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Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1)…

Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1) (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Robin Hobb, Stephen Youll (Illustrator)

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4,456651,555 (4.07)1 / 135
Title:Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1)
Authors:Robin Hobb
Other authors:Stephen Youll (Illustrator)
Info:Spectra (1999), Mass Market Paperback, 832 pages
Collections:Your library

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Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (1998)



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English (59)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
This is the beginning of the second trilogy in Robin Hobb’s larger Realms of the Enderlings series. As with the first trilogy, this was a re-read for me. Unlike the first trilogy, my memory of the story and the characters was much fuzzier. I remembered a few of the characters and events and the rest of it slowly came back to me as I read.

These books are set in a separate area of the world from the Six Duchies of the first trilogy. They’re close enough to be aware of each other, but far enough that there isn’t much interaction between them. The main premise affecting this story is the concept of liveships. These are ships made out of wizard wood in the Rain Wilds, and they are sentient. They don’t truly come alive until three generations of the family that owns them has died on them, but they have an underlying awareness and connection with their family even before then. After the third generation dies, they become fully aware and can talk to people through the figurehead attached to the ship.

Unlike the first trilogy, this one is told in the third person from the perspective of a variety of characters. I enjoyed all the POVs, although there were some characters and storylines that I liked more than others. The over-all story is very interesting, and the different POVs allow for a variety of different types of storylines. There are adventures and struggles aboard a variety of ships including trader ships, pirate ships, and hunting ships, as well as adventures at port towns. There are financial, political, and parenting difficulties back home in Bingtown. And the world’s brattiest teenager. There’s Paragon, an abandoned liveship who still seems to get a surprising number of visitors, both malevolent and friendly. There are the mysterious serpents who are seeking something, but even they don’t really understand what they’re seeking. There’s a lot going on, but it’s all related and slowly starts to form a larger picture.

I really enjoyed this series the first time I read it, but I suspect I’m appreciating it more this second time around. The first time, I had been very anxious to get back to the characters from the first trilogy who also feature in the third. There’s definitely something to be said for re-reading a familiar story at a more relaxed pace.

The following spoiler tags contain spoilers for both this trilogy and the following Tawny Man trilogy. Please don’t read them if you haven’t yet read the first 9 books, unless you don’t care about spoilers.
I especially enjoyed paying more attention to Amber during “her” all-too-brief appearances. There are so many clues that I didn’t pick up on the first time I read this, and her somewhat cryptic conversations with Paragon have a lot more meaning when you know who she is. Since the Fool is one of my all-time favorite characters ever, I especially enjoyed it when she showed up on the page. From my vague memories, I think she plays a somewhat larger role in the later books so I’m looking forward to that.

When I read this the first time I did eventually figure out who she was, but I think it was toward the end of the trilogy. I had read some comments online indicating there was a major character in this trilogy from the other two trilogies, otherwise I don’t know if I would have ever figured it out. As it was, it took me a long time because I didn’t realize it was somebody in disguise. I kept waiting for them to show up in a more obvious way. I can’t remember exactly how and when I figured it out, but maybe I’ll remember when I get to that point.
( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Oct 14, 2018 |
The Ship of Magic lives in the same universe as the first trilogy by Robin Hobb, The Farseer Trilogy (focusing on the earlier life of Fitz, a trained assassin in a royal court), but here the Six Duchies is only mentioned in passing as a distant land, of warring and rather uncouth people.

Here the focus is on trade, largely carried out by ships. And by far the best ships to have are the liveships, made of magic wood (reminiscent of Sapient Pearwood from Discworld). These absorb the feelings, thoughts and memories of generations of the family that owns them until, after three generations of that family die on their decks, the ships come alive, and the figurehead, still made of wood, becomes a moving, talking person, who also feels and to some extent controls the entire ship, while still being just as in tune with the inner mental lives of its inhabitants, especially those of the family of its owners.

One such ship, the Vivacia, becomes fully alive and sentient after the patriarch of the Vestrit family dies on her deck. Althea, his daughter, who loves Vivacia, is closely bonded to her, fully assumes she will be the new captain, despite only being 19. However, in a shock to almost everyone, the ship is given to her sister, who in turn lets her husband, Kyle, the incumbent captain, keep command. Kyle and Althea despise each other, so the first thing Kyle does is ban Althea from the ship.

She spends much of the rest of the book finding some way to force herself back on the Vivacia and in command.

Kyle, meanwhile, a harsh man, who understands little about live ships, virtually (and later literally) enslaves his own son, previously promised to the priesthood, to the ship, as a key blood relative to give the Vivacia company. But this only breeds deep resentment in Wintrow, the boy. To make matters worse, Kyle decides to trade in slaves, which the ship, Wintrow and his entire family hate the thought of. There are increasing rumblings of a disastrous rebellion from the ship herself. Other ships have gone mad and destroyed their entire crew. Will that happen here?

