from being 200-300 pages shorter. Pros: Author's extraordinary imagination & Kennit's character arc. Cons: Occasionally soap opera-worthy dialogue, lack of momentum.

from The Netherlands

After all other fantasy series the books of Robin Hobb are a fresh breath. No one writes her characters so well, you actually live the story.

from Australia

Robin Hobb is arguably my favourite author. Her fantasy world is peopled by well rounded characters you really care for. The Mad Ship trilogy is my favourite.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy is overrated. It cost me lot of time to get through to the last book, just because I wanted to read the Fool's books, which as well, do not reach the quality of the Assassin's trilogy, but are still worth reading to some extent. Don't read the Liveship stuff, just have someone tell you the most important bits and pieces and that's a lot of time saved for you.

from Winchester

Having fallen for the Farseer characters loved this digression - linked but strong independently as well - Robin Hobb is one of my favourite re-read writers - can't bear the death of the Fool - so have to go back to beginning on reaching the end - Shakespeare would be proud.

from Australia

This series is one of the best I have ever read. I couldn't put the books down. The author has a fantastic imagination. Did what its supposed to do, took me into another world.

8.4/10 from 7 reviews

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