Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships—rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Now the fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.
For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. For Althea’s young nephew, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard the ship, the Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the ship—and the Vestrits—may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider: the ruthless buccaneer captain Kennit, who plans to seize power over the Pirate Isles by capturing a liveship and bending it to his will.
“Kyle saw them as a double-pronged problem: the ship that would not heed his wishes because of a boy that would not be what his father commanded him to be.”
Starting Ship of Magic, I immediately knew it was going to be amazing. It follows up a few years after the Farseer trilogy, with a new cast of characters. So before I even started, I was really sad because I knew it wouldn’t have my Fitz-boy in it. Yet once I finally started the book, I knew that wasn’t going to be a problem because I knew I would love the story and the new characters.
And I did. I loved it so much.
As always with Robin Hobb, Liveship Traders is about the people much more than it is about the story. The characters drive the books. I love character-driven books so much and this series is no different. Even without my beloved Fitz, I loved my favourites to death in Ship of Magic. The cast is also, in large, a bunch of children. Which is an interesting choice, but I didn’t feel like I was reading a book for children. Completely the opposite, in fact. But not every character was my favourite.
Liveship Traders is absolutely filled with villains. From the very first chapter we read, we are met with a pirate. And not one of those sexy, good guy pirates who ladies swoon over. Nope, we meet Kennit, would be Pirate King, and Asshole Supreme. Then there is Kyle. Fuck Kyle. He is the best villain I’ve ever read simply because he is so realistic. Kyle could be anyone you know, and you wouldn’t even know it because he hides it from the people he doesn’t want to see that side of him. I hope he gets eaten by sea monsters. This may not seem like a lot, but they take up a lot of book time. And the things that those villains have done to what are a bunch of children, mostly Kyle, is deplorable.
And Malta! Oh fucking Malta. Seriously spoiled by her father, Kyle, Malta takes after her father completely. She is a preteen, wanting to do preteen things while playing like she is a full grown women, without understanding the consequences. Yet Malta lives in a world where women are women and children are children, and there really isn’t a line between the two times in a girl’s life. Malta refuses to listen to anyone and goes behind people’s backs. And she gets into so much trouble, all because she refuses to listen to anything but her own whims. The whims of a child. Fuck Malta, too. Yet she is a giant portion of Ship of Magic. You couldn’t have this book without her, and I wouldn’t want to, either.
But, I play favourites. I love my favourites.
Althea Vestrit has followed her father on their ship, Vivacia, for years. She knows that she’ll probably never get to Captain her, but Althea knows she’ll never have to leave Vivacia. A Vestrit always has to be aboard a Liveship, and Vivacia is her Liveship. Althea knows Vivacia better than anyone. That is until her father dies and her family takes her ship away from her and gives it to Kyle, her brother-in-law. Motherfucking Kyle. THOSE HEARTLESS BASTARDS! Althea vows to get Vivacia back by any means she can, including telling her own family to stuff it. I love Althea. You go, girl!
Then there is Wintrow, who was sent away to be a priest by his mother, Althea’s spineless sister, Keffria. He comes back when he finds out his grandfather is dying. And then, when Kyle takes over the ship, he forces his PRIEST IN TRAINING son to become a sailor against his wishes. THAT FUCKING ASSHOLE. The love I feel for Wintrow is strong and pure, and what he goes through just hurts my heart. Wintrow is stronger in will and personality than Kyle, but he is still a young boy and isn’t really capable of standing up to a man, physically. Wintrow has a backbone of steel, stubborn as all hell. Others try to hurt him, try to grind him down, but he survives. Just fuck Kyle.
The worldbuilding is amazing. Just like it was in the Farseer trilogy. Ship of Magic takes place a few years after the finale of the trilogy, but it is a bit unclear how many years. Yet, unless you had read the trilogy, you wouldn’t even know it is in the same world. Robin Hobb did an amazing job separating the two out while still being in the same universe.
And the Liveships are absolutely amazing. Ships that can come alive! That can swim up a river that is corrosive to everything else. That take the death of their family on their decks to come alive. These ships are the most amazing thing ever. I’m so interested in learning more about these ships, about this world. And there is so much more to learn than we already learned in the initial trilogy. I’m stoked!
The ending of Ship of Magic just kind of ends. There didn’t feel like there was a hard ending, because the entire trilogy is the story, not the individual books. It was just a convenient place to leave off in the story for publishing. Liveship Traders is going to be a slow rolling series. Tons of things happen, and kept happening. Yet we’re nowhere near to solving any of the issues, if they even can be solved!
I loved this book, and I can’t wait to get to the end of the series.
To read more reviews for this series, check out the Liveship Traders series page!