Simultaneously with this plot is that of a pirate captain, Kennit, a cruel, deeply ambitious man, who has a special wizard wood emblem that gives him luck. He wants to be seen as a kind of king, and one of the ways towards that goal is to capture a liveship of his very own. These two major subplots slowly, like juggernauts, move towards each other throughout the novel.

This is at times a somewhat slow novel, maybe a little too slow and ponderous. But there's no doubt it is also incredibly rich, in political complexity, in character descriptions and choices, and in a very long, complex, intricate plot.

After the disappointing last novel (the final one in the farseer trilogy), the new themes and characters here were a fascinating change. I was definitely drawn in by the characters and where the story was going. Kennit, particularly, is a wonderfully drawn, complex, multi-faceted character, almost becoming a tender hero despite everything in his nature and desires. His relationship with his woman (previously his personal whore) is for me the highlight of the entire novel.

I am hungry for the next novel in the series, but feel a little cheated that after such a long novel, it feels more like the end of a chapter rather than a book, with some characters, such as Althea, just left hanging in mid-story, and the end of the novel even for the main plot, feeling more like an intermission, rather than a proper ending. ( )
  RachDan | Sep 24, 2018 |
Goed te lezen boek, en in mijn ogen was het al vele malen beter dan de 'Assassins' trilogie.

Er zijn een aantal verschillende gezichtspunten in dit boek, o.a. van de piraat Kennit, Althea (dochter van de laatste kapitein die stierf aan boord van het schip Vivacia), haar zuster Keffria en neef Winton. Allen zijn ze op de een of andere manier verbonden aan het levende schip Vivacia.

Het verhaal speelt zich af in de zelfde wereld als de 6 Hertogdommen van de Assassin's trilogie, maar in een ander deel.

Heb dit boek met veel plezier gelezen, hoewel het traag begon. Pas nadat de diverse hoofdpersonen zijn geïntroduceerd begint het verhaal pas echt.

Ik kan niets bedenken wat ik niet leuk vond (afgezien van Malta) - het is fantasierijk, aangrijpend met echte en gecompliceerde personages waarvan je houdt, dan haat om ze dan weer lief te hebben!

Het heeft piraten. Het heeft magie. Het heeft nieuwe en fascinerende landen en wezens.

Maar het heeft ook familie, politiek, liefde en wraak. En het heeft levende schepen. :) ( )
  EdwinKort | Jul 4, 2018 |
I've really enjoyed revisiting Ship of Magic some 9 years after I first read it.

It has a bit of a slow start, but once it hooks you, it won't let go. I love the different character perspectives (even that of the incredibly irritating Malta!) and the sense of place is excellent - I've never been on a ship in my life, yet Hobb somehow manages to make it easy to imagine life on one.

The Six Duchies books will always hold a special place in my heart, but The Liveship Traders is an incredibly strong trilogy with memorable characters that is just as compelling. I think this might be a good Hobb series to move on to if you didn't get on with The Farseer Trilogy. ( )
  mooingzelda | May 31, 2018 |
I liked the FitzChivalry books a lot, but if this first book is any indication, this series is even better, ranking right next to Game of Thrones. The characters are really interesting, not cliches--I particularly enjoy Wintrow--and even Kyle Haven has some sympathetic moments. The plot is compelling, and the setting--well, I have a thing for books set aboard ships, and if it is a magical living ship made of something called wizardwood, that makes it all the better. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Hobbprimary authorall editionscalculated
Howe, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This one is for
The Devil's Paw
The Totem
The EJ Bruce
The Free Lunch
The Labrador (Scales! Scales!)
The (aptly named) Massacre Bay
The Faithful (Gummi Bears Ahoy!)
The Entrance Point
The Cape St John
The American Patriot (and Cap'n Wookie)
The Lesbian Warmonger
The Anita J and the Marcy J
The Tarpon
The Capelin
The Dolphin
The (not very) Good News Bay
And even the Chicken Little
But especially for Rain Lady, wherever she may be now.
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Maulkin abruptly heaved himself out of his wallow with a wild thrash that left the atmosphere hanging thick with particles.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the french edition, the book was divided in 3 volumes.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553575635, Mass Market Paperback)

Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer trilogy, has returned to that world for a new series. Ship of Magic is a sea tale, reminiscent of Moby Dick and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series in its details of shipboard life. It is also a fantasy adventure with sea serpents, pirates, and all sorts of magic. The liveships have distinct personalities and partner with specific people, somewhat like Anne McCaffrey's Brain 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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:31 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Expecting to inherit her family's Liveship, Althea Vestrit now must defend this animate, intelligent treasure from both her scheming brother-in-law, who plans to use it as a slave ship, and a nation of ruthless pirates, led by Captain Kennit.

(summary from another edition)

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Group read: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb - The Liveship Trilogy in 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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